This is a selection from my main pages of ideas, stories and questions that relate particularly to issues of anger. I hope you find them of help.
Everything we experience is through our own unique set of filters, from the big things like love and beauty to the more mundane like the quality of a cup of coffee, black or white etc. Some important understanding arises from this :-
Our communications are at best approximate.
Others do not see the world as we do and never will.
Ideas about right and wrong are usually matters of personal judgement.
Sometimes, often, we can't affect the things that happen but we can have some control over our reactions to them. It's not an easy area, to react positively in a world that is often negative but it's a significant area of personal freedom.
We tend to rely on what we are good at and yet sometimes that is not the best approach and we need to venture into areas where we are less competent. There are many first rate business people who find that business skills are not much appreciated by their family. There are many deep thinking people who leave it too late when speedy decisions are required. Many a good giver of dinner parties has lost a lot of money when trying to run a restaurant.
Sometimes our best skill is not the most appropriate one for a particular situation.
How we describe what happens to us creates some of our experience of it. If we call something terrible we will not feel the same as if we label it as inconvenient, you can make up your own examples. I'm not suggesting you lie to yourself, or to others, but given a choice lighten your description and so lighten your experience.
It's how you react to it.
If it were not so then everyone would experience the same event in the same way and we know that does not happen. So do we have a choice in our reactions to events? All I can say is our lives work better if we act as if we do.
We cannot control how other people react to us and our response to them is a good measure of our personal freedom. If we are over concerned about being liked we are choosing to be trapped in a world made by others.
Very few people will see you as you want to be seen and the differences are almost always about them and hardly ever about you. It's largely outside your control how people see you. Your job is to be you and allow others deal with being themselves, including the views they have about you.
At the simplest level resentment damages the person who holds it more than the person towards whom it is felt. Not a smart move.
There is a Chinese proverb which says,
"If you're going to pursue revenge you'd better dig two graves".
It will overwhelm you and stop you from being effective in areas where you can make a difference. You can't do everything, there just isn't time, but there is a lot you can do so get on and do it and let go of the worry about the big things that aren't down to you.
"So your wife has left you, your business has gone bust and you think your children no longer love you, why be unhappy as well?" (Lionel Fifield)
In addition to making you smile, I hope, this is a reminder that our feelings need not be entirely dictated by our circumstances.
We do have some choice about how we feel and can choose to emphasise the feelings that work best for us.
I'm not sure about the belief that there is a purpose in everything that happens to us. Some events are so devastating that to suggest they have purpose can seem cruel. However I am clear we can learn from everything that happens, no matter how catastrophic the event. It does not mean it has to be part of a larger plan just that even the bad times can teach us something.An attitude of gratitude.
This is a phrase you have probably heard of before but its familiarity should not blind you to its truth. Here is an interesting exercise to see if this idea works for you.
Write down one thing you feel you can give thanks for even if, right now, you don't feel very grateful. If you can't think of anything write down the fact that you can see, many people can't. Spend a minute thinking about this item and tomorrow add another and spend a minute on each one. Do this every day for a total of five days, so five items and five minutes reflection. Spend five minutes a day contemplating the items on your list and if you find this makes a difference to how you feel then add items as the occur to you. If it doesn't work for you then file the list away, it will be there when you need it.
Take a few minutes to look back on your life and see if you can identify some of your patterns in relationships, career, health. It's worth writing down a few sentences to capture elements that repeat themselves. Then ask yourself these questions:-
If these situations were trying to teach me something then what would it be?
What would my future the like if I had learnt the lessons that are presented?.
If you don't come up with anything move on, this may not be you. But if you do see a lesson to be learnt go back over some past events and think about how they might have turned out differently if you had already absorbed what you need to know.
I was taking the tube one Sunday morning and reading my newspaper. At the first stop three young children and their father joined our carriage but the children were so badly behaved I found it impossible to read or enjoy the journey. A little cross I asked their father if he could control his children better. He replied "Oh, I am sorry you were disturbed, you see we have come from the hospital where their mother, my wife has just died" (Stephen Covey)
Covey writes about his immediate mood change, from irritation to "How can I help?"
We never know the stories of others, why they act the way they do but we could try assuming people have a reason which, if we knew it, would change our reactions to them from negative to positive.
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" (Plato)
A man is captured by enemies and thrown into prison. That night he is unable to sleep because he fears that the next day he will be interrogated, tortured, and executed. Then the words of his teacher come to him, "Tomorrow is not real. It is an illusion. The only reality is now." Heeding these words he becomes peaceful and falls asleep.
My first reaction, nice idea, completely impractical. But then I start to think about the small steps I can make to living in the here and now rather than agonising over the past or worrying about the future. I don't think I will ever get to the position of the person in the story but I can do better than I am doing.
A woman goes to see the Doctor, lifts up her right arm and says, "Every time I do that it hurts". The Doctor replies "So don't do it then" (Tommy Cooper)
Old joke, bad medical advice, but consider the following:-
Every time I drink too much I feel terrible the next morning:-
So don't do it then.
Whenever I think about my divorce I get very upset and cry:-
So don't do it then.
Each time we talk about your mother it ends up in a row:-
So don't do it then.
Fill in our own examples. Not all of life's problems can be solved this way but some can, it can be that simple, sometimes.
A tour has been arranged of Hell and Heaven.
In Hell people are seated at a long table loaded with food but the spoons for eating are longer than their arms. They are starving because they cannot get food into their mouths.
In Heaven people are seated at a long table loaded with food but the spoons for eating are longer than their arms. They are well fed because they are feeding each other.
This can be seen as an irritating and simplistic view of life, a sweet story, or it can make a difference to how you respond to the next person you have contact with after reading it.
Every day when he opens his lunch a man says "Not peanut butter and jam sandwiches again, I hate them," At the end of a week of complaining a colleague asks, "Why don't you ask your wife to make you different sandwiches next week"? "Oh I'm not married" the man replies, "I make my own sandwiches".
It's more of a joke than a story but so is complaining about the circumstances in our lives which we have created. Yet most of the circumstances we find ourselves in are either of our own creating or because we are not prepared to pay the price required to release ourselves from them.
A child is told to keep clear of the cellar door and above all never to open it because what is behind is frightening and dangerous. When she is a bit older and her parents are elsewhere she decides to open the door and look for herself. She is scared but determined to be brave and as the door opens she sees....green fields, other children playing and the sun shining. (Based on an Emo Phillips joke)
We all spend some time trapped in cellars which others have made for us or sometimes in dark places of our own making. Try opening the door, peep in, look inside. Perhaps your courage will be rewarded and what is on the other side will turn out to be less a fright and more a delight.
He steered his motorboat upstream with the sun glinting on the water ahead of him. As his boat rounded a bend in the river he saw another craft moving steadily towards him. Unable to see the pilot because of the sun shining on the window he sounded his horn briefly to give notice of his presence. There was no change of direction and he cursed the amateurs who rented boats on this river stretch.
A long blast on his horn and a wave of his hand gave vent to his annoyance but instead of swerving away the bow of the other boat turned towards him and seemed intent of causing a collision.
Swearing loudly at the pilot he wrenched his wheel to avoid the other craft and turned to give what he felt was an appropriate sign in the circumstances to the person who had nearly sunk both of them.The other craft passed close and he could see there was on one at the helm. He'd been cursing a vessel that had slipped its moorings.
Think about this next time you get mad at the bad weather, the late train, the lost keys, the crashed computer etc. It's very rare that things are personal; it's very often that it feels that way.
After the 9/11 attack a man was heard to say to his son "I feel like I have two wolves fighting inside me, one is angry and full of vengance while the other is still determined to be gentle and loving." "Which one will win?" asked the son, "Whichever one I choose to feed" replied his father.
Feelings, good or bad, don't survive without care and attention and it's our choice as to which ones we feed when we feel a conflict within us. In the end the negative feelings tend to feed on us but the positive feelings tend to feed us.
Take yourself back to the views you had of yourself when you were a child. Perhaps you even speculated what sort of an adult you might be, perhaps what sort of a parent you might be. How does the reality compare? You may be pleasantly surprised about how far you have come, you may realise there are still some changes you need to make.
None of us lives forever and none of us can know when our time will come. So if there is something that needs to be said, particularly if it is loving and supportive. Then say it. NOW!
The partner, parent, child, brother, sister, towards whom you have loving feelings you have not expressed for a while...just tell them...why are you waiting?
Perspective changes experience! Problems viewed when we have slept well can feel very different from when we are tired. We have choice over how we see things and it pays to look at situations from a number of different perspectives, even if, at first, we have to play 'make believe.'
This is one for the problem times in life, when we feel the world is closing in and the future looks bleak. The truth is most things pass, most things look and feel different over time. Look back on a problem that filled your life some time ago and see where you are in relation to it now, it may give a different perspective to your current situation.
So if you believe things may well be better in the future, why wait? Look forward to looking back.
It's very easy to confuse important with urgent and the result can be that we spend most of our time dealing with things that are urgent and rarely get to the things that are important. Sometimes those close to us, important people, suffer because we are taken up with 'urgent' trivia.
An alternative question we could ask is:
"What would happen if I did not do this thing I think of as urgent and instead did something I consider important?
"Can I live with the consequences of this decision"?
Asking questions can be the answer to many issues but they need to be the right questions. There's a big difference between:-
How can this be solved? and How can this be lived with?
Why did this happen to me? and What can I do about this?
Does my life have a meaning? and What meaning can I give to my life?
Why do people hurt me? and How can I be less affected by others?
This can be seen as a pointless exercise or as the start of an interesting exploration.
Go back to early childhood and imagine your life if circumstances had been different.
You may find:-
How the difficult times shaped who you are and that you don't wish to change them.
Areas of you life not fully expressed and realise you can do something about that.
Feelings that have trapped you which you could choose now to release.
Who knows what may turn up? There is only one way to find out!
Our imagination is a wonderful gift and with it we can summon anyone we want to help us.
It takes a little practice to get fluent at this, here is what to do:-
Sit quietly for a few minutes and then create a picture of yourself in a favorite location.
Imagine being joined by the person from whom you want help and advice.
Tell them, quietly in your mind, what your situation is and ask for their thoughts.
Then sit still until your imagination lets them speak and listen to what they have to say.
They can be real or fictional, experts or friends, family or famous, even from another planet.
It's OK to have fun with this.
Well, almost anyone, its a hazard of being human. People who think badly of themselves inside often try to boost their fragile egos by trying to put others down. It's good to remember when it happens, that it says far more about the person doing it than it does about you.
There's a difference between being put down and feeling put down, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt,
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent"
Since our time here is limited it's worth having a "Life's too short" list of things and people we can best do without.
Here are some thought starters:-
Life's too short to do things that don't make you feel good.
Life's too short to be in places you don't feel comfortable in.
Life's too short to be with people whose company you don't enjoy.
Why not use these ideas to draw up a list of things and people you really don't have time for, and then act on it.
Suppose some of your problems are teachers in disguise and that until you have learned the lesson you will have to go on taking the test.
It's not true of every problem but when the same issue keeps coming up, often in different disguises, the chances are you need to learn something. Understanding the lesson may turn out to be a part of the solution.
We usually need make a lot of assumptions in order to feel upset about something. It seems as if there is a part of human nature which is programed to take things personally but it's not our best guide to what is going on. We assume other people have the same reasons for acting as we think we would have if we acted in the same way.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when challenging the assumptions on the basis of which we react is this "It's hardly ever about you" So here's a question to ask when someone or something pushes your buttons, "If I assume it's not about me then what could it be about?" The answers could save you a lot of suffering.
In the long term few people are going to remember what you did, even less people will remember what you said. Everyone will remember how you made them feel.
So in a world of plans and objectives, in a world of financial and business achievements, in a world of competitive education, in whatever world you inhabit, just notice first how people feel when they are with you, that's your real legacy.
Shortly after his release Nelson Mandela was phoned with his congratulations by US President Bill Clinton. In the course of the conversation Clinton asked him, "Surely after such an experience of incarceration you must still feel some anger towards those who kept you in captivity?" Mandela replied "No, I realised if I didn't let go of my anger then those who imprisoned me would still be in control of a part of my life."
Any bad feelings we hold on to means we have given away our power. Such feelings restrict our freedom and they let external forces control us. I'm sure there are good moral reasons to forgive our enemies, to let go of anger and hurt but purely on the basis of self interest, of keeping control of your life, of increasing your freedom it's a good, if not easy, step to take.
A lecturer raised a glass of water in his hand, extended his arm and asked "How heavy is this?" Answers ranged from 300g to 500g. The lecturer replied "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I try and hold it. If I hold it for a minute that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it the heavier it becomes.
So, where does this apply in life?
To an unkind comment someone may once have made about you.
To a time in your life when you didn't act as well as you could have done.
To a disappointment you experienced when an expectation of yours was not met.
To a difficult childhood, a divorce, a job loss, you can fill in the rest.
The burden gets heavier the longer you carry it.
You either say goodbye to the past or you say goodbye to the future.