Do you ever get angry at angry people? You know… when someone flips you off at a parking lot for taking too long to park or when that jerk on the freeway drives as if he owns the road and endangers lives of us “grandmas” for the sake of his own need for speed?
Steaming about angry people around us or those proverbial “lunatics behind the wheel” can be superbly annoying. One moment we are happily cruising along and another we want to strangle somebody. Worst part, it all happens so “automatically“, doesn’t it? It’s as if someone hands us a rotten potato and we happily take it, but why?
This form of anger springs from one source – being unaware about the workings of our own dear ego. You know… that ego which gets offended even when the joke is not directed at it. That little voice that snarkily says: “Whacha lookin’g at fool!?”
Don’t know about you but when it comes to disturbing emotions I no longer trust my brain’s autopilot – that neurocircuitry established in my teens wired to respond to all perceived threats in some macho way. So I’ve been practicing a few mental shifts that are starting to bear positive results. But first a bit about the ego itself.
What is Ego
A standard definition is that ego is that sense of “I” in any being. It is that which is constantly distinguishing “self” from others. It is that intoxicating sense of self-importance that is constantly protecting and comparing one’s situation in relation to others and comes up with stories in our heads like a sleepless writer. “Man, I know my butt is big but that dude’s ass must occupy an entire back seat of a car…”
There is a fascinating difference in views between Western and Eastern Philosophy. In the West we consider ego to be “the enduring and conscious element that knows the experience.” In the Eastern wisdom traditions ego is considered to be merely mind’s quality, a trait, something that is inherent to the mind but not the mind or consciousness itself.
What Does Ego Have to do With Anger Management?
Unlike what your therapist might tell you, anger is not merely a fight or flight response to a perceived threat. It’s a noxious by-product of the ego.
A strong sense of self and one’s own wellness many times involves one doing many things that please only “me.” First it feels a bit lonely but the real trouble starts when we start pleasing “me” at the expense of others. Mainly either by choosing to be unaware of our surroundings or by simply exploiting the situation of others to gain benefits for ourselves. Kind of like tossing a hamburger wrapper through the window of a moving car so that it doesn’t smell inside.
It appears that the bigger the ego the stronger the anger, the greater the arrogance (pride) to more violent the anger, the stronger the desire the more consuming the anger, the greater the greed to sharper the anger, the stronger the jealousy, the more blinding the anger.
I am sharing this with you because Western therapists and their methods do not address these simple truths. On the contrary, they are there to sooth the ego, pacify it, and take the edge off of anger in superficial ways like “just think happy thoughts.” After all, almost all of their advice starts with an appeasing statement that anger is useful and “normal”.
Five Techniques to Crush Ego Driven Anger
So how do you control anger when faced with disturbing people who drive like lunatics or pull on your sensitivity strings in any other way?
1. Their anger is not your business. Remember, this angry attitude is springing from a deep rooted self-importance, a BIG ego, an over-inflated sense of self. You don’t need to teach them a lesson because life will, it always does. Life is very good at sticking a needle at every ego. Sooner or later the balloon will burst into flames like the Hindenburg zeppelin, and the bigger that ego the harder they will fall. Adopt this attitude towards people who are clearly on an ego trip and take solace in the fact that all big egos burst eventually. It’s just how things work in this universe governed by the laws of cause and effect.
2. What’s driving this madness? Consider the underlying aspect of the ego behind it. If the driver in front of you cuts you off it may make you angry but use this moment as a prompt to analyze the situation. Is this driver in a hurry? Obviously, otherwise he wouldn’t be driving like a lunatic but what is the emotion he/she is experiencing right now? Is it the desire to get home faster to see their dog or a show on TV? Is it pride that is making them think they can drive faster and be better than others? Or perhaps they truly have a legitimate excuse and are simply rushing home to tend to their sick child? Its always wise give people a benefit of the doubt, it’s just easier this way.
3. People act the way they feel. Is it personal? It’s very easy to overlook that many times irrational and angry behaviour is not personal. A wonderful anger management technique is to simply remember that only Hollywood actors act the way they want but most people act the way they feel.
4. A doctor doesn’t kick her patient. One of the best advices I got was to view an angry person on an ego trip as drunk – intoxicated to the point where he’s not himself. I mean after all, do you get angry at a drunk who speaks gibberish? Do you get angry at an insane person who tries to offend you? If you are able to see a bigger picture you may feel more detached from the situation emotionally.
5. You don’t have to live with it. Yes of course its irritating when people are arrogant and lack mindfulness of others, but then again you have to wonder what a variety of ugly predicaments they find themselves in with this character trait. We have to put up with this “crap” for a minute but someone actually has to live with them 24/7!
I always say that in order to stand a chance to achieve some personal growth one must be brave in labeling things for what they are. Recognizing anger’s many faces is one of the most important things you can do to control it. By recognizing the poison one has been exposed to one can apply the correct antidote. On the surface, anger has a limited amount of antidotes, however the underlying emotion and attitude behind it will ALWAYS have a more specific and effective antidote to apply. Find the undercurrents driving your own or other people’s anger and apply correct reasoning to the situation to diffuse it. This is truly one the most effective anger management techniques.
A Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh says “To love our enemy is impossible. The moment we understand our enemy, we feel compassion towards him, and he is no longer our enemy.” It’s up to you whether you can relate to this insight. Perhaps love is a bit far-fetched when someone just gave you a finger on the freeway, however truly understanding what is driving the behavior of the finger owner is a bit like drinking a nice cold bottle of Coke with your feet in a pool on a hot Texas day. It’s still hot outside but you feel cool and refreshed.
P.S. Got anger? Download my FREE report called “7 Secrets of Anger Management from Ancient Wisdom.” I’ve spend years gathering the advice that is presented in it. If you’re on a spiritual path this could be a life-changing e-book for you. (You’ll find it in the upper right corner.)