Got Anger? Four Ways to Diffuse the Explosions

Some people are mild-mannered. I am not one of those people. My blood boils on a regular basis, sometimes for valid reasons, sometimes not. But frequently nevertheless. Today, I crashed into a moment of anger when my daughter stood up an peed on the floor in my car on the way home from an errand. There is a history here, so my patience died long ago for this particular behavior.

When we're mad, it's hard to turn it off!

I took some deep breaths, resisted the urge to drive the car off the highway and into the ditch, and informed my kids through gritted teeth that they would be in their rooms until I cleaned the mess. They mostly obliged. My car and downstairs got immaculately cleaned through my super-human-pissed-off-strength. We all survived this moment of angst unscathed. But it’s not always that beautiful.

In fact, I’ve made some great big mistakes in my anger over the years. And I’ve also done quite a bit of reading on the subject. Here are a few of my favorite quotes about handling anger and some of the ways we can apply their truth in our explosive moments.

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Life isn’t limitless. We only have so much time to leave our mark on this world, so let’s be constructive about it. Do something to get your anger and adrenaline out in those tough moments. For me, it’s vigorous house cleaning – like today. I was annoyed at the messes my kids were making, and the “messes” they make in my life emotionally by the stress they cause sometimes. Putting my house back in order helped me to both relieve the physical angst and make progress toward reducing stress and giving me a margin of peace. I did it fast and intense, because why waste time being pissed off at someone else when we can spend time doing something more fun?

“A man is about as big as the things that make him angry” Winston Churchill
Injustice, violence, poverty… these are things that anger the heart of God, and it’s okay to be angry at them. But let’s face it, most times we’re struggling with anger, it’s probably not one of these big moral issues! As I huffed and puffed, scrubbing the carpet in the car after the most recent unacceptable accident, I wasn’t mad at the state of the poor in my city or abroad. I was mad that it was an inconvenience to me. And while my feelings are valid, whether helpful, admirable or not, do I really want to let my life be defined by anger at petty things? Not so much.

“When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.” Mark Twain
When I’m cleaning up a new Christmas toy that my dog shredded in front of it’s crying toddler owner, and my 8 year old stands next to me having a narcissistic “I’m the only person in the world,” demanding kind of moment in the middle of the stress… swearing is not uncommon. I feel a little better having vented my frustration, but then I get annoyed at myself for speaking in a way I don’t want to model for my kids. Which makes me mad at myself on top of all the other stuff. I prefer instead to make up ridiculous alter-swear words, of which I’ve amassed quite a collection over the years. Things like “Oh, monkey barf!” and “Flipping frog farts!” This kind of swearing makes me and everyone else around me laugh, diffuses the tension, and doesn’t come with a guilt hangover later.

“Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” – Dr. Lawrence J. Peter
Saved this one for last, because it’s the one I struggle with the most. Wisdom says “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to wrath,” and “Better to live on the corner of a rooftop than with a contentious woman.” My husband will attest to that second one, for sure! Some of the words I’ve spit out in my anger still sting his heart and those of others to whom they’ve been directed over the years. It’s just not worth it – to hurt someone deeply because we’re steaming in the moment. If you do your best processing with words (like me), pick up a journal and pour them out there, where you can burn them later instead of your own heart burning with shame or grief over words misspoken.

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