My History with Anger and How I Let Go of It, Part 2: The Damaging Effects of Anger
This is part 2 of my 5-part anger series, sharing my history with anger, how I have decided to let go of it, along with a guide to overcome anger. If you haven’t, be sure to read Part 1: Growing Up in a Household of Anger first.
Recognizing the Presence of Anger in My Life
After realizing the anger in me (read part 1 if you haven’t), I began to be more conscious of anger’s presence in my life.
I noticed that I would feel really ticked off whenever things didn’t go my way. It could be the littlest of things, such as the bus arriving late or arriving later than I would like (which would be immediately). It could be people standing in my way (physically or metaphorically) whenever I was trying to get from point A to point B. It could be little kids in my neighborhood screaming at the top of their lungs when I was trying to get stuff done.
Whenever these situations happened, I would feel very peeved and annoyed. First, I would try to eliminate the source of the problem, such as letting my friend know that I would be late (if I was running late), blocking out undesired noise (if the issue was noise), and so on. Next, I would shake off my angst by thinking about something positive or changing my train of thoughts.
While these actions would help, it didn’t change the fact that the angsty emotions were stirred up to begin with. While there would be people who would be unaffected by such situations, I would be angered by them, for one reason or another.
Beyond day-to-day trivialities, I would be aggravated by people who behaved out of my expectations as well. For example, when my neighbors beat the sh*t out of their kids (to me this represented an inability to care for kids, which would stir me), causing their kids to yell and cry (which would frustrate me further). Or, when I worked with people who delivered subpar work. Or, when people tried to get something out of me in a shady manner, which I greatly abhorred since it violated my value of authenticity.
Damaging Effects of Anger: An Incident with a Friend
It didn’t hit me how damaging anger could be until I saw it on someone else.
It was a good friend who totally “lost it” on me. She was angry about something which I had done and she took it to text messages to convey her anger.
The issue wasn’t that she was angry as much as how she had chosen to deal with her anger. For she went livid and began berating me via text messages, adopting a highly authoritative voice, airing unkind sentiments, and egoistically criticizing my personal actions. Despite my attempts to mediate, she held a high hand throughout the communication, and continuously shut off my efforts with mono-syllabic, terse responses.
In between her bursts of anger, it was clear that she was totally engulfed by her anger. I felt saddened, for this person whom I was communicating with was a far cry from the jovial, kind, and cheery person I had come to know and love in the past couple of years. Here, I was speaking to someone totally livid, unconscious, and unbeautiful. It felt dark. It felt cold. It felt distant.
The anger was entirely in her court, for I did not feel angry at all. All I felt was sadness. All I wanted to do was to reach out to the dear friend whom I had known in the past two years, if she even still existed in that consciousness, and reconnect with her. All I wanted to do was to restore the friendship which seemed to be breaking further and further with each passing second.
When it became evident that she had become totally consumed by her anger and there was nothing I could do to salvage the situation, I decided to stop trying. I sent a final message in peace (which received another mono-syllabic, terse response), and drew the line in my communication.
As I reeled back into my space, I felt a deep wave of sadness wash over me. Not anger, just sadness.
Then, I burst out crying.
I don’t know why I had cried. Perhaps it was to release the sadness that had built up inside me in that 15 minutes. Perhaps it was helplessness from not being able to salvage the situation despite my best efforts. Perhaps it was from the knowingness that this friendship had reached the point of no return. Perhaps it was from the incomprehension of why people would want to use anger to handle their problems, or even hurl their anger at other people, when rational, conscious, discussion could be an option.
I decided that this was the last leg for this friendship, and there was nothing more I could do.
It didn’t matter whether this individual’s anger was justified or not. As I had mentioned, my problem wasn’t that this person was angry, but how the anger was handled. I have little to no capacity in my life for reckless displays of anger, for anger has been such a dominant theme in my life since young.
I can’t choose the family I was born into, and if my family members happen to be angry people, then so be it—I shall deal with them accordingly. But I can choose who I spend my time with, and as much as I can help it, I would rather not spend any time with angry people (apart from my family), much less such an irately angry person, or people who have yet to learn to deal with their anger in a conscious manner.
Self-Reflection: Realizing the Damaging Effects of My Anger on Myself
While I didn’t feel any ounce of anger during the “conversation,” this episode made me think of the times when I was angry. My experience with anger up till that point was that I was an agent and bearer of anger. This episode with this friend was one of the first times when I got to “witness” anger as a third party (not including my encounters with my parents or brother).
Being on the other end of the spectrum opened my eyes as to how damaging anger really is.
#1. Anger Has Damaged My Relationships
Firstly, my friend’s anger burned away the final ropes that tied our friendship together.
Like I mentioned in part 1, because I was brought up in an angry household and knew how bad it was to be surrounded by anger, I made sure never to lose my temper at other people, no matter what happened. However, reflecting on my life, I could think of a past incident when my anger broke apart a budding friendship I had with someone in school. I was unhappy about something and my friend was trying to appease me, only to be caught in my “fire.” Honestly I don’t even remember what I said and I didn’t really direct my anger at him either (I was angry at the situation and ranting), but I guess it was enough to make him feel upset. Unfortunately, he refused to respond to any of my messages since that incident and I decided to stop trying too after the nth outreach attempt, so we’re no longer friends. If not for that incident, we might still be in touch today. We might be closer friends than we were. I would never know.
#2. Anger Has Damaged the People I Love (Whether I Realize it or Not)
Secondly, my friend’s anger had caused me—at the very least, someone she used to care about—much sadness.
While I had never asked the people whom I had lost my temper at before whether I had hurt them with my anger, I think it goes without saying that I probably did. From my mom, to my dad, to my brother, to sporadic friends and acquaintances here and there, these people had probably felt saddened, at one point or another, by the words which I had said or things which I had done during my moments of anger.
As much as I might have been angry during those momentarily outbursts, I never want to cause hurt to someone else. It brings me much pain to know that I had probably caused anguish to someone else at some point in his/her life, because of a moment of anger.
#3. Anger Has Damaged Myself
Thirdly, throughout the whole “conversation,” it was evident that my friend was utterly consumed by her rage. That livid, out-of-control, and unconscious individual sending those rage-filled text messages? I had no idea who that was. I had never seen her before.
I felt so bad for her. I could see her burning in her own flames and fraying her heart, body, mind, and soul in the process. And the worst thing? She probably didn’t even know she was doing that to herself.
Reflecting that onto myself, I realized that this was precisely what had been happening to me all this while. The fits of anger whenever things went awry, the unhappiness toward people who had let me down before, and the dormant anger from past events… I was being burned by my anger all this while.
No wonder my dentist once asked me if I clenched my jaw a lot (I didn’t realize it). No wonder my facial muscles would sometimes feel tired toward the end of the day (from all the pressure on my brows and forehead). No wonder I would feel scrunched up in my heart whenever something violated my expectations. I had been hurting myself all this while with my anger, without even realizing it.
And those were just the physical side effects. Can you imagine the spiritual implications? The wear and tear my soul had undergone? The fraying of my soul? Or the mental implications, such as self-inflicted mental pain? All these had been unnecessary.
Other Damaging Effects of Anger
The 3 damaging effects I listed were not the only shortfalls of anger.
Another, more serious, implication of anger would be its far-reaching effects on innocent, third-party recipients who had nothing to do with it. Consider that my parents’ anger resulted in my brother and I becoming such angry people. Consider kids who grow up with deep mental issues due to anger issues in their households. Consider that I have many past coaching clients and course participants whose emotional issues and/or personal problems can be traced to a certain angry upbringing from their past. Consider that there are probably many more individuals out there, impacted by others’ anger, who live their lives as slaves to their anger without ever knowing so.
On a personal productivity and well-being level, I observed that I would frequently get thrown off-track by little irks and annoyances, such as being irritated with my neighbor’s kids’ incessant yelling and screaming, babies’ crying, people who impose, and people with a a low comprehension ability. These feelings of irritation would never last long, probably for one minute or two; sometimes stretching to five to ten minutes.
Realizing a Third Path (No Anger, No Avoidance)
I had never thought of these irks to be issues in the past, as I thought they were normal and part of life.
However, what if they weren’t normal? I had already discovered (as shared in part 1) that my anger to life’s little hiccups was not a “normal” occurrence.
What if being annoyed, being irked, and being angry were *not* normal, *not* necessary and *not* part and parcel of life? What if I had been so easily irritable and annoyed all this while because of latent anger issues and because I had simply *not* learned to deal with life’s little hiccups in an angerless manner?
What if anger didn’t have to be the way? What if I could learn to deal with life’s issues and unexpected circumstances without anger? What if I didn’t even have to be angry to begin with? Wouldn’t that be truly beautiful?
Suddenly, I got an aha moment. I realized that it is possible to have a life void of anger, and the possibility lies in my hands, for I am the one responsible for my anger.
I realized that if I am to create or contribute to an angerless world, and if I am to become an angerless person, I have to start with myself first.
Part 3 of the Anger Series
Continue on to Part 3: Healing From My Anger, where I share the six steps I’m taking to let go of my latent anger and turn into an “angerless” person.
Thanks to all of you for your beautiful comments for part 1. All of you are truly beautiful saints and I’m happy to have you in my life.
Pass this article along to anyone you know who is angry, as well as your social networks on Facebook and Twitter. Your support is what keeps me going. Thanks, I really appreciate it!
This is part 2 of my 5-part anger series, sharing my history with anger, how I have decided to let go of it, along with a guide to overcome anger.
- My History with Anger and How I Let Go of It, Part 1: Growing Up in a Household of Anger
- My History with Anger and How I Let Go of It, Part 2: The Damaging Effects of Anger
- My History with Anger and How I Let Go of It, Part 3: Healing From My Anger
- How to Deal with Anger: Your Gentle Guide to Removing Anger for Life
- What to Do When You Live with Angry People: 7 Tips