Choosing To Be Angry
I believe in choice - mostly because it feels better to choose. It feels empowering to own our decisions, our actions and our feelings. It feels good to believe that we can choose how we want to feel.
However, it doesn’t always seem like we can choose how we want to feel. It can seem like how we feel is completely dependent on what’s going on around us. We have to deal with incompetent managers, exes that are terrible human beings and children that won’t do what they are told. Not to mention, that rude lady that cut you off in traffic. Then it feels like all bets are off. How could we NOT get angry? I mean really. People can be terrible. Something happened this weekend. It doesn’t even matter what, but I was angry. This angry.
Someone in my life was being completely unreasonable. They let something slide, and now I was paying for it. Their inability to look after their own issues was being pushed on to me. I stewed in the anger.
Why is he so stupid?
What’s wrong with him?
How can he act like this?
I did some dishes – angrily. I went out for coffee – angrily. I had a conversation with a friend – spending most of the time explaining why I was angry.
Then I paused.
This ability to pause is only something I’ve learned in the last few years. I used to not understand at all why I would feel how I was feeling. I paused to try to understand where this feeling of anger was coming from. I am a life coach after all; helping people deal with difficult emotions is what I do, so I might as well help myself too. To interrupt the thoughts of anger and create some space, I asked:
Why am I choosing to feel angry?
This wasn’t a dismissive question. This wasn’t pretending to be happy (cue happy dog face), pretending that I shouldn’t be angry, or just trying to get over it. This was me, really asking. This was me, realizing that I was choosing to be angry.
Because – and this is something we like to forget – how I was feeling was a choice.
I was choosing to continue to think and focus on the thoughts that were creating the anger. The anger wasn’t coming from what the person did or didn’t do. The anger was coming from the thoughts I was having about what the person did or didn’t do.
So, why would I choose to be angry?
I sat with this question for a few minutes before the anger started to subside and I was left with this (and sadness, if I am being honest):
I was feeling angry because it felt better than any of the other alternatives. In fact, if felt like it was the ONLY alternative.
The problem in all of these reasons is that the underlying assumption is that our feelings are coming from something outside of us. By believing that my emotions came from what someone else did or didn’t do, I was letting the actions of someone else dictate my emotional state.
So what do we do about this?
We stop telling ourselves that how we are feeling is coming from what someone is doing and start looking at what we are thinking that’s causing the feeling.
The feeling of anger is coming from what we are thinking and not from what the other person is doing.
And I hear you saying, “But Robyn, people make me angry.” It’s not the people that make you angry; it’s your thoughts that they should be different.