You are probably wondering what an “anger” is. And, rightly so. I am using the emotion of anger as a noun or as an event. In other words, when you get angry, I am suggesting, for the sake of the discussion, that you are experiencing an “anger”.
In both of my Amazon bestselling books and other posts, I have written about anger as an emotion that:
- communicates a specific message
- can be mastered
- can be strategically deployed to improve your life and your relationships.
Whenever I write about specific emotions, about emotions in general or about the model of emotions, I talk about all emotions, including anger, as tools. This is a very useful metaphor because you use tools on a daily basis including your cell phone, your computer, your car, your TV remote and so forth. In the same way that you learn how to get the most out of your cell phone as a useful tool, you can learn how to get the most out of your anger as a useful tool.
While this model of emotions remains useful, I want you to think about the display of anger as an “event”. In other words, your getting angry at someone is an anger event (or an “anger”) and you can get a better understanding of anger by analyzing this event and learning from it. This is true whether it is your anger or anger directed at you.
My goal is provide many different ways of understanding anger not because one is better than the other (They are all effective.) but because one metaphor may work better for you than another. You pick which model works best for you.
Or use some parts of each model.
Let’s say you are setting up an “event” such as a book promotion, a soft-opening for a new business, a surprise birthday party for a good friend, a plan to study for an upcoming exam or a trip to the store to do grocery shopping.
Every event can be analyzed in terms of at least three elements:
- What is the purpose you wish the event to accomplish?
- What set of actions do you need to complete in order to fulfill the purpose of the event?
- What is the outcome that you can measure to determine whether or not your event was “successful” in fulfilling the purpose?
This “outcome” is what happens after the event has taken place.
Anger as an event.
Anger, as an emotion, has two purposes.
- One purpose of anger is to alert you to and prepare you to deal with a perceived threat. Typically, this threat will involve a specific goal of yours, a basic value such as respect or your view of right and wrong, your finances, your view of “territory” including your personal space, your home, your family and so forth.
- The second purpose of anger is to warn others that you perceive them as a threat, that you are prepared to defend yourself and that you are ready to go to war to eliminate the threat.
When you get angry, you choose the amount of force needed to eliminate the perceived threat.
If the threat is relatively minor (yet important enough to be seen as a threat), you will act accordingly including engaging the other person by expressing your concerns and so forth.
If you perceive a major threat, you may go on “red alert”, fire up your “phasers”, and take your best shot. (Sorry for the Star Trek analogy.)
Measuring the outcome.
Once you have completed your “anger” (remember the event), you can look back on it and decide whether it was successful or not.
This is the step that most anger management approaches miss because they tend to focus on controlling the anger rather than mastering it as a strategic tool.
Your own anger.
Let’s go back to the events listed above and say that the specific event we are looking at is a trip to the store.
You go to the store, do your shopping, get home and realize that
1) you forgot to buy milk,
2) you spontaneously bought some items you really didn’t need (Think about all those goodies beckoning you on the shelves by the check-out counter.)or 3) you purchased some items you already had at home.
When you analyze your shopping event, you realize that you made some mistakes. You did not make a comprehensive list and you were hungry when you went to the store. So, while you did get many of the items you needed (advantages), you had outcomes you didn’t want (disadvantages).
So, let’s look at your anger.
You get angry and, once you calm down, you look back on your anger event so that you can learn from it for next time.
Did you achieve your purpose in that the threat was eliminated without unnecessary collateral damages?
If you were ignored or criticized for your anger, or you ended up hurting someone physically or emotionally, or the threat was not nullified, then your anger was not completely successful and you will need to make some adjustments the next time you perceive a threat and get angry.
Some relevant questions.
- Did you misperceive the nature of the threat?
- Did you miscalulate the amount of force you needed to deal with the threat?
- Was your message misunderstood, misinterpreted or ignored?
Someone else’s anger
I wrote three part series of posts entitled “You are the target of someone else’s anger.” which covered this topic in great detail. You can get to these posts by clicking the February and March 2017 tabs in the archives.
The short version is that you can get a better understanding of this other individual by analyzing his anger (event).
Some relevant questions to gain understanding.
- What is the nature of the threat that he perceived as he interacted with you?
- Did he correctly interpret something you did?
- Did he misunderstand what you were doing or saying?
- Did he want me to give him some space (put me on notice)?
Some important questions to determine your response.
- What is my goal in this interaction?
- What is the best way to communicate with him in this situation?
- If I was “wrong”, how can I effectively apologize?
- If I did nothing wrong, how can I help him understand what I have done?
- If I can’t directly deal with this person because of his “superior” authority, power, or potential to “harm” me, how can I safely accomplish my goals with “indirect” action?
I think you get the idea.
When you get angry, you set in motion a series of consequences, actions, and reactions that are directly related to your “anger”. This is inevitable.
Your responsibility, after an anger, is to analyze whether you were effective or ineffective in resolving the situation which elicited your emotion and resulted in (not caused) your anger.
When you learn from your experience, you have the opportunity to change your behavior the next time you perceive a threat, your “anger” becomes more adaptive, and you avoid making the same mistakes.
You can become a better..
- event planner
I welcome your comments.