Are You Angry? Good!

By Neill Gibson and Beth Banning

Do you feel guilty or confused when you get angry? Do you look for reasons that justify your anger? Anger isn’t the problem. And guess what, neither are you.

You heard right. Anger is not the problem. The problem is being unable to identify what’s making you angry so you can do something about it. Read on to discover what’s causing your anger and how you can use your anger to help create the life you really want.

“What makes me so angry?”

We usually become angry because two things are happening.
First, we believe that someone or something is preventing us from getting what we want. Second, we believe that something should or should not be happening the way it is. This thinking focuses our attention entirely on limitation and fear.

Think about it, if all of your attention is focused on not getting what you want, and what should or shouldn’t happen, is it any wonder this kind of thinking results in stress, frustration, and confusion. What else would you feel but angry?

If you learn that all anger comes from focusing your attention in these ways, then anger can become a warning bell that reminds you to focus your attention on creating the life you want.

Here’s an example: Pat was waiting for Leslie at their favorite restaurant. They agreed to meet at 7:15. After waiting for 20 minutes, Pat began to feel upset. “Leslie knows I hate waiting, we had an agreement. How selfish… Not even a phone call to explain… I’m only waiting another five minutes and then I’m leaving…”, Pat thought, starting to feel more and more angry.

Let’s explore the thinking that made Pat so angry. Consider Pat’s mental statement, “Leslie knows I hate waiting, we had an agreement…;” It sounds like Pat thinks Leslie shouldn’t be late if they had an agreement and feared that the evening would be ruined by Leslie’s late arrival. Or the statement, “How selfish… Not even a phone call to explain…” It sounds like Pat thinks that if people really cared about each other they should call and explain what’s happening.

When you focus your attention on limitation and fear as Pat did, anger is an understandable response.

“Then what do you suggest I focus my attention on?”

We believe that beneath people’s anger are things they value that are missing in the situation. The most effective way we’ve found to move from feeling angry to creating a satisfying life is to start by figuring out what’s really important to us – what we value. In this situation one thing Pat may highly value, which is missing, is peacefulness. So what prevents Pat from being peaceful in this situation? It may be that Pat needs more predictability in order to be peaceful.

Once you know what you need, you’re able to take specific actions to get those needs met. As one example, Pat may want to make an agreement with Leslie that they will call if either of them is going to be late.

“How do I use this in my life?”

You begin by understanding that anger is not the problem. You practice noticing when you feel tense or irritated, and use your anger as an alarm bell that warns you to shift your focus of attention. Then you can single out any should/shouldn’t statements you hear yourself thinking.

Once you have a statement to work with, you explore it and discover the hidden values within it, like how Pat values peacefulness. When you identify what you value, you can ask yourself the question, “What do I need in order to experience what I value in this situation?”, like Pat’s need for predictability. Then think of some ways you might be able to get that need meet, like Pat and Leslie agreeing to call if they will be late.

When you focus your attention on what you value, what you need, and how you’re going to get those needs met, your anger can be transformed into an opportunity to create a truly satisfying life.

Neill Gibson is coauthor of the PuddleDancer Press booklet What’s Making You Angry? He and Beth Banning are the founders of Focused Attention Incorporated. They work with people ready to have more freedom, effectiveness and joy in their relationships, in all areas of their life. They can help you discover how you can get more of what you want in life in ways that everyone enjoys.