It’s all very well, Bob Marley, to write that lovely tune ‘Three little birds’ and tell us not to worry about a thing, but how?!
Is there anyone out there AT ALL who can truly claim never to worry, never be angry, or never be frustrated? If we’re totally honest with ourselves, which I absolutely believe we should be, there’s always the potential for stress, anger, frustration, even rage! But just as yin sits perfectly with yang, there are answers to our pent-up frustrations and flare-ups of anger; we just need to access the solutions. If it’s possible, the first part of the solution is admitting and acknowledging the feelings we are experiencing. We all worry. We all get angry. We all get frustrated. That’s just part of our human make-up.
Sometimes anger can be an immediate reaction to something. This could be a response to something ‘worthy’ of anger, e.g. a person being unkind to an animal, OR it could be a reaction to a tiny little thing such as someone pushing you off the pavement by accident because they hadn’t seen you. Was that just the straw that broke the camel’s back? Are there other things underlying, stewing away, that ideally should be admitted to and spoken about? Is there something at work that you have to deal with day in, day out, and although it’s not a huge issue, it’s becoming bigger every day because you didn’t speak up about it initially?!
Different types of anger and frustration
According to Dr Peter Andrew Sacco, psychologist and author of ‘What’s Your Anger Type?’, there are quite a few varieties of anger and frustration, but we can learn to deal with them, using various tools and strategies, once we’ve identified them successfully.
- ‘Petrified anger’ aka grudge-holding: this can be tricky, as it pivots on us being right, and we feel that letting go of the anger is like admitting we’re wrong (although in all reality that’s probably not the case). If you’re refusing to forgive someone who you believe did you wrong, this will likely lead to a festering anger that you won’t be able to get rid of. A good idea here is to disregarding the other person, question what the anger is doing for you, and attempt to see that there is more damage for you in staying angry than there is in admitting you’re wrong.
- ‘Passive-aggressive anger’ is a commonly known type of anger. It can often be present in people who have difficulties in speaking up and openly expressing themselves, either verbally or over text/WhatsApp messages or emails. Do you sometimes say, “Yes, that’s fine!” when it’s actually not? Just to smooth things over in the short term? If this continues, if you carry on agreeing when you really don’t want to, again there will soon be a big build-up of all the little ‘yes’ answers that should have been ‘no’. If this is the case for you, perhaps try and say “No”, just once, even practise it at home in front of the mirror so you become more comfortable with it. Smile nicely, be polite, and whomever you are responding to will more than likely understand, but not be offended. Keep smiling!
- Sacco also refers to ‘habitual anger,’ which can perhaps stem from a childhood which was sad, for example. Habitual anger is ingrained, and can often appear completely normal to whoever is feeling it. For this reason, it can be incredibly difficult to even admit to this type of anger; answers may lie in therapy, counselling and management.
- Making mountains out of molehills: everything is negative! Use some positive self-talk here; see ‘Positive Self-talk: What It Is, Why We Need It, and How to Use It in Your Life’
- You have a short fuse: Sacco refers to this as ‘compressive anger’. Road rage is an example of compressive anger! It can cause people to lash out, for example bash the steering wheel or stamp angrily, kick something perhaps. This of course can lead to harm caused to yourself or another person, which is why help should be sought for this type of anger. A few tips are to take some deep breaths, go for a walk if you can to remove yourself from the situation, or visualise yourself away from the situation if you can’t physically remove yourself – maybe on a beach? I like to picture myself in the mountains!
- ‘Moralistic anger’: if you get angry because you’re taking the moral high ground due to what you believe in, someone else will always be wrong and everything will be black and white for you – there’s never room for manoeuvre or margin for error. Because of this non-compromising attitude of not budging an inch, you may find it hard not to go on the offensive when those strong beliefs are challenged. You should hopefully be attempting to use this anger for good rather than evil.
- ‘Online anger’: (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is a relatively new concept, and yet threads consisting of people ranting within the safety of the ether seem to be omnipresent! When posting or tweeting, people have time to craft more considered answers to others they may disagree with, yet their answers can sometimes be no less spiteful and rude than they would have been if given in the heat of the moment. Happily, there now exists an idea on Twitter known as ‘Tweet others as you would like to be Tweeted’, which is basically what it says on the tin, and encourages kindness and thoughtfulness rather than online rage.
A couple more ways to stay calm
Ideally, we need to identify where these feelings of anger and frustration come from through talking, but first of all, for when you’re in the heat of the moment, here are a few more basic ways to deal with them:
- Admit you’re angry – that’s ok, you’re human!
- ‘Hot chocolate breathing’ – great for kids! Breathe in through your nose as if you’re smelling the hot chocolate, then out through your mouth as if you’re blowing on it to cool it down. The quick shallow breaths we take when we’re angry send feedback to our brain that puts it into the ingrained ‘fight or flight’ mode that all humans and animals experience from time to time, and this is not a calm headspace!
- Counting to a chosen number – this gives us time to think and mentally remove ourselves from the situation (see next point!).
- Change your focus and visualise yourself in a calm space: think about that beach, those mountains or that holiday you’re planning!
- Think of a previous life event situation which made you feel a different way e.g. I know the death of a pony when I was aged 10 always makes me sad rather than angry no matter what, and I also know that a story my mum told me when I was child about my dad getting his purple corduroy flares stuck under a piano when going up some stairs, then ripping them so that his bum was visible will always make me belly laugh 😀
- Physical activity such as jogging or dancing (not screaming or hitting a pillow, this is a fallacy!)
- Listen to music: it’s proven that wrapping your ears round a style of music you love, whether that’s Balearic electronica or slash metal, will sooth your troubled mind.
- Write down the problem – sometimes I keep a notebook by my bed in case I wake up and become angry or anxious. As soon as I’ve written down what the matter is, it becomes real, I am then able to distance myself from it, and it moves away from my thoughts, out of my head.
- Drop your shoulders to relieve tension.
- Find pressure points which relieve tension; the wrists, for example.
I can’t claim any of these these will all initially be easy, but over time, as you practise, they will become more and more of a go-to reaction rather than a reaction of steam coming out of your nostrils or rising from your head! And whether it’s Bob Marley, Peaches, LCD Soundsystem or Slayer you like to listen to, soon that anger will be floating away out of your mind and you won’t need to worry about a thing.