A road rage incident a few months ago compelled me to face up to my anger issues. The incident in question didn’t involve me – I witnessed it from afar – but being a spectator to the ensuing eruption of rage and hot tempered exchanges, I couldn’t help but recognize myself. I’ve got a problem with anger – being both easily irritable and also susceptible to angry outbursts that almost always seem to come out of the blue.
I’m pretty confident there are lots of us out there, not only prone to these angry eruptions ever so often but having to deal with anger issues on a daily basis. Not all of us turn into the Hulk – smashing things around whenever we get angry – but it’s there simmering just under the surface waiting to reach boiling point. The first step on the long process to managing anger is usually acknowledgement of the issue but that can be difficult in Nepal. Most people here don’t see it as a big deal, including those with the hair trigger temperament. After all, everyone gets angry once in a while right? What’s wrong with that?
Over here, the anger problem is not viewed with the seriousness it perhaps deserves – it is often laughed off as just another emotion or weirdly sometimes described as a personality characteristic. This is part of a wider tendency of psychological problems not getting the same kind of attention as more commonly scrutinized physiological problems like addiction and alcoholism when they can be just as damaging – both individually and collectively.
Those who bear the brunt of these issues, i.e. near and dear ones of those afflicted with anger issues, will testify to this fact. Dealing with a perennially bad-tempered person is in itself exhausting and takes a lot of self-control. Social interactions turn into anxious affairs, filled with trepidation for a flare up in full public view. Throw alcohol into the mix and those folks suffering from anger management problems can make Kabir Singh seem like a lovable bunny!
Apart from the social shame and gossip that outbursts of anger generate, indifference to its effects can tear relationships and families apart. The US writer Laurence J. Peter said it best when he quoted – “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” Never mind the ill-tempered amongst us, all of us would have faced situations of deep regret stemming from something said or done in anger.
For those of us dealing with it, the problem is not that the anger exists but in how we handle it. The frequent outbursts of anger are only the visible tip of the iceberg with a lot below the surface that we fight against on an individual level. And pent up anger can be debilitating for many – with it pre-occupying your thoughts and leading to possible scenarios being imagined or played out in your head. Then when something sets you off – it’s almost always beyond your control!
So the ability to predict situations that provoke us is often a vital guide in helping us navigate these flare-ups and keeping our temper under control. It’s hard to know how to deal with anger if you don’t know what it stems from. For most of us it’s usually the things that we do on a daily basis that we can draw some clues from. The last couple of months have given me a fair idea of my anger triggers – it’s traffic related annoyances (specifically other folks not doing what you want them to do) and my perception of people taking advantage of me and/or demanding or expecting too much of me – both of which broadly precipitate a ‘sense of injustice’ emotion that I have learned to identify. So whenever these situations arise where I feel one of the above, I consciously try to calm myself down.
But it’s easier said than done. For a lot of us, including me, acknowledging and subsequently dealing with anger is more complex than simply counting to ten, taking deep breaths or even walking away from the scene. Perhaps our anger comes from something embedded deep in our psyche – a childhood trauma, bullying or an event that we haven’t come to terms with. In cases like these, the best possible advice is to seek professional help. Again, in a country like ours, getting the help or counseling is easier said than done.
Even generally there are conflicting suggestions on how to handle anger – suppress it, let it out or just act like it doesn’t exist? We’ve often heard of people channeling their anger into doing something positive – like working out or boxing or turning to meditation and stress management techniques in an effort to be more temperamentally balanced. Whatever the case, our actions have to start with acknowledgement and then progress onto conscious efforts at self-control, life style changes and, in a lot of cases, even psychological counseling.
There is no quick fix cure and one size fits all but recognizing and dealing with it is always a good step. Have your friends or family told you that you get angry a lot, or find yourself looking for an argument or picking a fight? Do angry thoughts or scenarios preoccupy your thoughts? Are you frequently being asked to calm down? If you are, it might be time to reflect on whether you have an issue with anger.