For Dr. Michael Mantell, who’s been a people builder for more than 40 years, he’s observed that simple annoyance and fiery rage, loss of temper, with its emotional and physiological mayhem, so mess with his client’s lives that he says it’s high time to prevent, not just manage the thunder. Lashing out in anger over even the smallest slights or obstacles only makes sense if your goal is to strip yourself of peace and inflame your bitterness and indignation.
Sure some anger may be appropriate when it comes from the right place, is well controlled, is short in duration and results in something healthy. But when temper is driven by selfishness, demanding, insisting thinking, and leads to physically explosive, people harming, outburst, well, then it’s time to get a handle on it.
Sick and tired of something and blow up? Show your anger in devious ways? Show you’re pissed-off with sarcasm? Ready to blow and put on that fake smile instead? Hear your friend badmouthing you and you think it “makes you feel” furious? So your thalamus, amygdala, and frontal lobes go into high gear as a result of telling yourself a story about some outside event that arouses your rage and your brain is hijacked.
You’ve no doubt read about the value of calming your emotional brain by mindful meditation, relaxation, deep breathing, regular exercise, healthy diet, wise problem solving, counting to 10, and even over-the-counter and prescriptive medication to calm your wrath. I say, “YES” to them all when properly done. They will no doubt help ratchet you down, dial back your ire, settle your seethe and eliminate erupting. I actually say “YES” most of all to mindfulness, which has been shown most recently to be powerfully effective in reducing anger and building resilience.
According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, http://www.mindful.org/how-people-learn-to-increase-their-resilience/ “Most of life’s stressors are subjective and with mindfulness (seeing things as they are in this present moment), we have the ability to respond with wisdom vs. react in a harmful way. When we see our thoughts and feelings clearly and can offer compassion for the hardship we are experiencing, we increase our resilience.”
But why not learn to prevent the boil in the first place? Want to fix broken bones or prevent broken bones? Beyond these, all-too-often, written about common sense approaches to melting temper, what can you do to prevent it from boiling in the first place?
Don’t D.I.E. Instead T.H.I.N.K.
I’ll explain. Temper never starts with anything other than thinking about an external event is a certain way. Nobody, not the angriest person you know, “gets” angry or is “made to feel” angry or “let’s others get to him/her.” No, that’s not the way temper blossoms. It grows solely in the thoughts of mankind.
As Epictetus said, “People are disturbed not by things, but by the views they take of them.” So remember rule #1: Temper is triggered by what you think about events or things that happen, not by those things.
It’s important to know the common triggers about which you have temper inflaming thoughts. These may include places, things, events, situations or people in your life. Of course if your relationships aren’t going well, you are using unhealthy substances to control your feelings, you are struggling with depression or anxiety, your finances aren’t going well or your aren’t getting enough restorative sleep, controlling your thinking won’t come easy.
Let’s say someone jumps in front of you on line while you are waiting for your morning coffee, takes “your” parking space, jumps on “your” spot on the floor in your group ex, picks up the last size 4 jeans that you demanded be “yours,” or your boss tosses some extra work your way on Friday afternoon. You think, “That’s not fair!” “She shouldn’t do that!” “That’s not my job!” “I’ll never get those jeans again!” “This is awful, terrible, horrible!”
You believe you are under threat, have been attacked, have been victimized or somehow have been hurt. You haven’t been. There’s really no “thorn in your side.” Life is not black and white, all or nothing. There are no real “shoulds” or “oughts” but rather a long list of preferences we all have.
Ask yourself these temper preventing questions: Is there another way of looking at your situation? What would someone who isn’t angered be thinking about this situation? What is the worst thing that could go wrong? How can I benefit from this situation (remember that things don’t happen TO you but rather FOR you)? Will this matter in 5 years?
Think something should or must be different? Turn it into an “I’d like it to be different but it doesn’t have to be.” Think something is awful? Turn it into, “It’s too bad.” Think you must be different, that others must treat you differently and that your life must be better? Rid yourself of those demands. Demanding, insisting and expecting life to be different (D.I.E.) only wind up hurting you.
Is what you are thinking about a person, place, situation, event or thing true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, helpful (T.H.I.N.K.)? Always say or think, “I made myself angry.” Keep in mind it’s a foolish waste of time to do that to yourself.
What temper containing statements would you be wise to delete?
“She always does that!”
“They never listen to me!”
“You have to do this for me!”
“I absolutely must not be late!”
“These drivers should get the heck out of my way!”
“My life must be fair!”
“People must appreciate me!”
“He has to agree with me!”
So you can either manage your temper or you can think yourself out of it in the first place. It’s entirely your call. Marcus Aurelius observed, “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” Revoke it.