Monday Musings Part Eleven: Reining in Rage

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Reining in Rage


Each of us has ground rules for living. And when those rules get broken, we become angry. The level of our anger depends wholly upon our perception of how unreasonable the rule breakage is; or, put another way, on our perception of how things should be. Not only that, but our response comes from our perception of the disparity between the ideal and the actual.

The trouble is, not everyone plays by the same rules, and the universe most certainly doesn’t. Funnily enough (and this may shock some of you), in this context, optimism works against us. If we expect something to go wrong (for example, we expect it to rain and ruin the barbeque) then we are unlikely to get angry; most probably we will feel saddened or let-down but not too surprised.

However, if we feel optimistic about something and yet it doesn’t pan out, then our disappointment will be all the greater. And, the stronger the original emotion, the more likely we are to become angry.

Why is this?

Well, anger is only ever a ‘masking’ emotion. Don’t get me wrong, it is very real. What I’m saying is that it never comes in isolation. Anger needs a companion. So, whenever you feel angry, try to see what the underlying emotion is … are you hurt? Disappointed? Feeling hard done by? Etc.

While in some situations, you may get punished for your anger, your anger will always punish you.

And, when we get down to the brass tacks (the bare bones), our suffering comes down to us. It is totally based upon our perception and conditioning. From the perspective of the brain and its neurons, which in turn will release a chemical cocktail into the bloodstream, we have a simple formula: If they fire together, they wire together.

What does this mean for us?

In simple terms, if we continually react to a certain stimulus (fire together—A+B), then over time, those connections (A+B) will wire together (giving us C). We will always respond to the same thing in the same way because that has become a hard-wired habit. Once they’ve wired together, it can feel almost impossible to un-fuse them. So, the sooner we break the cycle, the easier it is to achieve change.

As with any habit or addiction, though, it isn’t impossible. Difficult, for sure, but not insurmountable.Zen Stones for Monday Musings

The next time something annoys you, stop and look at it. Look at the external that has provided the trigger. Then, turn your gaze within and see what the story is that you’re telling yourself. It will be there, just that you may have to dig a bit to see it. It’s hard work seeing our own stuff, and far easier to observe other people. Stick with it.

Once you’ve identified your thought patterns, try a little experiment. Change your story. Try viewing the situation from a completely different viewpoint. How does that change your emotions? Your reaction?

As a writer, I change ‘reality’ all the time. I take an image (whether imagined or real) and make up as many different scenarios as I can about that image. It’s a great exercise for fuelling my creativity, but also, the knock-on effect is showing me how many other possible stories are out there, other than just my individual perspective.

Just as important as seeing our thought-patterns and changing them, is allowing the original emotion. Often, it is easier to drown in the anger because it prevents us from having to face the hurt, despair, betrayal, pain, etc. If we can sit with the trigger emotion, we will have more chance of keeping a rein on our anger.

Also, it is valuable to keep one eye on the bigger picture, which keeps things in perspective. How important is it in comparison to world events? Will it affect the life of your neighbour, for example? Or is it much smaller than that?

Within that picture, notice your imperfections. Not a single one of us is perfect. Rather than wasting time looking for faults in others, do something useful with your time by seeing and correcting your own.

In the wise words of Zen:

‘Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.’

If you’ve missed my previous Monday Musings, you can find the links here: 🙂