Love the Life You Live: Harnessing Your Wild Side
- Monday, October 04, 2004
Anger Has the Same Potential to Be Helpful or Harmful
The sexual embrace, worthily understood, can only be compared with music and with prayer. – James Hilton
If you are angry, it’s a sure sign that something needs attention in your life. Something is askew, and it must be set right. Anger is like a red light flashing on the dashboard of your car. Overlook it at your own peril!
Let’s say you discovered that four of your closest friends got together for lunch and nine holes of golf last Saturday. You like all four of them, and you assumed you were equally well liked by them. Moreover, you love to play golf every chance you get. But you weren’t invited, and you are shocked. Worse, you feel hurt and rejected. The more you let yourself brood, the more enraged you become.
As your anger swells, you have five alternatives. Four will likely bring destruction; one might bring relational growth.
You can explode. You can call each of your friends and shout, “I heard what you did, you jerk! You purposely left me out. We’re through.” Chances are, this response will not foster the resolution and reconciliation you crave.
You can handle your anger underhandedly – avoid your friends, say almost nothing when you do see them, and generally pout and sulk your way to interpersonal destruction. Of course, your friends will probably have no idea why you’re acting so sullen and remorse.
You can blame yourself and assume you were the cause of the rejection. You might think, They would’ve included me if I were funnier, outgoing, more interesting, or a better golfer. The only result here is damage to your self-worth.
You can obsess over your disappointment, do nothing about it, and continue to replay the hurtful event in your mind. If you keep these toxic emotions churning, keep pouring acid into your stomach, and keep your muscles clenched, you’ll inflict physical and psychological harm on yourself.
You can do something positive, something that will likely lead to progress. You can privately incite one or two of your friends to lunch. Go with the two that you trust most, the two most likely to help you resolve this issue. Sitting at lunch with them, you can pick the appropriate time to share your disappointment and hurt. You can pad your statements with understanding: “I know how these things happen, and I shouldn’t be so sensitive.” Or, “I realize I may be misinterpreting this.”
But then ask your friends if they can help you think it through. Tell them that if you are the problem, you sincerely want to change. You simply want to face the truth and get this matter behind you. This kind of “anger management” almost always leads to stronger relationships and clearer understanding about yourself.
Perhaps you’re thinking that being excluded from lunch and a golf game is trivial. What if it were a huge problem, one that caused your anger to bubble up like volcanic lava? All right, let’s assume you just found out your spouse or longtime dating partner has recently been involved emotionally and sexually with someone else. Your hurt is enormous, your frustration is beyond words, and your sense of threat is off the charts. What should you do?
Keep the reins firmly in your hands! Don’t let the horses run wild. Take much more time to act on your feelings than you instinctively want to. When your energy is bursting within you, that’s not the time to act impulsively. Strive hard to be patient.
When your anger or sexual energy is running high, you have a gigantic power reservoir available. You are capable of doing something terribly destructive, but you can elect to do something with lasting positive consequences. There are few times in life when you are in such a pivotal position to influence the quality of your future existence. If you stay solidly in the driver’s seat and think clearly and wisely, you can make a brilliant decision that will bring tremendous growth to your life.
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