Who Are You Angry With?

For many years now, I have been an avid fan and follower of Seth Godin. His books, podcast, and online courses are all excellent, but it is his daily blog that I find provides the most value.

(Which is interesting in itself – he gives away his best ideas for free, every day…)

Seth considers himself first and foremost a teacher, and his main area of expertise is marketing – but his ideas are applicable to all areas of life. A recent post called ‘Irritated is a Choice‘ ends with the line: “If you’re telling yourself a story that leads to you being irritated, you’re welcome to change your story.”

When we get irritated or angry, it is worth taking the time to ask ourselves – who are we really angry with? And is my anger helping? The second question is relatively easy to answer – I doubt many of us can think of a time when getting angry actually helped resolve a situation. Our anger may have made someone else back down, but it probably didn’t make the problem go away – it just delayed us having to deal with it.

But the first question – who are we really angry with? – is a bit more complicated, and involves looking at the difference between symptoms and causes. Anger is usually a secondary emotion – it is our reaction to feeling hurt, or threatened, or scared … but we can’t say that, so we lash out instead. Our feelings are the cause of our upset, the anger is the symptom.

If we can understand this – and again, we are back to Viktor Frankl and his ideas about how we can always choose our response, in any given situation – then we can perhaps begin to control our anger.

This is not true in every situation, but when we begin to understand our anger a little more we often find that the causes are things that have been simmering for some time. A small niggle at work or in a relationship that has been ignored long enough for it to fester and grow, and has now become the foundation of our anger.

What if we hadn’t left that niggle for so long? What if we had addressed it as soon as we realised it was a problem?

Asking these types of question may lead us to a profound realisation: that perhaps the person we are most angry with is ourselves?


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