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Is Getting Angry A Choice?

We experience anger when we feel mistreated or find someone's action threatening. Well, duh! so what? Should we accept other people's bs? It is not quite so, but it is worth considering the changes you go through when you get angry. Our anger is usually adaptive (healthy) or maladaptive (unhealthy) in response to how we think and feel about an experience. So, how we respond is a choice, and we are responsible for making that choice.

Anger is probably one of the most powerful emotions we experience. Yet this emotion can confuse observers who ask, "What are you so upset about?"

Yes, it's not straightforward when the observer has no idea how annoying Ruthie can be. Yes, Ruthie indeed grinds your gears. In response to Ruthie's perceived annoying behaviors, more often than you would like, you get angry without meaning to (maladaptive), affecting the quality of your relationship with Ruthie.

The frequency and duration of your angry outbursts are problematic, and everyone, including Ruthie, feels steamrolled by your reaction. Consequently, it has reached the point where Ruthie and others walk on eggshells around you. Unintentionally, when you get frustrated with Ruthie, others "catch strays."

You recognize the strain your anger is placing on your relationships and want to do something about it (adaptive).

Consider the following:

  • Based on your previous experiences, not just with Ruthie, have you ever asked yourself, is getting angry a choice? If you have asked the question, what was your answer?

  • If you have never asked yourself the question, is getting angry a choice? You should probably consider doing so.

  • Further, have someone else told you, "Getting angry is a choice," what was your response?

The questions above are for consideration. It is not a judgment on whether or not you should or should not get angry because there are many situations in which getting angry is justified.

Therefore, the context in which you get angry matters, but ultimately, your response will be your choice. For instance, you feel another person's reckless behaviors compromise your safety, someone does something you do not like, and you ask them repeatedly to stop, but they continue the behavior.

This is not a choice between suppressing or controlling your tendency to get angry. It is about recognizing that anger is a powerful emotion you mismanaged. You cannot control anger by placing it in a sealed container, nor should you indiscriminately discharge it. But recognizing the angrier you get doesn't improve the anger-triggering experience. For example, we often get the opposite of everything we wanted to achieve from yelling, but we decide to yell anyway.

Anger can be a challenging emotion to handle. However, when you become adept at identifying the people, places, and things that trigger your anger, you can begin to exercise choices related to your anger management.

In his book Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom, psychiatrist Dr. William Glasser writes, "We are much more in control of our lives than we realize. Unfortunately, much of that control is not effective." Dr. Glasser's assessment states that we often do unhelpful things because we operate under the assumption that things happen to us. Furthermore, we will learn to make better choices when we know to accept control of our lives and what happens.

The role our emotions play in our behaviors in a given situation is clear. Therefore, our behaviors vary from moment to moment, and the intensity of our feelings fluctuates from moment to moment. Still, you are in control.

Empowering Minds. Inspiring Lives.

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