It’s a phrase that has crept into our daily conversations, but it’s actually a misnomer, according to one expert.
“Most of us believe that other people or situations have the ability to make us angry. This is a big misconception,” says Janet Pfeiffer, author of The Secret Side of Anger (www.PfeifferPowerSeminars.com).
“No individual or event has the power to make you mad. Anger is actually a choice, one that occurs depending on that person’s perception,” Pfeiffer says.
“What we choose to think about an experience we’re having or the person we’re involved with determines how we feel. For instance, if someone criticizes you, you can think ‘She’s so mean!’ Or, you can choose, ‘How unfortunate someone could be so insensitive.’
“The former evokes anger, the latter, sadness. The truth behind her actions matters little. You only need to concern yourself with how you choose to perceive her and allow her behaviour to affect you,” she says.
Pfeiffer, a certified violence counsellor and motivational speaker, asserts that anger is not inherently negative. It is an important and useful emotion that can be used as a motivating force to bring about positive change.
“If I witness an injustice in society, my anger can serve as a propellant to create new laws,” Pfeiffer says. “Anger becomes a negative force when it is used in a destructive manner, either to hurt one’s self, another or to damage property. Unresolved anger leads to resentment and bitterness and can damage one’s relationships, health, careers, and overall enjoyment of life.”
Pfeiffer says anger, by definition, is a feeling of distress brought about by feelings of helplessness or powerlessness. People create their own feelings of being victimized because they feel as though others are controlling them.
“We need to understand that power and control come from within. Each individual is responsible for choosing their own thoughts. No one else controls that. From there, everything else flows: thoughts generate emotion and we act out what we feel,” she says.
“Everything in this equation is about personal responsibility. A victim is one without power. Regaining our personal power eliminates feelings of helplessness and anger. Others no longer have the ability to push our buttons and make us mad.”
Pfeiffer’s tips on reducing anger include:
• Put everything into perspective. Ask yourself if the situation is worth getting upset about. If not, let it go. If it is important, identify what needs to change and create a plan to accomplish that. Switch your focus (thought) from the problem (negative) to the solution (positive).
• The moment you feel anger well up inside you, remember SWaT: Stop, Walk and Talk. Stop what you are doing. This prevents the situation from escalating. Next, Walk away. Creating distance allows you to calm down and cool off. “Out of sight, out of mind”. Third: Talk yourself calm. Discuss your feelings and situation with a neutral party, seeking deeper understanding and guidance. If no one is available, talk to yourself. Repeat calming statements such as “I am fine. I am calm. I can handle this is an intelligent and rational manner.”
• Create a “Peace Plan”: daily activities to engage in that will naturally reduce your levels of anger. Some of Pfeiffer’s favourites are aerobic exercise, prayer, meditation, music, nature and her dogs. Each of these naturally replaces stress and anger with feelings of peace and serenity.
• Even a simple act such as deep breathing or smiling will help alleviate anger.
“Some believe that if you have your health you have everything. I believe when you have inner peace you have it all,” Pfeiffer says.