Anger is the second worst emotion we can feel. The only emotional state that is lower on the scale, so to speak, is despair, which causes us to feel helpless, depressed, and in some cases, incapable of functioning in normal life. This is why I have occasionally defended anger as a slightly more useful emotion than despair.
But anger is a close second when it comes to destructive emotions. It may be a step up from despair, but it is no way to live your life. It poisons our state of mind in all kinds of ways — some obvious, and some more subtle.
The worst aspect of anger (and least recognized) is that it causes us to feel like “victims.” Any time you are experiencing anger, you are feeling that someone or something has “wronged” you — that they have limited your options, or taken something a way from you. It could be your personal property, the respect you feel you deserve, love, understanding, or peace of mind.
So anger stems from a feeling of lack, and it produces a mindset of victimization. Most often, it is a way of giving other people power over your life. This victim mentality that anger produces causes all sorts of problems, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and a poor self-image. So why would anyone allow another person or circumstances to have that kind of power over them?
I believe it is because, culturally, we have been conditioned to associate anger with increased power, when actually, the opposite is true. When you are feeling anger, you are NOT feeling powerful and in control. You have temporarily surrendered responsibility for your own happiness, and turned it over to someone or something else. You are choosing to be a victim.
In the EasyCalm video series, I discuss the importance of taking responsibility for your emotional state. This is a big step toward recognizing that anxiety (among other problems) is primarily the result of what YOU do, think and feel. Recognizing your personal responsibility is critical in overcoming anxiety, but it actually goes much further than just anxiety problems.
The victim mentality that goes hand-in-hand with anger poisons every area of your life, from your emotional state to your relationships — from your health and well-being to your ability to be successful at work or school. And to improve all of these areas it is necessary to confront your anger issues, and make a decision to no longer be a victim. Instead, take full responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life.
I will admit that some of my clients have found this very difficult to do it first. The society we live in practically worships the victim mindset; every five minutes there’s a commercial for an ambulance chasing lawyer or a news report about how someone felt offended and disrespected by a random comment someone else made. These are all examples of victimization, though. Basically, they’re trying to convince us to believe in a lie…
The great lie of our times is, “you are not in control.” When we buy into this myth we begin believing that life is something that simply “happens to us,” not something that we are responsible for. And that, in a nutshell, is the victim mentality. I can’t find words to explain how important it is that you reject this concept — completely. And along with it, reject the ridiculous notion that someone or something outside of you can “make” you angry. They can’t.
The choice to experience anger or not is yours. It always has been — always will be. This does NOT mean that we don’t experience unwanted circumstances in life. But it DOES mean that it is always your choice how you will respond to those circumstances.
Choosing to become angry about unwanted circumstances is a bit of a cop-out. It’s a way of throwing your responsibility down the drain, and simply allowing yourself to be pulled by the tides of fate or chance. It’s a way of giving up and giving in, making a choice to be a victim rather than accepting full responsibility.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter what someone else has done “to you,” or want kind of unfavorable circumstances you may have encountered in life, you still have to choose to experience anger. Don’t let the media or widespread cultural myths fool you: anger is not an automatic response to life’s ups and downs. It is a decision.
Obviously, we have all experienced bad things in our lives. And at some point each of us has felt betrayed or let down by another person. Sometimes that betrayal is so severe that it seems nearly impossible to forgive them. And you know what? You don’t have to.
But you do have to make peace with what happened– you do have to accept it, because whether we like it or not, these things sometimes happen in life. Without this acceptance, you remain in the victim mindset, and your personal power is significantly decreased, making it far more likely you will experience other emotional issues, such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, addiction, etc.
If you’re holding on to anger toward a person, a circumstance, or even toward yourself, wouldn’t right NOW be a good time to accept it, let go of it, and move forward? Forgive those you can, and accept the rest. This puts you back in the driver’s seat, in control of your emotions, and ultimately, your life. Exactly where you want to be.