I’ll never forget the first time I was told I had “anger issues.”
It was an unusually warm evening in New York when my brother and I walked into a crowded drug store. It was late December and I had succumbed to the flu. After four days of missing work I had to find something to strengthen my immune system.
As we proceeded to walk through the front door a woman, much taller and broader than I suddenly walked in front of me and slowed her pace to a snail’s crawl.
I tried to veer left, then right, but couldn’t seem to get by her. “Did she just cut me off? She did! She cut me off!” I yelled to my brother.
“So what,” he replied nonchalantly, as he gazed at the candy aisle nearby.
Anger engulfed me like a rabid dog. I quickly ran ahead of the woman and turned to look at her.
“Who the hell do you think you are, cutting me off? I will kick your ass!” I shouted. My brother, clearly appalled at my actions grabbed my arm.
“What are you doing? Are you CRAZY? Leave her alone!”
The woman stared down at me; her expression was smug, but her fists were clenched. “You’d better listen to him if you know what’s best for you.”
Before I could speak another word my brother dragged me out of the drug store. He pointed at me as if I was a having a toddler’s tantrum. “You have some SERIOUS anger issues, bro.”
I stood there on the sidewalk, completely and utterly shocked at my actions. Unable to breathe, I put my hands on my hips and leaned forward. What was wrong with me? I suddenly realized that I was more than angry. I was ashamed, but more frighteningly, I was enraged.
“For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The truth is, I wasn’t angry at that woman, nor could I care less if she cut me off or not. Anger from past experiences had so deeply rooted in my consciousness and I had no idea how to tame it. This harsh reality brought me back to years of people pleasing, knowing full well that at some point I would explode—like this very moment. I conditioned myself to be silent instead of speaking my truth, in fear of what others might say. I was no longer my peaceful self and rapidly turning into a ticking time bomb.
As painful as that experience was almost 20 years ago, it helped me understand the importance of taking care of my anger and not ignoring it.
In his book, “Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames” author Thích Nhất Hạnh writes, “The fact is that when you make the other suffer, he will try to find relief by making you suffer more. The result is an escalation of suffering on both sides.”
In the wake of trials and tribulations are some tips I have found that can help to cool the fire of rage and lighten the mind, heart, body and soul:
Be Calm, Stay Calm. When anger rears its head during a confrontation it is important to be mindful of not only what you say, but the physical state you are in as well. Many have suffered from the heart palpitations, anxiety and fear that comes from lashing out in a fit of rage. If possible, remove yourself from the situation and take time to breathe and calm the mind. Doing this can help you speak from a place of clarity and non-judgment.
Don’t react. When coming upon words that are said in anger, the ego’s desire is to immediately react. These knee-jerk reactions can be overemotional, malicious and unnecessary. To respond is to think about the situation and calmly choosing the action you will take. To react is not to think and can cause irrepressible damage to another.
Listen intently. The art of compassionate listening without judgment will often lead to that person being compassionate as well. In a previous post I mention how listening with compassion helps the one who inflicts, as well as the one who is inflicted.
Know the root of your anger. It is important to understand what your anger is and what purpose it serves in all of us. Anger can be disguised as a defense mechanism that prepares us to deal with a perceived threat—to our goals, self-image, our finances or any other important aspect of our lives. However, it can lead us to an illusion that anger can be eliminated by throwing enough “power” at it. Where there is anger, there is vulnerability.
Although anger exists in the mind, it does not have to control you; for you are not your anger. There is a wisdom far beyond the pain that is the real you. When you realize this, you will not resist the anger but embrace it in order to move forward.
Now it’s your turn. Have you been able to control your anger? In what ways have you “cooled the flames?” I’d love if you shared your comments below.
About Michelle Cruz Rosado
Michelle Cruz Rosado is a professional speaker and bestselling co-author of "Pursuing Your Destiny: How to Overcome Adversity and Achieve Your Dreams." Follow Michelle for inspiring messages and quotes.