Anger Demystified – Part 1

what causes anger and irritation

Anger is one of the most common emotions that we feel on a daily basis – nah, make that, on an hourly basis.

Why do I say that anger is more common than happiness, or fear, or any other emotion?

Well, we get angry if

  • the TV is on too loud
  • your kid shouted just as something important was being announced on the TV
  • if the car next to us swerved into our lane
  • if someone in front of us took the last can of soup at the supermarket
  • if some bird pooped on our car
  • if the newspaper fell in a puddle when it was delivered this morning
  • if the milk broke and curdled when we tried to heat it
  • if the chef put a little less salt in the pasta we ordered
  • etc, etc, etc.

Anger is the most common emotion that a human being feels and it is our #1 enemy. Anger has the ability to make you forget everything when it has you in its grip.

Anger can rip apart families, friends, loved ones; anger can result in fights, divorces, lengthy court battles, and even go as far as causing violence and murder. The devastating effects of anger are endless. Then, why are we not able to control our anger?

Where does Anger come from?

Like most things in life, anger too needs a cause. There is a cause-and-effect relationship that results in anger. However, it requires you to be impartial to be able to recognize and accept the truth behind anger.

Let’s take an example of a husband and wife fighting over who was supposed to cook dinner. The husband says that he has an all-evening office meeting and the wife says that she is exhausted and needs a break.

Both are angry because both think that they are correct. There is that desire to be correct in this scenario and backing down from being right is not an option.

Take a teacher explaining something to his students. He has a desire that the students understand what he’s saying. He repeats it several times and his assumption is that with each repetition, the concept is getting clearer to the students. He expects this and desires this outcome. Now, if any one of the students stands up and says that he didn’t understand a thing, the teacher will lose his cool. Why? Because, he expected (desired) that all the students understood his classes.

All causes and incidences of Anger are invariably rooted in Desire.

And when that desire is not satisfied, anger is manifested.

This desire can be anything, really.

  • the desire to be understood
  • the desire for a new car
  • a kid’s desire for a chocolate bar
  • a teenager’s desire for privacy in his room
  • the desire to be left alone
  • the desire to sleep in and not go to work
  • the desire to not be bullied or teased

As this list shows, some of these desires can be written off as silly and things that should be overcome; but some of them, like the desire not be bullied or teased is not a fantasy — they are true problems that people face and are legitimate wants and desires. Let’s talk about this in the next article

The Most Important Step in addressing your Anger

Understanding the cause of anger and recognizing it is the first step. This is the most vital step and everything else depends on it being done correctly and with utmost honesty.

Do this the next time you get angry.

After your “anger episode”, sit in a quiet place and do a post-mortem.

Ask yourself a few questions and try to be as objective as possible. I say “as possible”, because the process of questioning yourself is very very hard and the act of facing the truth is even harder.

Ask yourself “why” several times till you reach the truth and have nothing else to ask.

This is based on the “Five Whys” technique that was developed by Sakichi Toyoda, the father of the founder of Toyota. The Five Whys technique implores you to relentlessly search for the truth in order to improve, find flaws, and not repeat your mistakes.

Ask yourself,

  • why did I snap at my wife? Because she didn’t wash my clothes!! That is the basic desire that was not met.
  • why didn’t she wash my clothes? …. now this is where it gets hard. This “why” forces you to face the truth. Because, she was busy with our kids.
  • why was she busy with the kids? Because, they needed to be fed and put to bed.

That’s it. Look back at the reasons and if you’ve been honest, the truth will stare you in the face. Couldn’t I have washed my own clothes? Was I that busy? Or couldn’t I have found something else to wear?

Doing an anger post-mortem is one of the hardest things to do in life. But, trust me, the honesty, and the act of showing a mirror to yourself will do you boatloads of good.

You will slowly get into the habit of stopping yourself before you get angry, because, the post-mortem will become a “pre-mortem”. You will catch yourself before you get angry!!

Try it out and please let me know how you manage to control your anger. Let us delve more into anger and its root-causes in future articles.

Until then, I wish you lead a life of love and happiness!

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