When Emotions Rise

What provokes emotions?

In my thinking, it is all about ego.  Yes, your ego has been hurt. Or rather, your ego feels hurt. You are ‘boiling’. You can almost “taste” the hurt on your tongue.  You cringe and want to lash right back. “No, I can’t be defeated. No, not ME! I must have the last word. No, I must show I was right even from the word go.” Sounds familiar?

Clearly, the emotions being described here is the emotion of anger. Everyone feels angry at one moment or the other. Feeling angry is, in itself, not a bad thing. It is what one does as a result of the feeling that makes or breaks the person.

People get angry for different reasons, but of interest here is the immediate experience of the feeling of anger.  As the feeling builds, it feels so hard to detach from what is happening within. You can feel the emotion rising, but the challenge is holding one’s tongue back so as not to lash out just as it feels. It actually requires self-awareness for one to even feel the emotions rising. However, it can be done. Being aware of one’s self and what is happening within is an important step if one is to even acknowledge that anger is a recurring emotion within.  

As earlier referred to, ego is a huge factor when we get angry. As social beings, we tend to have a certain image of ourselves and also an imposed image of what others think of us. This creates a sense of a huge ego with a ‘big head’. There is the tendency to move around and address others based on this image and inflated ego: “No body messes with me!” This becomes a recipe for quick temper.

Anger can be provoked when you get a reaction you do not like or when someone does or says something you do not like. You may also get infuriated when someone reacts angrily to something you said or did. Psychologists say we give our power to others when we allow what they say or do control how we feel. But is this absolutely avoidable? Perhaps! Or better still, we can learn to be in more control of ourselves.  

Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you. – Joel Osteen

We all have to deal with these issues and no one is an expert. However, you can begin making a journey that helps you be in better control of the inner workings of anger, and hence what you do with it. When someone does or says something that really annoys you, try this: pause and take a deep breath. Truly, at that moment, this could be hard to do. Why pause and take a deep breath when you know the exact words to hit back at that person? But it works! Remember that a great part of your anger is your immediate interpretation of what has just been said or done. That may not necessarily be the intention of your offender. Widen your horizon regarding the matter at hand, and perhaps you may not really get so worked up after all.

Back to the ego, it is a good practice to: at the moment of anger, pause and detach (stand aside) from yourself, your self-image, your ego, your pride. This will help you not to lash out in anger immediately. It may also give you a few seconds to widen your horizon regarding what would otherwise really annoy you. Like any good skill, this will require practice. One’s “awareness” of self has to be awakened and kept alive.

Else, on a normal day, our negative reactions to provocations cause more harm than good.  I know you have a right to your angry and bitter feelings, and maybe even a right to your outbursts and vengeful words. Then, after that, do you feel great about yourself? Usually, No!

At a closer look, what is this thing we are arguing about that means the whole world to me at that moment? Is that subject really worth all that emotion and trouble I have put into it to prove how right I am? One quick example is a common scenario of people arguing over issues related to politicians contesting electoral positions. As much as you think this person is better, can you really vouch for that politician with your life? Does he or she even know you exist, leave alone help you put food on your table? If you are convinced that a certain politician would be better for our country or for a particular state (for some reasons) at this time of our history, then it is necessary to communicate that civilly. There is no need for hate speech or violence.

One need not put others down, using derogatory statements, insulting language or fabricated stories. Behaving in this way only makes such a person look cheap and so undignified. Social media is filled with persons who seem to have no respect for their own reputation, in the way they address others, and even in the issues they put forward. Some persons speak of politicians whom they do not support as though that politician were a piece of furniture. Even a piece of furniture deserves respect!  

If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far. – Daniel Goleman

Another aspect to all these is that lashing out in anger affects your reputation. Everyone knows that feeling angry is a normal phenomenon. However, an angry outburst can soil your fine reputation and good image. In daily life, one can experience being pushed to the wall, but where there is a will there is a way.

There are mature and better ways of expressing and handling our human feeling of anger. When things get heated, one can walk away from the vicinity. This can help to cool off as well as avoid saying something or taking an action which may be less honourable. Also, one can take charge of the situation by waiting to speak with the other affected after everyone has cooled off. This wait may seem difficult, but it gets easier with practice.

Furthermore, the choice of words used when reporting a negative feeling is important. This is because if not expressed properly, the other person may easily feel blamed for all that transpired, and this is not meant to be the case. One helpful way of doing this is by using the “I” statement. For example, “I felt angry when you made that comment…”. Here you are simply reporting how you felt about something. This is as opposed to saying, “You made me angry when you…”. The other person can then engage in a dialogue that leads to a better understanding of what happened.

Though, you and I know that things may not necessarily go this way even when you try to enter into such dialogue. But as an individual, you can only do your part and hope that the other person understands and even accept the differences that there is, and still be willing to work together amicably.

Another approach to this is one’s ability to excuse the other person. “Yes, she may have spoken this way to me, but I was able to take it easy because I reasoned that she just came from work and must be feeling tired.” To be able to excuse a person is a great act of charity. It does not come easy, however, it helps one to more easily forgive the hurt and move on.

Life itself often calls for reconciliation, understanding and acceptance of others from time to time.Linda Ellah

In conclusion, humility is the watch word. The practice of true humility does not go along side an inflated ego. Hence, even in handling the feeling of anger, humility plays a good role in keeping a person calm. It also helps one get quickly reconciled with the other person after disagreements or unpleasant exchange of words.  

Yes, the struggle continues! As it is said, pride goes before a fall. Rather, humility, patience, good self-esteem, empathy and a desire to understand the other person can prevent one from falling into the pit of raging anger.  

  • Linda Ellah

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