Anger Management: Lessons from Seneca and Micro-expressions
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Is anger management possible?
Of course it is. And it has a very simple formula to it. It’s not so easy to practice but very easy to say. So I’ll do the easy part here by telling about it and you will be doing the difficult part by practicing J
The Only Principle You Need to Know to Learn Anger Management
Anger springs from surprise.
I mean… you cannot be angry about something that doesn’t surprise you.
I mean… if you control what surprises you, you control your anger.
Surprise is encountering an unexpected situation.
I mean… if you change your expectations, you will change your surprise reaction to that situation.
The common point that the micro-expressions we have discovered through both Seneca, an ancient Greek philosopher, and today’s modern science is that anger springs from surprise.
The Aim is not to Destroy Anger but to Control It
The aim in anger management is not to destroy the feeling of anger.
Just like other emotions, the emotion of anger is not a bad one. It’s even useful from time to time. For example, it can be a big source of strength when you need to defend yourself against someone attacking you. We know this from: The reactions the body gives at the moment of anger – the speed of blood circulation, vein enlargement, changes in the adrenaline hormone and breathing – are all preparations for the run or fight reaction. In essence, anger is not a bad emotion. It has developed as it serves a purpose for humans. But just like uncontrolled eating can be very bad, so can uncontrolled anger.
Anger is even one of the most destructive emotions if uncontrolled. You might want to burn everything down when you start seeing the world in red, even though you know it will harm your career, relationships, productions, or loved ones. It is not a good state of mind…
How to Do Anger Management?
If a person is not angry about something he’s not surprised by, and if his expectations determine what he’s going to be surprised by; then we need to guide the expectations in the right direction for anger management.
For example, someone who gets angry every evening because there are no vacant spots in the parking lot will keep on getting angry as long as he is surprised by it. The solution is simple: Don’t expect to find spots in the parking place every evening!
Someone who gets angry at their partner for not doing the dishes after dinner will continue getting angry as long as they get surprised by it. The solution is simple: Don’t get surprised when you see the dishes!
The situation is the same for someone who gets angry that every meeting starts late in the company he’s been working for two years. The solution is simple: Don’t get surprised that the meeting is starting late. You’ve gotten surprised for the last three times, okay. But don’t still be surprised after going through the same situation for twenty times!
Controlling vs. Destroying Anger
In short, it is possible to take issues that anger you under control by changing your expectations. Once you do this, you are literally “controlling your anger”.
Just as destroying your anger is not right, so is the idea that one can completely remove situations that will create surprise. The goal is not to not get surprised ever again, which is neither possible nor healthy.
The goal is not to be surprised by repeating situations and setting your expectations correctly. Let’s give another concrete example. If a motorcycle comes and hits you on a pavement, you’ll of course be surprised and angry. This is a truly unexpected situation. You don’t live with the expectation that you will get hit by a motorcycle while on the pavement. But situations like this rarely happen.
The problem with people who go through anger management problems and have trouble controlling their anger is not their reactions in situations like these but rather their anger explosions in the face of scenarios they meet continuously.
In conclusion, start by changing your expectations for situations you meet in your daily life and you know you will meet in the future. This could be one of the most effective steps you can take for yourself.