(Excerpted from Change Your Thinking Change Your Life, by Clive Simpkins, published 2003)
Anger is the result of frustrated desire. I often hear people say, "He made me so angry!" or "I couldn't help being livid!" or "It just happens before I even know it!" These statements put the blame for becoming angry on someone else, or on circumstances. The good news is that you can, if you wish, minimise anger almost immediately. With a little time and effort you can overcome it and manage or convert (sublimate) the energy you might have wasted on anger, into something more useful.
Anger is the result of frustrated desire. The steps to it are short and swift. You start off by having a desire or wish. Nothing wrong with that, but when you add impetus, energy or concentration to that desire it develops quickly into a demand. As soon as the demand encounters frustration, you're into anger. The simple solution would be to say, "Then don't be demanding." But as we all know, that's a lot easier said than done.
It's helpful to go back a few steps in the observation of our thought patterns. Some of our "thinking" is not at conscious brain level at all. We have lots of packages, audio and video tapes, CD ROMs, flash discs, e-mails, memos, letters and documents in the subconscious mind. They may have been recorded, filed, archived or stored there many years ago. Yet they can still negatively influence our thinking and responses in certain situations.
Whether or not we're aware of it, any behaviour starts off with thought. That thought creates a second level of activity, which is feeling or emotion. At that stage, we may "feel" angry, depressed, humiliated or whatever. But the feeling was preceded by an internal (self-talk) discussion. Perhaps along the lines of, "How could he speak to me like that? He's got some nerve!" We might not even be aware of this internal dialogue, but we'll experience the result, as emotion.
Our emotions inevitably translate into a third level - behaviour that's visible to others. In some people, it's like viewing a synoptic chart. A high pressure system here, a depression there! The sequence then, is thoughts-feelings-behaviour, much like an archery target. Thoughts are in the centre, surrounded by feelings or emotions, with behaviour being external - the biggest, most visible circle of all.
When we're upset, we're out of control, low on constructive resources, illogical, and it may take hours to return to a state of equilibrium. Meantime, we may have caused significant or even irreparable hurt through what we said when angry.
Here's a suggestion: start noticing which comments or thoughts irritate you. What it is that makes you flare into anger. Become aware of their presence in your mind - only sooner than you did previously. That you even notice them now is a significant step forward in the direction of anger management, control or conversion.
You'll reach a stage of awareness where you'll catch the thought early enough to make a conscious decision not to get angry. You'll choose an alternative to stay in balance, equilibrium or harmony.
Having observed and then caught the thought bubble, you'll be into the management phase of your thinking. Instead of other people or circumstances "pressing your buttons" or "making" you angry, you'll now enjoy a choice in your response. One choice is not to be angry. If you are angry, it'll be because you choose to be.
You won't have an immediate one hundred percent success rate. This is an incremental self-awareness and growth exercise and hiccups will occur. Control of your thoughts, emotions, behaviour and mind, will though, be taken out of the hands of other people, and given back to the rightful custodian – you. It'll be a relief and an energy saver.