Anger is a two edged sword. While there is nothing as destructive as anger, there is also nothing as motivational as anger, the channeling of this feeling is what makes the difference.
Over and over again we hear stories of how hitherto perfect men are wrecked by their inability to control their temper. Some even make boast of this temper issue claiming superiority in their loss of self-control whenever they are angry. I used to belong to this category.
Having had a long running with this emotion, and finally being able to break free from its stranglehold, I feel obliged to give an insight as to my experience seeing that a lot of folks (old and young alike) are still waging a failing battle with this deadly emotion.
While I would not want to bore you with lengthy tales of my temper challenges; I suffice to say, for the sake of credibility, that I was a violently angry human up until my early twenties when I personally took the decision to help myself. This is the first line of action in fighting any habit or flaw-admittance. I came to a point where I had to admit that I had anger issues; I no longer rationalized it as being hereditary, as a result my parents’ failed marriage, or being surrounded with people who did not understand me. I told myself in plain, painful words that I did have a problem that had the potential of ruining me, I also made myself understand that I needed to do something about it as it would not disappear on its own accord. Rather, problems like this get worse with time.
Secondly, I reached out. In my case, I didn’t have the luxury of asking google for help, neither could I confide in my siblings nor close friends to point me in the right direction. I began to consciously look for literature on the subject matter.
I read a lot of books and articles on anger, even the holy book. They all contained good ideas and principles, however, none of them seemed to personally address my situation. It seemed they did not take into account the peculiarity of my challenge with anger. Eventually, I got insight from all of my studies on the subject- spiritual and academically- as to the application of all these theories to solve my issue.
I began to observe myself. Initially, I tried to gauge my reactions when angry, and when that seemed too difficult to do during moments of sweet blinding rage, I started doing post mortems on each episode of loss of self-control - there were a lot back then. These post mortems helped me to understand two key factors about my anger; what really triggered me and by what standards I justified my action when I was in rage. For example, I realized that I always flipped over the edge when someone said “Your Mama” (sort of like Yo Momma jokes these days) to me, and the why was because my Mum was my only available parent and I felt the need to defend her from all manner of ridicule, even those innocuous sounding words she will never hear about. Understandably, no cost was too steep to pay for my Mum’s dignity. In my rage’s eye I was a Samurai defending my beloved mum.
During this observation process, I also realized that certain positions or postures kept me from violent reactions when angry. I learnt that if I tried to relax my muscles; not forming fists, not clenching anything, just relax my muscles when angry and keeping my hands where I could see them, my tendency for violence was reduced.
This understanding of myself opened my eyes to the third step of rethinking words and motives. I began to reason, in this case of “Your Mama”, that these classmates of mine did not know my Mum, had nothing against her, were probably respectful to their Mums and were just making these jokes or yabs to entertain themselves. I realized that I was solely responsible for my reactions to their words, no matter how hurtful they made it sound. I also realized that nothing they said would ever affect the way I regard my Mum.
Lastly, I stopped romanticizing my loss of self-control. Trust me, of all the steps I took in this battle this was the most difficult. My violent temper had given me a reputation amongst my peers, most people saw me as a no nonsense kind of person and were endeared to me. There was a certain mystical feeling people had when they were around me, not knowing the next thing I would smash against the wall or what one would say to receive a bloodied nose. People kind of walked on eggshells around me and I loved it. Truth be told, sometimes I worked myself into a rage knowing I had to do something of acclaim for those watching; I felt like a performer who had to constantly put on shows to enthrall his audience and receive their adulation. The rage was a release I yearned for, it made me feel like a god! Eventually I had to let it go and become mortal.
Every now and then I get the urge to ascend the pedestal of violent rage, to smash earthly properties, make men bleed, say hurtful things, to keep people on their tiptoes and watch them quiver in fear because of a minor misunderstanding (all misunderstandings are minor) but I decidedly resist. I relax my muscles, walk away when I can, say a short prayer, play my favorite tune in my head (I no longer hum because it aggravates the other party), seek different meanings to their words and/or a different interpretation to their actions, acknowledge their feelings and their rights to those feelings or opinions, hold my tongue or speak in measured tones when I must, and let the urge pass over me.
Progress in this journey, as with all meaningful endeavors, takes time and will. It would be a lie if I told you I no longer get angry. I do, being amongst humans, nonetheless, I react to issues and not to people. I think things through, take precautions and do the needful but with love and self-control.
I have also found, contrary to my previous beliefs, that I can still maintain a good reputation of myself, be endearing and get people to respect me without having to be violent in anger.
I trust my experience has inspired you to continue the journey to making anger-violent anger a thing of the past in your life. I will be looking forward to reading your success story.