As you can see, attempts to avoid anger often have their own negative consequences. So what’s the answer? The first step in arriving at an answer is to identify the real problem. Is the problem anger or is the problem how we respond to anger. I’m suggesting it’s the latter. As I mentioned, I believe that feelings are not good or bad—they just are (and they’re inevitable). The response to our anger is what can cause us trouble. Trying to escape it, ignoring it, or stuffing it are either unrealistic or can invite even more anger. Rather than trying to minimize anger, what would happen if we were to simply notice it without reacting to it? “Damn, I’m really pissed off right now! I’m gonna …” Ah, not so fast. Anger might be giving commands (“Fight back!” “Kick their ass!” “Destroy!”), but since when is anger in charge? It turns out, we can feel without necessarily acting. If we can manage that, we’re taking the advice of the band from Jacksonville: We’re loosely holding on to the anger rather than desperately trying to let go of it. But we’re not clinging so tightly to it that it’s dictating our actions and leading us to lose control.
Ok, but how in the world do I do that?” you might ask. I think the first step is to notice the anger. How often are you in the middle of twisting your mobile phone into a thousand pieces when you finally realize, “Wow, I am furious!”? What if the “Wow …” statement were to happen before the phone met its demise? At the least, you’d be able to avoid the expense of replacing your phone. But you might also avoid the embarrassment (or even shame) of having lost your composure. And—depending on the situation—you might keep yourself out of jail for the night (having avoided a domestic violence charge.)