Post No.: 0492
Grrr… Why can’t I get this jar open?! I just want a damn biscuit! Grrrrrr! :@
…Letting your anger out in violent ways will more likely make your anger worse, so try not to punch, kick or scream to release your stresses, tensions or frustrations. For mild or short-term frustrations, try distracting yourself with a funny comedy programme, tackle some games or puzzles (some that are relaxing that is!), exercise, do a favourite hobby, go out into a natural space – anything that’s incompatible with being angry or that uses your elevated energy levels constructively rather than destructively. Playing with a puppy or kitten if you have one, or watching some furry animal videos, calms down most people. Woof!
Or just sit down and breathe deeply while slowly counting down from 10… It’s incredibly difficult to think of the mid and long-term consequences of our actions before trying to satisfy our short-term gratifications when we’re in a state of anger, but try to think of the costs and mess – to one’s finances, one’s relationships, etc. – that one would need to clean up or deal with if one does or says something one will regret. When angry, we might feel powerful with the surge of testosterone we experience, and perhaps feel a sense of self-righteousness too if it’s about revenge, but such messes and regrets will just introduce more stress and frustration into our lives. (Post No.: 0456 took a look at the long-term pitfalls of seeking vengeance.) So learn about what tends to trigger you, learn to recognise the physiological signs of frustration building up – and as you feel your blood start to boil, leave the room or source of stress before anything happens. No one and no thing is worth ruining your life or even day over.
Don’t physically lash out yet don’t keep your frustrations simmering or building up within – collect and write your thoughts down somewhere to offload them. Listen to some soft classical music. Calming down reduces your blood pressure and is overall better for your health too.
Should a relatively minor transgression or fit of rage be acceptable, or will something like thumping the table or shouting at someone be a gateway to something possibly even more violent in the future? Well it’s usually good to let your true emotions and feelings out rather than bottle them in until the pressure builds and one explodes. But when it comes to anger – rather than exploding, even voluntarily (which is obviously an explosion nonetheless), we need small and regular productive releases of pressure, such as regular exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep every night and regular moments of leisure. It’s also not morally right to take such anger out on other people, animals or even inanimate objects (it’s an environmental waste to just wreck stuff, even if it’s your own stuff and you can afford to) – by hurting others, yourself or destroying things – because it’s counter-productive, even though one might feel great for a relatively brief moment for doing it. Many other activities that give us a temporary spike of gratification during a stressful moment can result in incurring long-term costs or regrets too if they become our default coping strategies.
There are numerous contexts where a regular go-to strategy of seeking short-term gains or pleasures will potentially lead to long-term losses or pains, or at least to a lack of progress (which in economic terms would be a loss due to the opportunity costs). Examples include impulsive retail therapy, comfort eating, getting drunk or taking other recreational drugs as self-medication. There’s also helicopter parenting (on the child), purely cosmetic surgery, being lazy and not partaking in regular physical activities, or of course taking your anger out on other people, things or even beating yourself up. Many psychological pleasures and pains are about short-term gain but long-term pain, or short-term pain but long-term gain. So just because something makes you feel good or great immediately, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be good for your health or will make you feel great in the long term or overall.
Even if we might, say, dedicate a room in our house to fill with genuine junk that one can just smash up guilt-free whenever the urge comes – if we become conditioned to believe that whenever we’re stressed or exasperated it’s good to lash out and break things then we can potentially hurt someone if we’re not at home and don’t have such a release available. We therefore need strategies that will work in all kinds of situations. If it’s simply the release of pent-up energy that makes you feel great after smashing stuff up into pieces then turn to exercise, like jogging, instead because it’s productive rather than destructive.
So taking our anger out on people or things, by wrecking things and/or by shouting (or worse), will condition us to believe that this is the course of action to take every time we’re angry. Undirected swearing (swearing that isn’t directed aggressively at anyone in particular) is better than hitting someone or smashing something if you can’t help but need some kind of immediate release.
Indeed, children who shout at others, hit others and/or break things, and then eventually find that their parents succumb to their demands, will learn that shouting, hitting and/or breaking things is the answer to getting their own way; hence they’ll do it even more. And if the more they shout, hit and/or break things the more they get their own way, then the louder and more violent they’ll learn to become as they grow into adults, when they can be even more destructive. It’s thus better in the long run for them to learn about the negative consequences of such outbursts of anger rather than reward them for it – for instance by teaching them about the need to clear the place up and replace broken toys or other items that were broken, possibly out of their own pocket or future allowance. Of course this doesn’t mean parents should in turn shout the loudest to get their children’s attention or smack their children in order to punish them because that would set a really bad example(!)
We need to be able to take a step back and look at the overall net effects on our lives to judge if something is truly healthy or not, or truly effective or not – such as in the case of constantly pandering to a child’s demands just to get them to stop their tantrums, or rage-quitting and breaking one’s controller after dying for the twentieth time when trying to defeat a boss in the Dark Souls series! (A tip if you’re frustrated over trying to beat a boss in a videogame or something like that is to try again the next day – when you go to sleep, your unconscious brain will continue working on the problem and you’ll improve the next day. So it’s not about quitting but sleeping on it.)
Taking our anger out on someone or something sometimes isn’t just displaced upon the people and objects immediately around us, but when some people (particularly if adolescent) feel angry about the current political state of affairs, they feel the violent urge to tear down society as a whole – often by directing their anger at immigrants, homosexuals and other minorities because they’re easier targets.
Regarding the fight, flight, freeze and maybe fawn response to immediate threats – they are each appropriate in their own contexts. For instance, freezing might be appropriate if an intruder hasn’t spotted you yet. But for many threats – particularly some common modern day threats that humans didn’t ever face or worry as much about before during their evolutionary history, such as low-battery anxiety, job insecurity or how one looks in the mirror – people apply an inappropriate response or simply panic when overloaded and may even start to fail at doing the things they could normally do. Some of these ‘threats’ might not even be true threats that need a response at all.
Education and training can help us to apply the appropriate response to genuine threats, just like knowing when to run or when to make a lot of noise when a particular species of dangerous animal is nearby. And hopefully perspective can help us to see that many perceived threats in modern life aren’t genuine threats to our lives at all, such as ‘first-world problems’, how well we do when playing a video game for fun or when trying to open a jar of treats.
…I got the biscuit jar open!