Is anger useful? Is it productive? These are questions we need to ask ourselves when we feel angry. The definition of anger is: “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.”
What happens when we feel angry? We tend to want to get revenge toward the person or people that made us angry. Our thoughts become skewed and illogical because we don’t have a handle on a couple of basic thoughts,
1) What is anger and the thoughts that cause anger?
2) What does anger feel like in your body?
Let’s use an example…..an ATM machine. You need cash for an event you are attending that only takes cash for purchases, so you drive to your ATM machine on a Sunday, as the banks are closed. You put your card in the machine and a message says "this machine is not working at this time." You can feel the anger and frustration bubbling up within you and you start to think irrationally. You want to hit the machine or shake it or keep pushing buttons to make it work. You are furious now because you have no cash. Is it productive or useful to hit the machine? That action will not get you your money. The machine itself is not making you angry, it is just a machine. It is your thought about the ATM machine that is making you angry.
The crazy thing is that it feels good to unleash anger, but is it really useful? How is it helping you? Let’s put this into another situation. You had a person hurt your feelings or disrespect you by saying something to you that you felt was rude and unnecessary. Your first instinct is to get mad and then possibly get revenge in some way. Maybe you yell and scream or you send nasty text messages. Either way, in the moment, it feels justified. It feels better and more powerful to feel angry than it does to feel sad or hurt. Feeling sad seems like you have given up so feeling angry tends to make you feel justified and in control of the situation by exhibiting what you think is your power. In reality, you are in “emotional childhood” at that point, which means you are not taking responsibility for how you feel and you are blaming how you feel on someone else’s behavior. In that circumstance you have given your power to the very person that has caused you to feel angry. Go back to the ATM machine. Is your behavior useful or productive and is there a better solution? Did you automatically go to that place in your mind where revenge makes sense?
Look at what you are making the circumstance mean. Is it a neutral situation or are you making it an offense of some kind?
Let’s move to forgiveness. Most people don’t forgive other people because they WANT to feel angry and resentful. You are in control of your feelings and if you want to stop feeling angry and resentful you can simply forgive. Here is the definition of forgiveness: “the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions.” It does not mean that you talk to the other person or tell them that you are forgiving them. It is all within you that forgiveness happens. You are deciding that you are changing your feelings (which you are in control of) to that of letting go of negative emotions. You only need to forgive someone when YOU want to stop feeling angry or resentful. Most people think that when they feel angry or resentful, the other person experiences it. Other people do not experience your emotions. They only experience their interpretation of YOUR behavior and actions. We tend to think that somehow our angry thoughts and behavior are punishing the other person, but that is never the case. We are the only ones who feel it. Think about what you are doing to exhibit your anger, ….the silent treatment, yelling or rude comments. In reality, other people are only experiencing their own interpretation of how you are acting, which may only make you look like you are not in control and proves how little control you have over someone else’s emotions. If you think that not forgiving someone is somehow serving you and hurting them, you have it completely backwards. You are only hurting yourself because the emotions of anger and resentment are painful.
Let’s circle back to the definition of forgiveness, it is YOU voluntarily changing your attitude and feelings about an offense. It is all about you.