Anger is an emotion not an action.

Have you ever been cruising along, minding your own business and seemingly out of nowhere, someone crashes your awesome everyday party? Yeah that has happened to me as well. Early on it was no big deal to have friends and family at different developmental stages in their life than mine. I simply let those who did not share my journey, travel a separate path and I was content to travel mine.

But too often circumstances like strangers, inanimate objects, Mother Nature, God, even the law of gravity seemed to threaten that tranquil path I set out for myself. At first, the increased stress was welcome. I mean after all, I was an NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) in one of the most stressful career fields in the most lethal Air Force the world has ever known and during a period of back-to-back deployments. I was a role model and a trainer. I was proud (and still am) to call myself an instrument of change. But along the way I got hit with a series of unfortunate and stressful events that changed who I was and how I chose to deal with my circumstances. I became a VERY angry person.

One can only imagine how angry I was when I saw this expensive piece of (out of warranty) broken plastic.

One of the most damaging changes to my self esteem and ability to process rapid changes to my environment was the development of a fairy tale world in my mind I felt I deserved to be living but was taken from by force. The unfortunate side effect of accomplishing goals rapidly early in my career without secondary plans is when I did receive failure on the tail of such success, I had no way to process it properly. We get stuck into a winning streak and when that run is over we sometimes fall hard. When that happened in my life I tried multiple things to work through my low-point. I tried to work out, I tried to be more involved than I was at work, I even tried volunteering in the community.

None of that helped because I was an angry person. I was justifiably angry for some things and unreasonably angry about others. The biggest problem was my anger toward things and people I simply could not control. Even worse was not realizing the important difference between the two. I couldn’t change what happened overseas. I tried, but couldn’t change getting reassigned when I went stateside. I tried but could not change being separated from my loved ones for years. I tried but couldn’t change the toxic wolves wearing sheep’s clothing who greedily ate away at the strength of my marriage and made me feel unwelcome whenever I would come home. In time, I convinced myself my situation was hopeless and I simply gave up trying to change it. I gave into the wolves. For the time being.

It is pointless to be angry at something in the past. A more appropriate response is to learn what positives can be taken from the situation. I now have a better-designed sand filter that is under warranty and I do not have to worry about the old one leaking anymore. SCORE!

Once I began realizing the circumstances dragging me down could change both in time and with some effort, things looked up. Once I realized the hand I was holding was not eternal bad luck, just a crappy hand I could toss back into the deck; I tore free from my victim mentality. I realized the harsh reality I had been unwilling to see before: most people with victim mentality can free themselves if they’re just willing to take responsibility for their own lives. Those suffering from victim mentality cannot see the sunshine everyone else is enjoying because they encourage a cloud to remain over their heads.

Dr. Alex Lickerman contends the most appropriate way to deal with anger is to simply embrace it, not by ignoring or suppressing it. Experience and science have shown repeatedly how poorly those strategies work. Once anger rises past a certain point, it seems to require satisfactory expression to be diffused. That is, it must be expelled in a way that feels good—in a way that is literally emptying. The goal then would be to expel it in a way that does as little damage as possible. How one does this depends on why the anger one feels is rising in the first place.

Much of my anger issues were primarily over two things: what I cannot change in the past and what I believed I could not change in the present. I know this is difficult for many to accept (it was for me) so I say this with utmost love, Trainwrecks “STOP TRYING TO REWRITE THE PAST THROUGH ANGER!” We cannot change what has already occurred. Stop getting upset about it. How do we do this? FOCUS ON THE PRESENT. What is it that is currently affecting us? What is it that we wished were different? Now what can we do about it?

One of the most effective philosophies in controlling one’s anger is the practice of Stoicism. Rather than focusing on what we feel “should have been” or “should be,” we should focus on what “IS” through the present and how we are in a better position than we could be. Rather than worrying about how to please toxic people, we should focus on ourselves and let the masses worry about the masses. Rather than thinking about what else can go wrong we should try to think about what has been going right and how we have already avoided disaster simply by moving in the right direction. I assure you things can always be worse. And they will be if we let it.

You’re Welcome. Internet.

Marcus Aurelius, one of the most humble emperors to live was a devout student of the philosophy of Stoicism.

External Links:

Lickerman, A., Dr. (2013, November 10). Dealing With Anger. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-in-world/201311/dealing-anger

Saunders, J., (2019, February 3). Stoicism. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Stoicism

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