Imagine - just for a moment - that the next time someone makes you angry, you choose not to give way to that anger and choose instead - very deliberately - to focus on something that normally brings you joy. I'm talking about the kind of anger - when you normally express it - that leads to greater problems in your relationships or even public spectacles; the kind of anger that we call explosive, and that you often find yourself incapable of controlling. (And you know that if you can imagine it, you can do it).
Clearly you are aware of the fact that such anger wreaks havoc on your life in a way that is similar to the kind of havoc an alcoholic may wreak on his or her own life. Why? Because both come from a lack of being in charge of yourself. It's that simple. That's where it destroys. Anger is both an expression of a strong emotion and the expression of a weakness. And to be quite clear, to express a strong emotion is not wrong and is certainly not something I want to discourage you from, but it is the way the strong emotion that is expressed that might be done differently. When the way that strong emotion is expressed takes you out of yourself, out of control of yourself, and furthermore is hurtful to others, then you probably need to rethink your way of behaving.
Another aspect of explosive anger is the ego's need to explode, just to show the other person how important this is to you, and it is, in fact, the ego that might have the greatest sway over you to not follow my suggestion here, because a voice in your head will tell you that of course you aren't going to focus on something joyful when you need to show the other person how wrong they were to do or say whatever it was that they did, and how right you are to show them how angry you are. So it may be that your battle will be with your ego and not your anger, although the two are very interlinked if your anger expresses itself in the way described in this post. You might also want to click on the label 'ego' here on my blog, or read some of the other articles I've written about the ego on my website.
Hence my suggestion of deliberately cultivating - each time you feel that incipient surge of anger - the focusing on something of joy. Perhaps the smell of freshly-brewed coffee, or newly-mown grass. Perhaps the feel of a brisk breeze as you clip over the waves in a small boat, perhaps the savor of nachos on your tongue as you sit down to watch a ball-game. Whatever strategy you use, remember that its purpose is not to make you burst into ballroom dancing, but to change the state of your inner energy so that you are able to catch yourself, to hold on to yourself and to treat the whole situation in which you are involved differently. Not to pretend it's not there. Not to avoid it, but to carry it to a different kind of conclusion where your explosive anger no longer plays a role. Anger and joy simply can't co-exist. One cancels the other and you can use your power of choice to make that happen and to change your world.
Image: The Wave, Gold Coast, Australia / Credit National Geographic
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