Once you make the decision that you want to remove anger from your life — whether it is over a specific issue or represents a more general anger-filled outlook — your resolve is an important first step. However, your decision will be ineffective unless you do more. It is like making a New Year's resolution. Unless you follow through on your decision to change, your chances of successfully bringing about that change are slim.
My personal plan for removing anger from my life involved the following. I first decided that I no longer wanted to experience anger under any circumstance. Then I decided that any time I felt anger, it was a response that I would refuse to accept as appropriate. No if's, and's, or but's – it would be my mistake to have an angry response to anything, and it was my mission to correct it. I never wasted time with trying to place the blame for my anger on someone or something else.
Once I had made this decision, the rest of the commitment fell into place.
The Anger Response Process:
- Get over it
- Examine what happened to make me angry
- Determine what I need to do in order to not respond with anger the next time
- Do what I need to do to make the change from an angry response to a non-angry response
- Keep practicing until the change is complete
- Appreciate myself every time I make the change to a non-angry response
Every single time I experience anger, I must put myself through this process. Remember that I am not just talking about stuffing the anger. I am talking about actually learning to be free of the feeling. There is a critical difference.
- Understanding where you are
- Knowing where you want to go
- Learning what you have to do to get there
- Setting out on the journey
- Continuing regardless of any setbacks, until you have arrived
THE JOURNEY TO AN ANGER-FREE LIFE
Following through on your commitment to an anger-free life involves signing up for a new journey. Deciding to actually enjoy this journey will make it much more pleasant.
Learn to think of life as a process instead of in terms of goals that you are trying to achieve. If you focus only on goals, you are not going to be happy until you have achieved them.
If you focus on the process, you will enjoy working to achieve the goals. Since we spend so much of our lives working to achieve goals, doesn't it make sense to enjoy ourselves in the process?
Initially, learning to not experience anger may seem like a lot of work. As you keep working to bring about the change, however, it will become much easier and you will find that your anger flares up much less frequently. One day you will say to yourself, "Gee, I can't remember when the last time was that I felt angry."
Your commitment to eradicate anger from your life must include:
- An understanding of how valuable your goal really is
- The passion and desire to achieve it
If you work at it, you will get there. If you do the work and don't lose focus somewhere along the way, you will reach your goal. Refuse to be discouraged by your initial lapses into anger. Instead, learn from those mistakes. Realize that, regardless of the twists and turns along your journey, you are progressing toward your goal — and that you will arrive at "no anger" if you can keep your commitment in place.
Remember to evaluate your progress in reaching the goal of "no anger," but focus more intensely on your successes than on your failures. Encourage yourself. Acknowledge and appreciate the results.
Accepting Your Failures as well as your Successes
In order to be successful, you need to have unconditional acceptance of both yourself and your goals. Conditional acceptance does not work. You must accept your failures as well as your successes. If you can't accept your failures, then you will ultimately fail, because you will make mistakes in both learning and doing.
Keep reminding yourself that you are a better person for committing to and undertaking this important change in your life. You are good, you are worthy, and you are okay. Convince yourself of this with feeling. How you view yourself is your choice. To grow you must accept and love yourself, both as you want to be and as you are.
When you fail, you must intensify your commitment and begin again — and when you do this, you'll find that you will relapse less often. You may discover that you'll need to go through this process again and again — and that's okay. Even if you have many angry outbursts in a week, or even in a day, your renewed commitment to change your angry responses to non-angry ones means you are still doing great. Remember, no matter what conditions exist in your life, you do not have to be angry.
You have the ability to no longer feel anger as long as you maintain your commitment and devise a plan. Set it in motion and keep working at it regardless of setbacks.
Maintaining Your Commitment
Gaining and maintaining the commitment requires thought, feeling, and behavior change — none of which is easy. So give yourself credit and keep telling yourself how much harder your life will be if you don't change. The benefits are worth all that work, many times over. Be willing to do the work, knowing that peace and joy lie ahead.
You can't change, unless you think you can. You must get over, "I tried but I failed therefore I can't." You must realize that you can change your beliefs. Realize you have accomplished difficult things before. Know that change requires significant thought and effort. Stop thinking "I will change;" instead, think, "I am in the process of changing." If you think in terms of changing to an anger-free life as something you will do, you'll be tempted to put off doing the work required to arrive at that new life.
You may find it more effective to commit to changing only one or two of your habitual angry responses at a time. Work with each of them, until you have them pretty well mastered, and/then commit to additional changes. If you focus on fewer changes, it will be easier to keep your focus; whereas if you try to change every single instance when an angry response might flair, you might be taking on more than you can find the energy to maintain.
Change comes gradually for most of us. We definitely can change our behavior over time, when we make a commitment to the change. But we need to be realistic with ourselves and realize that transformation doesn't happen overnight. Find a way to focus on your goal. You might write it down and paste it on your mirror or refrigerator. If you have a computer, you can set it up as a screen saver to give you a constant reminder. Or you could share your goals with a friend and use him or her as a frequent "check-in station" to review how you're doing and get input on your problem areas.
In order to give up old habits — whether it's smoking or responding angrily to difficult situations — you need to put as much power into getting rid of them as you did into acquiring them. (Anyone who has ever been a smoker certainly recalls how difficult it was to become a smoker — coughing and suffering through those first cigarettes!)
To do something that's challenging, you must have the intention and then commit the power needed for the change. Know that if you had enough power to create the habit, then you have enough power to change it. And don't be discouraged by how long you have had the habit of anger. The power to change is not a function of time — but it does lie within you, waiting to be tapped.
Reasons People Fail When They Try to Change
- They don't commit themselves fully.
- They don't learn what they need to do.
- They don't clearly define their goals.
- They don't allow enough time.
- They don't persevere.
- They don't learn to deal with complexity.
- They don't maintain effort until change is total.
- They don't recognize and reward themselves for small changes.
- They don't recognize their progress.
Accept the Challenge to Remove Anger from Your Life
- Make the choice.
- Commit to doing the work.
- Make the commitment to carry it through.
- Learn what to do.
- Act on your choice.
- Keep acting on it.
- Accept each error with grace.
- Re-evaluate at each error.
- Re-dedicate at each error.
- Keep working toward your goal.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
DeVorss & Company. ©2003. www.devorss.com
Life Without Anger: Your Guide to Peaceful Living
by Dean Van Leuven.
About the Author
Dean Van Leuven is an international speaker who regularly conducts seminars, lectures and workshops in learning to live without anger and related quality of life issues. This book is based on the materials that he presents at those events. For an up-to-date schedule of Dean's Life Without Anger events, refer to his web site www.lifewithoutanger.com. He also presents training programs. See WorldEmotionalLiteracy.org for more info.