Recently, I asked my wife to look me in the eyes so that I could tell her that I love her. “Oooohhh my G-d, you’re such a freak!”, was her response. An odd reaction, yes; unless you’re familiar with my penchant for adopting new schtick to improve my person and the world at large. At any given moment, and without warning, you might find me: vitamixing avocado pits; writing sexy love texts; reading my financial statements aloud; wishing happiness and prosperity for people who annoy me; buying locally manufactured ties; and promoting self-awareness and empathy as the keys to utopia. The latest thing I’ve come up with- I have declared myself to be on an Anger Strike.
“OMG! Who are you?” –my wife.
Don’t get me wrong: she enjoys the fact that I’m better company as a result of this, or any one of my latest “kicks”. That doesn’t change the fact that she thinks I’m a bit of a nutbar. I’d understand completely if you’re also thinking I sound like an SNL sketch about Tony Robbins selling chakra crystal bedazzlers on the Shopping Channel. I do: I meditate 2x daily, read books about happiness and have a Vision Board; (which needs updating now that I think of it). On the other hand, if you’re imagining how awesome it would be to never be angry again, I’m going to give you a two-step process on how to mount a Strike of your own.
What good is being angry anyway?
Sure, it seems useful when the festival was so poorly organized that you had to wait in a long line to enter, then in another long line to get beer tickets, and yet in another long line to get into the actual beer tent, which resulted in you missing most of the music you came to hear in the first place, in order to swig a single warm plastic cup of brew. You could be angry, or you could just boycott the brewery sponsor of the festival for the rest of your natural life. An all-out hissy fit is just going to get you escorted out of the park by security. Privately holding a grudge that lingers an unreasonable length of time is so much more satisfying.
“Being” angry implies that you not only feel like you could throttle the person behind you in the movie theatre who is kicking your seat and talking throughout the entire film, but that you also behave, or act in a way that demonstrates to others a lack of control of your emotions on your part, (e.g. throttling another human in front of your family and strangers at a Cineplex).
When you feel that it’s anger erupting from your core through your scalp, the FIRST STEP is to take a moment to determine the root cause of your angry feeling. It’s crucial this happens before you yell obscenities at the ticket agent when the airline has cancelled your flight and then throw your redundant boarding pass at her in the hopes of wiping the callous expression off her face. If you miss this first step, oops, too late, you’ve behaved angrily; end of Strike. This is problematic because: a) it’s an unkind way to treat another person; b) it’s very unlikely to result in the ticket agent begging for your forgiveness by upgrading you to a first class pod on the next flight; and, c) it IS very likely that anger is NOT actually what you’re looking to express. Missing this first step is why so many of us end up in embarrassing situations, or in viral video memes on “PeeplBeCrazy” dot com, (not a real website… yet).
Think about it- being “angry” doesn’t even seem like a naturally occurring phenomenon. When an animal growls, hisses, or attacks, I doubt it’s because the creature is angry. It’s defending their territory, protecting their young, guarding a food source, trying to stay alive by warding off a predator, or starring in a Vine created by their owner who has pointed a leaf blower up their snout. If they “bite the head off” the festival beer ticket seller, it’s not because they’re throwing a temper tantrum fuelled by anger; they’re thirsty fuelled by a July heat wave at an outdoor venue where they forgot a hat.
So, once you’ve set up your picket line and are huddled around a fire in a garbage can, in order to keep your Anger Strike alive, start by recognizing what you’re truly feeling when you think you’re angry.
Stuck in traffic? You’re NOT angry. You’re humiliated that, like the 10,000 other people on the highway that morning, you don’t have an alternate route mapped out, or a believable excuse for being late to work. People who are humiliated don’t lean heavily on their horn, bang on their steering wheel and give the finger to other drivers while weaving in and out of the other lanes like a moron; angry people do.
Didn’t get the promotion/new job? You’re NOT angry. You’re anxious that you may not have enough money now to pay for the new enameled lava countertops you’ve ordered for the kitchen at your cottage. People who are anxious don’t storm into their boss’ office accusing them of hiring “sugar tits” instead of you because they clearly lack vision, and then spit their resignation into her coffee; angry people do.
Receive bad customer service? You’re NOT angry. You’re suspicious that the reason you have to keep explaining the exact same story about why you’re changing your long distance plan to every person you get transferred to, as well as after each time you get disconnected and have to call back and start all over again, is that your long distance provider has fragmented their business and poorly trained their staff in the hopes you finally just get fed up and keep paying for the plan you already have. People who are suspicious don’t yank the telephone cord from the wall jack and throw the handset through their bedroom window; angry people do.
Your child didn’t do their chores? You’re NOT angry. You’re worried that your kid is going to grow up to be like your dorm mate in college who always left his laundry in the washing machine so that you had to transfer his wet underwear over to the dryer, and then run a load of your own laundry in the musty sweat residue he left behind. People who are worried about their children don’t yell “lazy-ass” insults at them, forbid them from spending time with their peers for a week and confiscate their most cherished possession (mobile phone); angry people do.
Your computer crashed? Okay. Fine. You’re angry.
Aside from that one exception, once you master this first step, your behaviour or actions will be more reflective of your true feelings and less likely to make you an Internet sensation. Maybe you won’t even act at all. More importantly, your Anger Strike will be solidly gaining momentum.
I realize there are still going to be times when you feel like the feeling of anger is going to get the best of you, like it does with Kanye. Instead of choosing to melodramatically throw your mic in the air, or inexplicably interrupt Taylor Swift, the SECOND STEP is to practice anti-anger behaviours and actions on a daily basis, even when you’re not feeling angry. This daily routine will not only make you feel happier by default, but enable you to be poised and ready to use them when you feel things are about to come undone.
Here is a short list of just some of the things you can do, that I guarantee will help you never be angry again:
-Go for a 15-minute walk.
-Inhale and exhale three times in a row, feeling your breath come in from the top of your head down to the tip of your toes, and go out in the reverse order.
-Watch online videos of dogs playing with elephants, or sea otters.
-Think of one thing that gave you joy in the past 24 hrs,
-Write down three things you wish for that will make you successful, and wish them for everyone, including people you dislike.
-Eat a Rice Krispies square.
-Spend 15 minutes not looking at any kind of screen, including your mobile device.
-Play a sport, exercise, or do something that you really enjoy.
-Clean out your junk drawer and throw away all of those IKEA Allen keys.
-Drink a glass of water.
-If you’re angry with someone in particular, imagine yourself in his or her shoes.
-Make a fart noise, (not by actually farting).
-Memorize a short monologue, or article.
-Think of three things you are good at and say them out loud 3x.
-Randomly tell a really bad joke to the person behind you in line for coffee, (e.g. “What kind of suit does a germophobe wear in a hotel swimming pool? #Hazmat”).
-Put a 5-minute time limit on the imaginary arguments you’re having in your head.
-Donate money or time to charity, or to someone who is less fortunate.
-Prank call a telemarketing company.
-Perform a RAOK (Random Act Of Kindness).
-Set a timer for 30 seconds and think of absolutely nothing for as long as possible.
-Dance on the couch to your favourite song.
-And finally, look someone in the eyes, or at least speak to them on the phone, and tell them that you love them.
Unless I find myself facing the urgency of one of the following situations: protecting my children, myself, or loved ones from harm; ensuring there is food and water on this planet; saving the environment from imminent demise; preventing serious injury or death; or starring in a Vine with a leaf blower pointed at my face; I don’t plan on being angry again any time soon, if ever.
While it has actually been much longer, the official start date to my Anger Strike was December 1, 2015, which means as of today’s post (March 2nd, 2016):
It has been 93 days since I’ve been angry.
I hope you join the demonstration.