Have you ever thought about how anger arises in your body?
Think about an incompetent coworker who keeps making the same mistakes without learning from them.
Think about a presumptuous customer who overbearingly states his stupid complaints.
Think about your girl who’s gotten into the nagging game.
Think about anyone who gets on your nerves or pisses you of.
I realized that I never get angry immediately. Not without my deliberate choice.
When someone annoys me, I want to get rid of that person. Yet, as we all know, verbal communication has little actual effect on other people’s behavior. People don’t listen to words. If you want to get rid of somebody over whom you have no structural power, you can’t just speak as you always speak. You must use nonverbal cues: You must use a certain volume and tone of voice, certain gestures, certain gazes. Telling someone to go away won’t work if it doesn’t sound like you mean it. “GO. AWAY.” will make someone go away more likely. In any case, you must express not just words, but emotions. In particular, you must express anger.
When someone angers me, I don’t automatically get angry, but I express anger through my voice and body language in order to communicate to that person that he or she is doing something I don’t appreciate. My expressed anger is not a knee-jerk reaction, but a deliberately chosen action intended to achieve a certain goal—make the other person shut up, go away, stop wasting my time.
Here’s the catch though: When I repeatedly express anger (e.g., by talking in an upset tone of voice), I’m gradually building up a feeling of anger in my body. Instead of just expressing the emotion of anger, using it as a means to make a point, my acting angry turns into feeling angry. I move away from mindcoolness.
It’s not “perception causes anger, which then causes anger expression,” but rather “perception (together with a goal) causes anger expression, which then causes anger.” You don’t have to feel angry in order to express anger, but you will, at some point, start to feel it when you repeatedly express it.
Think about it this way: When you build up the feeling of anger by expressing anger, your expression will become more authentic and thus your goal achievement more likely. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Only when you’re conditioned to impulsively express your anger and have little to no control over it will your expression of anger and your feeling of anger rise and wane in concert. Impulsivity turns your anger into an effective communication tool, but it also diverts you from mindcoolness. People will more readily react to what you say, but your mind won’t be at ease.
What can you do about it if the coolness of your mind is important to you?
Stay away from negative people. Stay away from stupid people. Stay away from people who don’t respect you or your time. Stay away from people who piss you off. If you can’t, keep in mind how talking grumpy, raising your voice, or yelling affects your internal states.
P.S. If you suffer from anger issues, you might lack the willpower needed to control yourself. Learn how to strengthen your willpower in my new book Willpower Condensed.
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