In my years on Earth, I learned anger is a game that people play. Most of us get caught up in the anger game and lose it because we do not realize what is happening.
This occurs because, most of us believe the lie that anger is a necessary and constructive emotion. This lie traps you because it tricks into playing the anger game.
Many of us get caught in the anger game because we do not understand anger. We misunderstand anger because society teaches us to embrace anger and play the anger game.
The Lies of Anger
The anger game traps us because we believe a few lies about anger. Those lies are:
1. Anger is a constructive response to life’s problems.
2. Anger is always justified because it is a response to evil.
3. You can help an angry person by understanding the cause of the anger and sympathizing with their plight.
4. The proper response to anger is to listen to the angry person and try to understand their problems.
These lies trap you in the anger game because they justify anger. Indeed, the average response to anger enables the anger game and the angry person.
The Proper Response to Anger
We play the anger game because we think it is the proper response to anger.
Sadly, most us of know the proper response to anger, refusing to tolerate or engage in it. However, society teaches us to do the opposite by rewarding anger.
For instance, we lionize loud or obnoxious politicians, commentators, or protesters as crusaders for justice. Meanwhile, the media portrays any expression of anger as just and noble. Movie heroes; for instance, express rage and righteous indignation.
Businesses focus extra attention on angry customers. Politicians listen to angry constituents, and the media interviews angry protesters. Thus, many people learn to get attention or what I want I need to be angry.
Instead of telling an obnoxious jerk to shut his mouth and behave. We listen to to the jerk and justify his or her behavior. If the obnoxious jerk screams about social justice or politics we treat him as the second coming of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr or Ronald Reagan.
Something to remember is that great leaders such as King, Reagan, and Gandhi never showed anger. Those leaders succeeded because they channeled positive emotions such as hope, joy, love, and respect.
Anger as Entertainment
Thus society teaches us to reward and reinforce anger. Therefore, the anger game is part of our culture.
Something to recognize is that many of the professional angry people in our world; such as radio talkers, politicians, and podcasters, are putting on an act for money. These people understand that anger sells so they make it part of their act.
Hence, you must learn to differentiate between the make believe of entertainment and real life. Additionally, ending your consumption of anger as entertainment programming; such as talk radio or certain TV networks, can reduce your level of anger.
Such entertainment traps you in the anger game, because it teaches you to think of anger as normal and good. If you can remember that anger is abnormal and bad you are on the first step of the road to recovery from anger addiction.
How the Anger Game Works
To avoid the anger game you must understand how it works. Essentially, the anger game is a pattern of behavior that traps two or more people in a cycle of anger.
The anger game has two players the angry person and the enabler. Here is the classic pattern of behavior in the anger game:
First the angry person screams, yells, or engages in visible anger such as throwing objects. Second the enabler shows sympathy to the angry person. For instance, the enabler asks, “what’s wrong?”
Asking those words gives the angry person what he or she wants; justification. When you ask “what’s wrong.” You tell the angry person; “you’re right and it justifies your behavior.”
Thus the angry person has no reason to calm down and a strong incentive to ratchet up the anger. Worse, the angry person learns “I can get what I want by being angry.”
Ultimately, angry people want three things: attention, sympathy, and justification. When you play the anger game, you give the angry person what he or she craves most.
Thus, the angry person has no reason not to end the anger. Instead, the anger game rewards the angry person.
How to Break the Anger Cycle
If you recognize the anger game, you can break the anger cycle by not playing it.
If you are the angry person, learn to recognize the enablers and avoid them when you fell angry. If possible, walk away when you see them coming. Or engage in some activity that diverts your attention when you get angry.
Personally, I find concentrating on work; usually writing, helps me escape anger. If I can concentrate on work or divert myself with something humorous or entertaining, I can break the anger cycle.
The key is not talking to the enablers or listening to them. That is tough because the enabler wants to help. Sadly, one way the enablers “help” is to argue with the angry person.
How to Avoid the Anger Game
Never argue when you are angry and never argue with an angry person. Even if you are right all the argument will do will is feed the anger.
Instead, do not discuss the issue until the angry person is calm again. Similarly, never discuss what makes you angry until you calm down.
I find you can settle most conflicts without anger, if you wait 24 or 48 hours to raise the issue again. I wait because I often learn that many of the things I am angry about are meaningless in hindsight.
If you are the enabler, stop playing the anger game by listening to the angry person or sympathizing with them. Even if the angry person is right. Walk away if possible or ignore the angry person.
A great way to think of the angry person is as a toddler. Smart parents stop toddlers’ tantrums by ignoring them. Unfortunately, the same parents tolerate tantrums and irrational anger adults.
Emotionally intelligent people understand that the angry person wants attention and refuse to give it to them. Learn from the emotionally intelligent and stop giving angry people what they want.
Assholes and the Anger Game
Okay, in the real world following this advice can be hard. There are many assholes who will put themselves in your way and stay there until you play their anger games.
A great way to avoid the anger game is to practice the “no assholes” rule. When possible avoid assholes, do not work with them, talk to them, or spend time around them.
If your job or some activity puts you in regular contact with assholes, consider making a change. You can make often avoid the anger game by learning how to spot the assholes and avoiding them.
Diffusing the Anger Games
However, I find you can diffuse most angry people by not playing the anger game. This means you need to stop reacting to anger. That is tough, but you can do it in most situations.
Many angry people can turn off their anger when you do not reward them. If you make it clear the anger will get them nothing they will stop. Many assholes will behave themselves when they realize you will not play the anger game, for example.
Finally, if you feel anger coming think. I find thinking about what makes me angry can dissipate anger. Thus, the popular wisdom of not thinking to avoid anger is wrong. I become frustrated and angrier when I do not think.
Learning to recognize the anger game and to stop playing it is the first step in overcoming the bad habit known as anger. The good news is that the anger game is a pattern of behavior you can break if you recognize it.