If you could wave a magic wand and remove all your anger, would you? In my clinical experience, I hear a lot of people say they would like to be less angry. At the same time, many of these people resist concrete steps that would actually reduce their anger.
How do you benefit from your anger?
Do you feel it helps you in your career, somehow gives you a competitive edge? Do you use anger to punish or “train” your romantic partner when he misbehaves? Do you feel that anger helps you assert your rights when driving on the freeway? Many people feel that anger is essential to their self-worth, their individuality, their sense of justice. If you’re holding on to your anger, you probably feel you have some reason for doing so.
How do you suffer as a result of your anger?
Do you experience headaches, high blood pressure or other health issues? Do you drink more than you’d like, our struggle with other addictions? Do you feel a disconnect within your closest relationships? Do you sometimes say or do things impulsively–things that are difficult to “take back” once the damage has been done?
To a large degree, anger is a choice. This is why some people are habitually angry, and why some people are not. It has less to do with life circumstances and events than it does your strategy for responding to these circumstances and events. If you’re holding on to anger, it means some part of you feels this is the best–or maybe the only–strategy for influencing certian aspects of your life. Sure, you can try to “control your temper,” and this can be a great place to start. But overcoming your angry habits is also about finding new strategies for steering your life in a given direction. A feeling of victimhood, or of being powerless, tends to accompany anger. You can think of unwanted anger in your life as a wakeup call: Take a more direct, intentional, and self-reflective attitude when confronting your biggest challenges, then see what happens to your knee-jerk angry reactions.