Resetting the Default – Anger

By W. Nicholas Abraham, Ph.D., LPC


If I hear anger one more time by the political commentators, I am going to blow! Wow, my anger is growing. What’s going on? Why so much anger within me, I ask? Within the electorate?

In every day life? There are probably many roots to anger, so let this be an incomplete reflection on the emotion that seems to be gaining ground or, at least, attention.

At the very bottom of the sea of anger is undoubtedly fear. A car jumps in front of me and I get angry. But in actuality, it’s the secondary emotion. Fear is the primal emotion, which leads me to anger. Once I accept my fear, I have a better chance of calming down the anger.

Perfectionism drives my anger and needs to be managed. The spirituality of perfectionism is rampant on a subconscious level and leads us to be constantly invaded with “Not enough,” “I should,” “When will things go right” and “Just fix the darn thing.” I think you get the point.

Believe it or not, the constant replay of a situation that has caused anger fuels the fire. Tell someone, get it out and move on with life. This, too, shall pass if you don’t carry it like a piece of luggage.

Powerlessness can fuel anger. And yes, this is probably a sign of healthy movement.

Sometimes, we start winning the trophy of life when we realize we have no power other than the power to make the next right choice. With real-time events coming at us all day, we are constantly bombarded with how powerless we are to change systems overnight. But channeling the internal resources to make a tiny but significant difference turns the anger into motivation for good and gratitude for what we can do.

Self-righteousness is often right next to fear. Some would call it pride or self-importance.

Whatever one wishes to call it, the posture of “I’m right” will fuel anger quickly and spread like wildfire. Humility—a sense that one doesn’t have the final word—always calms the angry beast within. As someone said, “There is a God, and it’s not me.”

Years ago, I used to think that when people said they were hurt, they were covering their anger. Now, I realize more and more that anger really covers hurt. Anger can be a very honest and justified emotion but is best serving to the world after the hurt is expressed. We could use more honest expression of “That hurts me when it’s put that way.”

Betrayal, the great human back stabber, is always behind us, waiting to attack. Why? I can’t answer. I just know it to be true. For whatever reasons, when we are betrayed, we find ourselves moving beyond anger to rage, and it can so soon become cynicism and distrust.

My prayer each day is that I never let the days feed my cynicism, and that after whatever betrayals I face, I respond with the ability and belief that I must reinvest in life. Betrayal does not mean that all is lost. And the energy I carry into the world can make for a more trusting and trustful society.

Exhaustion and the feeling of being overwhelmed by expectations, by goals too high to reach and by constant need for approval can lead to anger. Some will like me and others will not. Some will consider my work well done and others will not. Some will agree and others will not. My life’s mission is not to seek agreement, conformity or the meeting of other’s expectations. It is be comfortable in my own skin and give to the world from my limited 24 hours of life.

Injustice can fuel anger: People who take advantage of the system, who never pay debts, who gossip and seek to hurt another’s reputation, and organizations that spew hatred and discrimination or whose values seem corrupt and greedy. This is a difficult factor because anger that rises from injustice needs to be channeled into making a difference for good and not toward alienation or further divide.

Envy can fuel anger and is one of the greatest of all deadly sins. I constantly wonder why I am so gifted, so talented and so befriended and yet so envious of what others may appear to have. At each of these moments, I stop to write down everything I am grateful for, and a spirit of calm acceptance and serenity comes over me.

Lastly, anger, like many emotions, becomes a habit. We tend to sometimes say, “That’s just the way I am,” when we need to realize that we can change the behavior, the attitude, the emotion. Habits may die hard, but die they can with a steady and constant change of lanes when we desire to go to the comfortable lane.

It’s human to experience anger. It’s also human to realize what it can do to our overall health so that we channel it toward a greater good and not a way to dehumanize human beings, ourselves included.

Peace to all who are struggling with anger.