Tackle Your Anger With Stoicism

STOICISM & PHILOSOPHY: A Deep Dive Into Anger

Emotions run wild in the heat of moments. Easy it can be to succumb to our human nature tendencies and give in to some of the most unproductive emotions we often experience, one being: anger.

There is no more stupefying thing than anger, nothing more bent on its own strength. If successful, none more arrogant, if foiled, none more insane — since it’s not driven back by weariness even in defeat when fortune removes its adversary it turns its teeth on itself. — Seneca, On Anger, 3.1.5

Anger is often viewed as a negative emotion. People often view anger as something that is bad and should be avoided at all costs. However, the feeling of anger is not necessarily bad at all. Actually, it is healthy to feel different emotions–especially anger.

Sometimes we need to feel anger to accept our anger, which can lead to transformative change in the lives of others and in ourselves.

The only time anger turns into a negative feeling is when we produce unproductive actions because of our anger. When we produce actions that hurt ourselves and others out of anger, we then give anger control over ourselves. It is referenced in the great book that a person should not sin in their anger. This essentially means that when you’re angry, take a step back and think before you act out of the emotion; become aware of your feelings and control your emotions so that you will not make decisions that will produce regrettable ramifications.

One of my favorite quotes is: “Do not allow your emotions to rule you.”

Step 1: It All Starts With Our Irritations

A good way to become more skilled at controlling and mitigating your anger is to start first by working on how easy it is for you to become irritated.

The soul is like a bowl of water, and our impressions are like the ray of light falling upon the water. When the water is troubled, it appears that the light itself is moved too, but it isn’t. So, when a person loses their composure it isn’t their skills and virtues that are troubled, but the spirit in which they exist, and when that spirit calms down, so do those things. — Epictetus, Discourses, 3.3.20–22

Irritation and the build-up of irritation oftentimes lead to anger. If you can become more patient, loving, and easy-going, you can avoid unnecessary situations in which you become angry.

Step 2: Communication

Improving your communication skills is a beneficial avenue to utilize to avoid irritation, arguments, and feelings of anger. Even though this might sound quite simple, many people do not communicate their feelings, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs when it is most salient.

Much stress and irritation can be relieved by not assuming more responsibility than you can handle, delegating responsibilities, and directly communicating your needs, wants, and desires.

If you maintain a low tolerance level for stress, you will often find yourself avoiding situations (e.g., taking on too much responsibility at work, home, relationships, and life) and maintaining more peace within yourself.

Step 3: Increase Awareness of Your Surroundings

Lastly, notice the things, situations, and people you often allow to ruffle your feathers; when you take time to reflect and learn these details, it will lead to greater self-awareness. You will then find a way to perpetuate your own self-development and self-awareness.

Keep in mind that it isn’t the one who has it in for you and takes a swipe that harms you, but rather the harm comes from your own belief about the abuse. So when someone arouses your anger, know that it’s really your own opinion fueling it. Instead, make it your first response not to be carried away by such impressions, for with time and distance self-mastery is more easily achieved. — Epictetus, Enchiridion, 20

Take time to understand yourself, your emotions, and typical reactions, and see how you can change them. Awareness is the first step to creating change within yourself.

Start first by becoming aware of the moments you often become irritated and angry in; after a while, you will notice a change in how you respond to situations because you have become more aware.

Step 4: Integrate Self-Discipline

There is nothing more attractive than a person who successfully and consistently integrates self-discipline into every area of their life. Self-discipline comes from habit. You can make it a habit not to allow yourself to give in to your emotions so easily.

Don’t be bounced around, but submit every impulse to the claims of justice, and protect your clear conviction in every appearance. — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.22

An Introspective Dive Into Our Anger

Some anger derives from our own lack of willingness to change, grow, and better ourselves.

But some anger shows us precisely what we have been tolerating for too long. You will always know which type of anger you are experiencing when you ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is my anger due to my inability to grow and better myself?

2. Is my anger due to outside circumstances that I have been allowing to affect my life negatively?

What type of anger have you been experiencing?

Type 1: I have not invested in my personal growth and development

  • What can you do today to improve your life?

  • What can you do today to cause a positive rift in your life?

  • What can you do today to help you let go of some of the habits and harmful patterns of thinking you have been holding onto?

Type 2: I have been allowing myself to be externally directed by circumstances and people outside of my control.

  • What and whom do you need to release from your life?

  • Who do you need to communicate with to eradicate the anger you have been consistently dealing with?

“You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.38

Maybe you need to establish boundaries with certain people. Perhaps you need to create boundaries with yourself. But you need to do something because if you don’t, your anger will continue to cook and boil over due to things and people you allow to impact your life negatively.

Today is the day to take action because anger, untouched, only leads to destruction internally and externally. Start implementing the process of change now.

Closing Thoughts

Anger

When you are angry, force yourself to stop, think, and stay back from doing or saying anything you will regret. Essentially, slow down.

Keep a list before your mind of those who burned with anger and resentment about something, of even the most renowned for success, misfortune, evil deeds, or any special distinction. Then ask yourself, how did that work out? Smoke and dust, the stuff of simple myth trying to be legend…— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.27

Patience

Be patient with those you love and those you don’t love. It will always protect you and takes you further than if you lived without this essential virtue.

If someone asks you how to write your name, would you bark out each letter? And if they get angry, would you then return the anger? Wouldn’t you rather gently spell out each letter for them? So then, remember in life that your duties are the sum of individual acts. Pay attention to each of these as you do your duty…just methodically complete your task.— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.26

Wisdom

Learn all you can and learn how to apply it. Knowledge is power.

For to be wise is only one thing — to fix our attention on our intelligence, which guides all things everywhere.— Heraclitus, quotes in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, 9.1

Self-Discipline

This is something many people do not possess, which is why we see a lot of bad and negative events happening in the world. If you live without it, your life will live without you. To control your anger, you must implement self-discipline.

Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside of their reasoned choice. — Epictetus, Discourses, 1.18.21

Be Gentle

Anger does not equate to strength. Strength does not equate to anger. Acting out your anger only reveals the weakness in your mind, body, soul, and spirit. Remember this. However, gentleness equates to strength. Though, society might not advertise this message — ever.

Keep this thought handy when you feel a fit of rage coming on — it isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. A real man doesn’t give away to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance — unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength. — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 11.18


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Destiny S. Harris