“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.”- King Solomon, Proverbs
Recently I just had a fascinating conversation with a close friend of mine on the issue of anger. This person felt that anger was such a destructive emotion that she felt it was very wrong to be angry.
The thought really puzzled me because if anger is very wrong then we are all wrongdoers for we all feel anger from time to time.
Asking an emotional being not to feel any emotions (anger in particular) is like asking monkey not to eat a banana or hoping that there will be no traffic jam in Jakarta.
We, as emotional beings, can’t go through life without feeling emotions and besides, emotions have their uses.
Scientists have agreed that our emotions (especially the negative ones) are necessary knee jerk reactions that have helped us function and survive in life.
If you dug deep into those nasty emotions that you are feeling, you will find that every emotion has its uses.(Anger drives us to action, fear increases our focus, disgust helps us stay away from the bad stuff and surprise gave us adrenaline boost)
The key then is not to suppress an emotional outburst nor getting overwhelmed by it, but rather, to channel it in a healthy way (not harming ourselves or other people in the process). Here’s a few ways you can do it:
- Try to understand the roots of your emotions: The highly emotional intelligent person can tell what kind of emotion he/she is feeling at that particular moment. But the emotional wise person is able to understand not just what he/she is feeling but also what triggers it. In this instance, the use of journals would be very helpful. Ask yourself if it is triggered by something trivial or petty? If you answered yes, then it is a sure sign that something (a trauma) or someone else (someone important to you) is behind it. Dig deeper.
- Increase your reaction time: The next time you feel extreme emotions welling up in your belly and drive you to take some particular action, stop. Take a breath, step back and cool the emotions down. Then once you have retained proper perspective (not influenced by any emotions), consider your options and make the necessary decisions.
- Feel other emotions: When feeling destructive emotions it can feel as if you are riding an unbridled horse- it was something impossible to control. If you are one of those people (like me) then the Stoics have a great solution for you. Flood those extreme emotions with another extreme emotions. If you are feeling extreme anger for example, try flooding your head with memories of extreme joy from the past (the birth of a child, important achievement, holiday trips). You can also try forcing your body to walk slower, talk calmer and loosen up. Soon, you will usually find yourself less angry. Apologizing can also work wonders in taming anger.
All in all, you want to basically trick your mind into feeling other extreme emotions.
I hope that these simple guide on handling emotions will help you control all your negative emotions better.
I hope that you find this article useful and if you wanted to delve deeper into this topic, do read the book “A Guide to The Good Life” By William B. Irvine that greatly inspires this article. You can get it here or anywhere else you get your E-book.
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