Anger management is only part of the answer to controlling rage and violent behavior, because anger’s just a symptom of the underlying problem. The basic cause of every conflict, from family arguments to war, is actually not just anger, but deep-seated insecurity.
People act aggressively because they fear that someone else will get them first. They become insanely jealous because they’re scared of losing what they love. They bully other people just to make themselves feel powerful. Nations attack other nations out of fear of losing influence.
Whenever people act in ways that hurt themselves or others, you can trace their actions back to some deep-seated insecurity.
Experiencing insecurity, at some time and at some level, is just part of being human. In its proper place, it’s for our own protection — if we had no sense at all that something unexpected or unpleasant just might happen, we’d walk straight into every kind of danger, every time. The reason why we check the traffic before we step into the road is that we know a car might hit us if we didn’t.
Unfortunately, many people live in a constant state of heightened insecurity, where the slightest thing can drive them into uncontrollable anxiety, jealousy, rage or hatred.
These feelings trigger a surge of adrenalin, which can provoke a rush of anger or bravado, or some other form of aggressive or even violent behavior. If it’s not released it stays within the person’s system, causing stress and flooding the mind and body with harmful chemicals which do yet more damage to both emotional and physical well-being.
If you recognise these feelings in yourself, take heart. They can be beaten.
First of all, relax deeply. Close your eyes, clear your mind, and feel a sensation of warmth and relaxation flowing from the top of your head to the soles of your feet.
Now, make a firm commitment to yourself to be the best you can at being you. Don’t worry about the competition — there isn’t any. You are someone no-one else can ever be.
Next, think of someone whose behavior makes you feel uncomfortable or insecure, angry or frustrated. Picture that person as strongly as you can. Forget the differences between you, and remember only what you have in common.
Maybe you do the same job, or live in the same neighborhood. Perhaps you both have kids, and want to do what’s best for them. Maybe you’re both ambitious, good to your parents, love music or like gardening. Whether the common ground is great or small, dwell on it, and look around for more.
If you can’t think of one single thing you have in common, remember you’re both human. You each have a heart that beats, a mind to think and feel with, blood that flows around your body, a need to love and be loved, hopes and dreams that can empower you to do great things… and the power to change the world around you.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story from the First World War, when the opposing soldiers stopped the fighting to sing Christmas carols. Afterwards they scrambled from their trenches to meet each other in the no-man’s-land between. They shared their chocolate and tobacco, and showed each other pictures of their loved ones… and they realised that their enemies were just like them. There simply wasn’t any need to fight.
If soldiers fighting for their lives could do it, you can. Think of ways of brokering your personal cease-fire. If you meet that person in the street tomorrow, maybe you could smile and say “Good Morning”.
Maybe you could ask about their family, or congratulate them on a good piece of work, or comment on the weather, or what’s going on in some sport you both have interest in. If you can do that person some small kindness, go ahead — and if a favor’s offered in return, accept it.
It doesn’t need to be a very close relationship — just let go the automatic expectation they’ll do something hurtful, focus on respecting both the other person and yourself, replace the spirit of hostility with the principle of kindliness… and keep on doing it.
The atmosphere of trust you build will help to heal the other person’s insecurity — and any you have, too. You’ll find a greater confidence in everything you do. Because you’ve changed things for the better, you’ll feel greater self-reliance and empowerment — and there’s another spin-off, too.
If every person would just work to heal relationships and insecurities, the world could find a true and lasting peace. That starts, or ends, with every one of us.
Will you play your part, by letting go your insecurities and declaring your cease-fire with the world — and, if so, will you do it now?