The 3 Options You Have When You’re Angry
As I have worked with people over the last 20 years in a coaching capacity, I have found that one very common issue underlies people’s pain, stagnation, worry and failures: anger.
I’m not talking about the kind of anger where you are throwing things around you too make people feel scared or relieve some intensifying arousal based on momentary hatred or rage. I’m talking about anger that you don’t even realize is anger.
The Freudians would say that depression is anger turned inward. I find that to be so true; low energy, sadness, feelings of worthlessness, and lack of motivation are often really just anger in disguise. Conversely, much of anger is merely a masking of sadness.
What gets us angry in the first place is often the unrealistic expectation that people must meet our demands. We don’t consciously march around with this kind of demand, it’s just an internal system of beliefs where we maintain that we must get our way. So we expect others meet our selfish demands and we demand that we are to be successful, respected, and given breaks.
So we become entitled and feel that things in life should fall into place just as we planned, and then when reality clashes with the fantasy of smooth simplicity, we get angry. The experience of anger is, again, not always the raging type that we think of when we talk about anger management classes and violence, but it can be passive in nature as well. How we feel anger is often in other forms, not just the classic fist banging, hollering and swearing we do when we lose control.
So what can we do when we’re angry about how something has happened, how we’ve been treated, something we have done ourselves, or the encounter of some other triggering event or adversity?
I love to use the acronym A. C. E. which which symbolizes the only three realistic options we have when we are angry.
- A. is for adjust
- C. is for complain
- E. is for escape
ADJUST. Is something you are doing accidentally making the situation worse? Are your expectations unrealistic? Are you misinterpreting aspects of the situation? In general, adjusting or adapting is the only viable option with anger.
COMPLAIN. This is to confront the person or the issue with an explanation of why what is happening is not okay with you. So if someone is being rude, we can complain and tell them that they’re being rude and that we expect more appropriate interaction. What I have found, though, is that complaining or confronting people never really works. Those who would respect your complaint are usually so agreeable that they’re not causing you a problem in the first place.
That’s not always true, however. Sometimes people are unaware that their words or actions are offending you, and they just needed to be brought to the awareness of it in order to change it. But typically, complaining just doesn’t work. People either don’t care, or don’t want to make the changes necessary just to keep you happy.
ESCAPE. Sometimes the only option is to escape the situation or the relationship. For example, if you are in a public setting and become overly irritated or frustrated you have the ability to leave. Sometimes that’s all you can do. If you’re in a failing relationship and the other options haven’t worked after a long and diligent effort, escaping or leaving the relationship maybe your best response to what has been going on. If you are in the presence of fools who just don’t understand your vibe and you are becoming angry with theirs, you can always get away from them.
But many times, you cant escape. You need to stay at the job you hate because there are no other options. You have children and don’t want to be divorced. You are on a vacation and cant exactly leave the company you’re in for 10 days. Here’s where you go back to the other options.
Can you Complain? Will that work? No? Already tried that?
Now you’re back to adjusting YOURSELF. What this means is to take a look and see if anything you are doing is accidentally making it worse. Are your expectations unrealistic or selfish? Are you interpreting things to mean something they don’t? Chances are, maybe both of those are true.