Skill Prescriptions/Anger Management

Assume Good Intent

It is easy to feel personally attacked when someone does something that results in you feeling angry or upset.  However, most people don’t start their day with the intention of hurting anyone.  In fact, most people really do mean to do the right thing.  Unfortunately, the right thing from one person’s perspective can be very upsetting from another person’s perspective.

Imagine that you work at a pharmacy and a woman arrives to pick up her husband’s prescriptions.  She becomes very upset because there was an error made by the doctor.  She raises her voice and starts making demands that you cannot fulfill.  This frustrates her even more.  You suggest that she call her husband’s doctor but it is 7pm on Friday evening and her doctor will not be available until Monday morning.

It is not pleasant to be around angry people, especially when it is not even your fault that they are angry.  However, this woman is really just trying to make sure her husband has his medications.  Her desire to care for her husband is leading to behaviors that are unpleasant and uncomfortable for you.  Can you put yourself in her shoes?  Maybe she hasn’t been able to sleep for days because she is caring for her husband who has to go to the bathroom every few hours all night long.  Maybe she is worried about money or losing her job or her husband dying.  Most likely, she is motivated by a really good intention that is not going well.

Try to “Assume Good Intent” meaning that you just assume that everyone means well.  They could be a horrible person but it is not likely and a little compassion from you might help.  It’s much harder to be angry with someone when you feel compassion for them.  It’s also healthier for you in the long run.

Letting Go of Resentment

In Zen Shorts by John J. Muth, a giant panda named Stillwater tells stories that teach respect and patience.  in one story, a young monk and an older monk are walking together.  They come across a woman who is very angry because she is stuck in her carriage because the ground is covered in mud.  She is yelling and carrying on as her servants stand helplessly, overloaded with her possessions.  The older monk approaches the woman and hefts her onto his back and carries her across the mud.  As he places her gently down, she storms on her way without saying thank you.

The two monks continue on their way.  After a while, the elder monk notices that the young monk is very upset.  When he asks his young friend why he is angry, the young monk responds, “You carried that angry woman across the mud and she did not even say thank you.”

The elder monk smiles and says, “I laid that woman down miles ago.  Why are you still carrying her?”  How many times in life are you still carrying that grumpy woman miles later?  How many times do you hold grudges and stay angry long after you should?  It’s time to let go of that resentment.  I have heard people say that resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.  They won’t, but you might.  Resentment is poisonous and it can make you very sick and unhappy.  Go ahead and lay that woman down.

Examine Your Thought Habits

Sometimes we get into bad thought habits of assuming the worst, being suspicious of others and guessing at what other people are thinking about us.  Take some time to examine your thought patterns when you are angry.  Are you telling yourself things about the situation that might not be true?  Can you prove that they are true?  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a kind of counseling that teaches you to examine these thought patterns that lead to undesired behaviors and can help you learn to form better thought habits.  If you struggle with frequent anger, consider counseling.  Ask potential counselors whether they can teach you these techniques.

News and Media Fasts

The news of the day is often presented in a violent and disturbing way.  Even the shows and movies we watch for entertainment are often violent.  If you struggle with anger, consider taking a few weeks off from all news and violent programming.  You may find that this helps you to feel calmer and less angry.

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