anger avoiding strategies

Click thumbnails to enlarge .. trying to start with a peaceful mosaic

Here’s the list:

  1. Mindfulness about anger: see what happens in your case, record and playback, or interrupt while it is happening
  2. Patience, Patience, Patience
  3. Don’t create Frustration
  4. Defuse Adrenaline levels: be aware of your adrenaline level
  5. Unlearn useless cursing, like on the road, or after any situation
  6. Get to know your triggers or buttons and slowly remove them

this series on anger:

In part 1: anger and adrenaline, I looked at step one: danger, and step two, adrenaline. I came to the conclusion that adrenaline, nor danger causes anger, but adrenaline makes me edgy, and in consequence, possibly volatile.

In part 2: anger and sadness, I investigated my personal connection between anger and sadness. I came to the conclusion that my anger precedes my sadness, and that this sadness is my repressed translated anger. This doesn’t say anything about your sadness. The sadness we feel after physical, emotional or spiritual hurt has nothing to do with anger. Anger is about mental hurt and fear for the near future.

In part 3: anger scenarios, I saw that there is not one way to become angry. There are different scenarios.

This is part 4: anger avoiding strategies, in this series:  I want to find out whether and how I can interrupt the arising anger.

I started with a summary, perhaps to attract your attention. Let ‘s have a closer look.

1. Mindfullness

Be aware of what happens when you get angry. Observe: before, while it is happening, after. Usually the observation is done in playback mode. Playback mode is crappy to say the least. Full blown anger does something with our brain to make it impenetrable, stubborn, and perhaps even stupid. So the recording is faulty. But it is better than nothing. You could start with an anger week, and every time you notice your frustration, adrenaline or full blown anger, you write it down in your anger book. Perhaps you will need a big diary? A week is not that long. But during the holiday period, with many frustrations rising and being around the people we know best, you better keep a spare diary at hand. Yes this is humor, black humor, I only see what my anger has been doing in the past 10 years or so.

There is another type of mindfulness: you slow down, and then you slow down again, and you try to bring anything that’s going on in your life to your awareness. I’m not very good in this. During a retreat it works better. When in a car, there is no way to slow down. But if you slow down long enough, and bring your anger under your own awareness, you can slowly start to unlearn it. I’m sure it works. I didn’t have enough patience to make this work for me. Unfortunately.

2. Patience

They say that patience is a virtue. I don’t know about virtues, but I’m sure that patience reduces frustration to manageable levels. I’m even sure that with the right habit of deeply engraved patience, you will never get frustrated or angry in your life anymore.
Those who are patient, will not get frustrated. You will not create your own danger zone, there will be no ungrounded fear, you will avoid making your own adrenaline, and without any of those, your anger has nothing to feed on. Perhaps in this patience, there is also a space for sadness. But if there is, take the effort to change that sadness into patience. If you are sad because somebody got in line after you and is served first, examine that sadness, and notice that it is different from patience. If a sadness related to a frustrating situation comes before any adrenaline, you can transform it into patience. If it comes after the adrenaline,  you are fooling yourself and, perhaps unknowingly, you give a beautiful name to repressed anger. Apathy, is another such form of repressed anger, and many passive aggressive treatments are exactly that: trying to get even in a polite way. Real sadness is an emotion, mental sadness is something different. If there is one useful habit in your life: let it be patience!

note: be aware for fake patience! What starts as genuine patience, at a given moment stops being ‘happy patience’ (I have no better word for it) and frustration lurks while I continue to pretend patience (probably unconsciously). At that moment, a building up of adrenaline might surprise me, and I pretend (unaware) that it isn’t the case. “I AM PATIENT”, look how politely patient I am 😦  You can click this link for the not so recent post about this subject: patience, the root of aggression

3. Don’t create frustration

A patient person will not make stories of how bad the situation is. She will not fear something her mind just made up. But if you have not made patience your first nature yet, becoming aware of the frustrating stories in your mind is the first step.

Notice when your mental mind is making a story. It tries to trick you into feeling bad, into an outcome that has to be feared. It is giving you something or someone to blame for it.

If you catch the mind playing this trick, you have prevented the conscious mental mind from creating an artificial danger. No danger means no fear. No frustration without initial fear, … and no adrenaline.

Frustration is mental. Think about the cooking/tinkering going bad. Do you really think frustration is going to get things right again? Just clean up and try again! What did we expect in the first place? That everything we do will go just fine? And if it doesn’t mind starts to make stories about the mishap. Any expectation, has in it the potential for frustration.

When interrupting any story, you avoid frustration and you avoid the rise of  adrenaline levels. You cut the sequence of events leading to anger. You also come closer to seeing reality as it is, and not as it should be.

4. Defuse Adrenaline levels: be aware of your adrenaline level,
devise your own ramsay meter and listen to it,
next do something about your adrenaline

Even after creating a mental story of blame and disappointment, and even after your initial frustration, it’s still not too late. If you notice that your adrenaline is high, you can still defuse it. Such takes time, and some experience. Anger is close, but it is not there yet. It can still be avoided. You don’t have to snap to innocent bystanders, passengers or harass kitchen equipment.

Notice it when your adrenaline is high. Notice your frustration when it has not yet exploded. Adrenaline is high when things have gone bad during the day (or night), or in traffic, or under a nasty tyrant of a boss, or because of your neighbour, or an ‘in law’, or why not, your complaining father.

Adrenaline is contagious. Notice it when someone comes home or enters the room with a high level of adrenaline. Don’t bite that hook. Defuse your second hand adrenaline. Perhaps you can propose to do some jogging together, and while doing that also defuse the undercover adrenaline of person A.? (but never directly confront a rhinoceros – don’t try much / or don’t try anything at all: adrenaline blinds people for anything else but their own stories).
If you go jogging alone, person A will probably have some peaceful time and relax long enough to unconsciously defuse her/his own adrenaline.

There are factors that make adrenaline act faster and more powerful:

  • Be aware of your intake of coffee, (asthma) medication, even tea, … Some medicine, caffeine, and components in tea have a similar effect as adrenaline. The eventual sequence of events leading to anger will happen faster when those chemicals are already inside your body.
  • Be aware of your health, your level of fatigue, your level of boredom. You get weaker and more irritable when ill or tired or bored. It seems that in those cases adrenaline gets more powerful.
  • Do you feel edgy? Do you feel anxious or anxious-like? This feeling might be caused by adrenaline that is already present.
  • Try to find out whether you are under stress. (there are many websites that will help you – this lifehacker site is just one of them)

All these factors should be mentally checked a couple of times during the day, or whenever you feel that an angry/stressy/anxious mood is looming. If you do that, you have devised your own Ramsay-Meter. Now use it, and listen to it.

My first ever Ramsay-Meter was a twitch in my left eyelid. The twitch showed up whenever I was under stress.  (stress caused by periods in my life where the adrenaline levels were/are constantly too high) But of course, this thing was only blinking when it was already much too late. Still, I started listening to it, better too late than not at all.

Once you notice your adrenaline, you have to get rid of it.
Even after your anger has come out, you still need to get rid of the adrenaline.

Physical exercise seems to work best to get rid of adrenaline. Work out, go for a longer walk (without self talking you into more frustration), try to walk around the house on your hands, go cycling, do some dancing in your living room if it rains outside, .. (don’t chop wood – you could turn into the hulk 🙂 )

You get the picture: do something with your body and two things happen: you get rid of the adrenaline and if possible, you create endorphins that really calm you down.

Wait one hour in silent meditation. It could be a walking meditation where you try to intercept the frustrating story. This is not so easy, and often does not work for me. However, while walking I often get distracted and this makes me forget whatever happened or was barely avoided.

Talking to or phoning an understanding friend helps a lot too.

Divert the attention is the best way to calm down a toddler

I have also seen it happen that my mood is bad from something that happened during breakfast. I remain in this bad mood while going to work, but five minutes after having started my job, the entire story and its virtual environment is gone.

If you find the space for creative activities, do it!

I have heard people telling me ‘I ride the energy of the anger’, but they don’t ride the anger, they ride the adrenaline. They are perhaps not angry yet, and channel the focussing qualities of adrenaline into creativity (i hope they do – that’s what they tell me – perhaps they are also fooling themselves).

Perhaps you know even better ways to get rid of your excess adrenaline …

5. Unlearn useless cursing, like on the road, or after any situation

This is the same thing as 4: you have to defuse your adrenaline, and learn to do this, in stead of cursing. You have avoided a dangerous situation. Be happy about it and thank the Universe or God! Then, defuse your adrenaline. It is still high, that’s why your mouth wants to shout! It is never a bad thing to unlearn bad habits. It might not seem obvious to get rid of your adrenaline after a near accident. Calmly drive to a parking space, have a walk, or count to 1000.

6. Get to know your triggers or buttons and slowly remove them

This can be very difficult. We have to become aware that we have them. Then we should identify everything that says: ‘If you do this I will explode’. (of course we are not referring to touching your physical integrity — although in such cases, we usually get only angry afterwards). Most buttons are learned from home and/or culture. Many more are learned by your personal life up till now, and they are wired in the ‘google-in-your-head’

Identify your own ‘holy houses’ — learn to recognize them, and later to identify them when they are under attack. There are not many things that deserve your anger. If you keep your balance, when whatever happens, you are in a better focussed situation than if you get angry. After some time you might succeed in unlearning all your buttons. Your family is your best friend in teaching you which buttons you have. They know all of them, and siblings will not hesitate to push them. Some people consciously try to provoke. The logic behind is that those who lose their temper will appear not better or even worse than the provoker. So in crescendo pushing always more and more buttons can be a strategy of a nasty attacker.

conclusion(s) … ?

I have written down 6 things I can do about my anger. The list is not complete. But it is the first time I compiled it. I’m open to suggestions. I will test them if possible 🙂 Some strategies might work better than others. Perhaps some strategies cannot be used by you. Perhaps some strategies will always fail. I’m in the testing phase right now.

Knowing the anger sequence is important.

danger (real or mental frustration) –> adrenaline –> anger

The earlier we can interrupt the anger sequence, the higher our chances of success.

We don’t get angry without a reason. We most often make up a reason to get frustrated, to blame and to complain. We get frustrated and raise our own adrenaline levels. Only after that we can get really angry, or worse: enraged.

Chronic anger leads to hate. Hate is nothing more but being angry about something you loved (and maybe still do) that got taken out of your ‘hands’. Jealousy is the fear that this might happen.

If there is one habit you really should make your own: let it be patience!

Pictures by bvdb (whoisbert) December 2013 – @home – Canon Ixus HS230 – IMG 4889/4986/4987/5124


40 thoughts on “anger avoiding strategies

    • Thanks for commenting and visiting here. #6 is indeed where it all starts — 🙂 and the anger starts to get less and less …
      That utter disappointment when someone pisses me/you off … that is very difficult … indeed.

  1. This is some good information, Bert, the tips are certainly help to calm down, instead of exploding. I don’t know if you know Bach Remedies, but they can help to calm down as well. Pawkisses for a calming Wednesday 😉

  2. All four parts are well written and factual as always.
    Just a thought. I find ”patience”, a kind of palliative treatment because we are not able to get rid of the real culprit : ”I” from our mental identity.
    We are nurtured to be something special, not like other human beings. ”Ι” raises and gets bigger through this procedure that is the beginning of my constant effort to be better and different. Anger is inevitable then -there will be always someone ”better” than me. If I could stop this for a while I would see clearly that you can swim faster but I can understand complex math equations. So we are so different as same !
    Thank you.

    (I could say more about but I ‘m not sure if I have the ability to transfer succesfully my thoughts from Greek to English)

    • It depends on what you understand as patience. If you understand it as a suppressed state, a lazy feeling of not reacting, you are correct. But ‘real’ patience does not forsake action. It comes together with compassion at the other end of the spectrum.
      Eliminating the ‘I’ is more difficult than patience 🙂 If I were to go for this anger solution, I might perhaps give up because of the inherent difficulties on the road. I agree that ego-inflation is ‘the problem’ in anger, although a lot of anger is learned by family and society at an early age, cutting that habit can also yield success.

      • I have had in mind the ‘real’ patience’s meaning, as you define it but still find it a passive reaction although I have to admit that my opinion is a bit overstated. It seems to me like taking drugs to avoid surgery that will finally cure you for good.
        Definitelly your proposal is more realistic than mine that is more like a game of our infinite thought. I also realize some convergences in between, as for example, to feel ‘real’ compassion you are supposed to have your ”I” minimized or to show ”real” patience entails your aknowledgement of your mere existence as an integral part of the Whole…etc

        • The tantric action is to identify with the anger and incorporate it, get one with it, so it will find its right place out of the shadow of your denial. However, one needs to be initiated to this by a master and under supervision: don’t do this at home on your own.
          Still I see my learned habit of patience in daily traffic, not as passive, but as a “not reaction” after “correcting action”. In my case I would like to expand that place to the rest of my interactive life. (if that makes sense 🙂 )
          Big smile

        • One thing to add. I have Mediterranean blood in my veins, and I understand how the passion while speaking sometimes is misunderstood, and how these heated up conversations still remain peaceful at heart.

          • Don’t worry at all. I truly think highly of you, especially for your kind manners and your open mind. I have to improve my expressions so to be more simple, clear and understood. I have some difficulties to write or speak although I can read and understand almost everything. So even if a misunderstanding happens will never affect my esteem for you.

  3. This was a very interesting series – and I make a “mental bookmark for future use”. One thing I noticed: I was in a very different state of mind when reading it this week – and it was rather hard to follow. It felt a bit like attending a training on communication skills when the trainer asked participants to come up with “a personal example” they would like to discuss.
    I remember such a situation: I tried to dig up old memories – and finally nearly fabricated a suitable “example” based on some half-forgotten not really important event (which was in part also due to the fact that the training was forced upon me – but I really could not remember anything “suitable”).
    So I am asking myself if we forget about this so easily or if it probably depends on your personal style of thinking about such situations – which words you use, which categories, how you describe the stages … ? I guess everybody reacts to different triggers and there are different thresholds?

    • The examples are all difficult. The mind likes to forget what it did itself during the anger, while other memories are enhanced (but not objectively). Observing self after anger, uses that incomplete memory, observing self during anger is nothing but snapshots, and no continuous wave. Some snapshots have the power to break the anger, most haven’t.
      I still have to return to triggers and thresholds to elaborate that paragraph.

      • Only one hour? If I were to go for an anger walk right now, I would be gone for at least a week. I have to think this one through, and remain as calm as possible until the real problem gets solved.

        • Sounds terrible. I never had anger longer than half a day — but sometimes intermittent problems kept me cranky for months. The worst is when you wake up, and your problem looms at that moment of waking up. You don’t even get to enjoy the sunrise ..

          • That is what got me angry. To wake up with something on my mind that someone else wanted there. Influencing my plans for the day. And then some other issues that tie into it. It is not as terrible as it could be, for I see through it. But, I still cannot deal with it as well as I would like to, which I find very frustration. I may not be reacting in person, but I still found myself reacting in energy. This person knows what he is doing, so there is no room for any hasty reactions. I am even angrier for it shows me that I still have a long road ahead of me before I can block spiritual terrorists out.

    • I have refrained from reading about anger this past month, to avoid being ‘contaminated’. Now it’s time to read others again. I was aware of Pema’s book, and I alluded to her title.
      I am not very mindfulness minded. I need solutions in a hectic world where I am part of. A lot of buddhist psychology is based on monastic life. This often doesn’t fit those who are on the treadmill of life for most of their life between 4 and 64.
      Michael is also right: patience and mindfullness come together, somewhere higher on the spectrum. I remember Shantideva talking only about patience and never about mindfulness. Shantideva really had conquered his own anger first before teaching this to others. I’m sure that Pema will also have used his writings in her famous book, that I urgently have to read.

  4. Really enjoyed this, Bert. When you describe patience, it makes me think of something expansive, something big enough to hold whatever is happening without leaping to being upset about it. And that strikes me as a place similar to mindfulness and acceptance and non-judgment. Do you see those all rolled up into authentic patience? It is always interesting to me: these things all come together like the colors of white light- peace, mindfulness, patience, love. We can talk about each one, but we’re always talking about the whole thing at the same time. I think you are right: patience is a great doorway into the wordless, anger-absorbing/defusing state of mind!


    • Hi Michael, great to see you and thank you for your insightful comment. This (mindfulness-patience- … ) joining is probably true. As a teacher in Linux, I’m inclined to always use terms people understand from their day to day life. I think patience is closer to our daily life than mindfulness 🙂 I never really grasped the completeness of the term mindfulness myself LoL

    • Went shopping after my first and hasty comment. Your comment on my mind. I think it all starts with Love-Compassion — held to the prism of life and dispersing into patience, mindfulness, peace, joy, happiness, bliss, even hope … thanks again for your inspiring comment.

  5. I took a look at the thoughts of meaning I was assigning to what was happening which were precipitating the opening of the CHOSEN emotional flood gates. Often I found I was arguing with what just was, creating a thought cloud of judgements linked to expectations used to feed the animal chemistry into a feeling of certain emotional states. Once I learned to observe my thoughts, then the ticket off the knee jerk / triggering emotional roller coaster was more at hand. -x.M

    • Thank you Maren for your beautiful comment: words with wings. I can read that you spend a vast amount of time in the skies. To argue with what is, the conflict between what is and what should be 🙂 leading to fear, and protest against this fear, manifesting itself into frustration, impatience and anger, and eventually a lot of stress. (my translation)
      My observation today was working, but the results were not brilliant, unfortunately. I know that this takes a lot of time to take hold. It’s complicated. For me this is certainly not the first step. It is the first time I analysed the sequence of events though, and learned that I have always been working when it is already too late. Now trying to work proactively.

    • Thank you Tom for your encouraging comment. The post itself is still worked upon. I still have to review (edit) part 6 – about triggers and buttons. So don’t hesitate to visit again in a couple of days to re-read a ‘final’ version.

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