One of the greatest obstacles to our happiness is that we believe we actually understand the cause of our anger. Our mistaken perception makes all anger management techniques ineffective. Our most common belief is that other people and circumstances make us angry. We demonstrate that belief daily when we say or think “You (or he or she) make me so mad.” That belief is uniformly wrong, but we hang on to it for at least three reasons.
First, the evidences seems to support our belief. Our reasoning might go something like this:
All was well in my world. I was fine.
Then that bone-headed, inconsiderate, selfish fool _____ (whatever he or she did to “make” me angry).
Immediately I became angry.
Because I would not have become angry if he had not behaved in that way, and because my reaction immediately followed his behavior, it’s obvious that he caused my anger.
Second, all our lives we have observed the people around us blaming others for their anger. Look at the list at the beginning of this article, immediately under the heading, “Anger: A Common Emotion.” From the time we were small children, we have seen people in those situations blaming other people for their anger. It’s only natural that we would follow their examples.
Third, blaming other people for our anger is by far the easiest course available.
When I become angry at you, I really have two choices:
- I could look at myself for the cause of my anger. I could investigate the possibility that I am being selfish and loving and therefore need to alter the course of my life.
- I could blame you, after which no effort is required on my part. All the responsibility for change is yours.
For most of us, the latter choice is far easier and therefore more attractive.
Regrettably, it is precisely because we believe that other people make us angry that we continue to become angry. If I believe that other people make me angry, I will always be angry until other people stop making their foolish mistakes, and that will never happen. I am now absolutely trapped.
It is therefore critical that we dispel the deadly myth that other people cause our anger, because only then can we be freed from this trap and create the possibility of the happiness we all want. There are many proofs I could offer to demonstrate that other people never cause our anger — which you can find in the books Real Love, Real Love for Wise Men and Women, and Real Love in Parenting — but allow me to present just one of these proofs here.
Imagine that you’re hungry and have only two dollars left in the world. Putting the money on a table, you’re getting ready to go out and buy something to eat. Suddenly, I burst into the room, grab the two dollars, and run away before you can stop me.
Almost certainly you’d be angry, and you’d probably say that I caused your anger. Most people would, and that claim seems to make sense. After all, you were fine until I came in and took your money. When I did that, however, you immediately became angry, so I must be the cause, right? No. Let’s prove that.
Now imagine a different scene. Again I burst into the room, grab the two dollars that are sitting on the table and run away before you can stop me. But this time you have twenty million dollars in the next room — all yours.
How would you feel this time? The loss of two dollars becomes insignificant when you have twenty million, so it’s unlikely that you would be angry. In fact, you might even try to stop me and ask if I could use another two dollars.
We’ve just proven that I didn’t “make you angry” in the first scene. We know that’s true, because on both occasions I did exactly the same thing — but you chose to react differently the second time. If my taking two dollars made you angry, you would have been equally angry on both occasions, but you were not. The truth is, you became angry the first time only because you didn’t have twenty million dollars.
This is much more than a cute metaphor. We can see the truth of this principle in real life. Every day other people do rude, thoughtless, selfish, inconsiderate things around us, many of which affect us. People inconvenience us, disappoint us, or attack us, and on each such occasion it’s as though they’re taking two emotional dollars from us. If those are our last two dollars, their behavior is a big deal, but if we have twenty million emotional dollars, losing two dollars becomes meaningless.
When we have enough Real Love in our lives, we feel as though we have twenty million emotional dollars with us all the time. With that greatest of all treasures, the little inconvenient things people do become relatively unimportant. With Real Love, we have everything that matters. Without it, we become afraid and protect ourselves with anger. Our anger is caused by a lack of Real Love in our own lives, not by what anyone does in a given moment.
Anger is a response to emptiness and fear, usually a lifetime accumulation of those feelings. With sufficient Real Love, we simply don’t need anger anymore. You’ve now gained a deeper understanding of the real causes of anger — one that’s better than all anger management resources for mental health out there. Keep reading to learn how you can go beyond anger management techniques to eliminate anger from your life.
Article by: Greg Baer, MD, Founder of RealLOVE Company