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Anger: We've Got It All Wrong

We are approaching anger wrong. Yes, there is a trigger and we react. But by the time we are triggered to anger it is too late. By the time we've started the crescendo of anger the horse is out of the barn. Turning off anger is like trying to block a tidal wave. It is impossible. I suspect this is because any emotion ultimately manifests as a bio-neuro-chemical cascade. Once the floodgates open, once the receptors are triggered, once the depolarization occurs, it is an event underway. So how then does one stop the tsunami of anger? It requires a different approach. One has to wedge in between the trigger and the anger - not in the moment, but before. Well before.

To understand how to wedge in between a trigger and anger before it occurs, we have to first understand what resides there in that space. What resides between a trigger and anger is thought - negative thought. If you have a negative bias towards a person or a thing, then that person or thing, doing virtually anything will be liable to trigger you. In fact the more negative a bias you have towards someone or something, the less it takes for them to trigger you. For example if a sibling views another sibling as a colossal pain, even the most innocuous of disturbances is going to be perceived as a problem and will cause a rise to anger. If a sibling is perceived as fundamentally lovable, his or her antics will likely be met with more tolerance.

This is where we must focus change - not on trying to stop a tsunami in progress but working on our negative biases when we are calm. It isn't in the crux of anger that we can expect ourselves to really understand. We must take the time out of our ramped-up vexation to think about what triggers us to anger. We must then try to understand why, what is the meaning behind our response. And in understanding why we react as we do, we must then remember our humanity. All of us have the potential to trigger someone; we need to humbly remember that we, too, provoke, as we feel others provoke.

We have always lived in angry times. We continue to do so. And while it is laudable to suggest simply turning off the spigot of anger when it arises, just counting to ten, just doing deep breathing, these measures do nothing to address the root cause. The root cause of anger is a negative bias towards something which we have within. We may think our negativity is justified, but it is well worth our effort to attempt to understand our thoughts. Anger, after all, is eroding our own peace.


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