Chances are you have been pissed off by a situation (rather than a person) in the last week or so. By the time you have finished reading this article, you’ll have everything you need to combat this anger when it next strikes.
Maybe your train home from work is delayed or perhaps your computer experiences the blue screen of death for no apparent reason. In these instances, and others like them, there is nobody really to blame, and yet the tendency to get angry is still present.
Situational anger shares many traits with that which is directed at people: you feel aggrieved because something hasn’t quite gone as you had wished, you feel let down, you may want to lash out, and you experience the same physical symptoms.
Coping with the annoying situations you find yourself in, however, requires a slightly different approach to those involving another person. Here are 5 mind exercises to add to your higher self toolbox for precisely those moments.
See The Ridiculousness Of The Anger
It is worth reminding yourself that you can’t actually get a response from the unfortunate state of affairs you find yourself in; the train and computer are completely passive in nature. So as much as you might like to let off steam, there is nothing you can say or do to make the situation feel bad – or feel anything for that matter; it simply is.
Instead, try to imagine yourself having a full blown argument with this inert and unresponsive moment in time. Picture what it would look like to others and how they would see your reaction and think it’s completely pointless. You may have even come across a commuter muttering profanities under his breath or witnessed a colleague striking the keyboard of a frozen computer. These are ludicrous actions when seen through the eyes of an outsider, so try to observe your anger as one.
You may even find that a smile breaks out on your face once you come to see how silly your reaction is.
Consider All The Times Things Have Gone Right
When faced with an undesirable situation, it is all too easy to see the world in tunnel vision. This narrow view of things is not, however, restricted to the here and now, but covers past instances where things have gone smoothly and to plan.
The brain is far better at noticing and remembering the bad things than it is the good (negativity bias). Forcing yourself to think back to all the times when things have gone well, perhaps even better than you expected, makes you realize that the world isn’t against you.
You will experience your fair share of annoying situations, but so will everyone else.
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Imagine Tomorrow’s You Looking Back
A second way that you might mentally time travel to alleviate your situational anger is to get into the mind of the you from tomorrow. Think of a significant moment that you are fairly sure will happen the next day – maybe an important work meeting or an evening spent with friends – and try to mentally see yourself there and then. Now attempt to look back on the aggravation you currently face as if it has already passed.
What should happen is that, by seeing through your future eyes, you will understand that whatever is going on now will be unimportant and you will have long ceased feeling angry about it.
When you eventually return your attention to the present moment, you should feel calmer and at peace with what is happening.
Consider The What Ifs
When something angers us, we immediately assume that the worst possible outcome has occurred, and yet you will never be able to know what might have happened instead.
Returning to our previous examples, the train that was delayed may have been involved in a crash or derailment had it been on time – did you think about that? And had your computer not have crashed when it did, you could have accidentally clicked on a virus-containing email from which your identity could have been stolen.
Thank your lucky stars, then, that your train was late and your computer stopped working.
It might seem a bit strange or even a little morbid to consider the very worst that could happen, but by doing so, it puts your more minor inconvenience into perspective.
Undesirable situations are something that the mind can obsess about at great length if left to its own devices. Unless a solution is quickly found, you are able to stew on the problem with nothing to prevent you from doing so. The more you think about it, the more enraged you might find yourself getting, so the obvious solution would be to find something else to think about.
As simple as it sounds, a repetitive mental challenge can be very effective at disrupting the unhealthy thought processes that are going on. You could try some mental arithmetic, such as multiplying a number by 2 as many times as you can – so starting at 1, your sequence would go 1, 2, 4, 8 ,16, 32 ,64,…, 1024, 2048, 4096, etc.
Alternatively, trying to say (or think if you don’t want to speak out loud) a tongue twister such as ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’ over and over – getting faster and faster as you go – is another good way to put a stop to the negativity you are feeling.
The Conscious Rethink: anger is a rather futile emotion at the very best of times, but when faced with a situation that you had or have no control over, being angry is an even more pointless exercise. Remember that the earlier you can identify the feelings of anger, the more effective these exercises are going to be, so watch out for both the mental and physical signs.