Managing your Anger

Anger can be a gift

Master your anger

Anger or aggression is probably the most misunderstood emotion we humans have. And therefore in the biggest need to be managed. It can be a beautiful gift or an ugly curse.

In order for us to manage our anger effectively we need to keep two basic cornerstones of emotion in mind. One, emotion has a survival function and two; emotion is energy in our system.

Understanding anger through these two lenses will help us manage it. In my mental map of anger, the survival function of anger is to protect us from unfairness.

Unpacking this belief system that anger protects us, there are two important elements to keep in mind. The first is that our brain automatically moves away from any unfairness and move towards fairness and secondly; we are talking about perceived fairness or unfairness.

This perception is guided by our goals and desires. We may desire something and set a goal to have it. When we get it, we experience a positive reward. When something or someone prevents us from obtaining our desired goal, we easily experience this as unfair as we believe we have a right to our desired goal.

An important part of managing our anger is to educate our perception around our rights. We then need to align our desires and goals to this created standard.  This education needs to enable us to distinguish between real unfairness and imagined unfairness. Real unfairness normally has an objective standard to which it can be measured. Imagined unfairness normally is a creation of our selfish ego.

Just as important is to be very clear about what the obstacle really is. What often happens is that we have an obstacle in one part of our life, say for example at work, but we are angry with our spouse. Make sure you know the true source of your anger.

Thinking about anger as energy in our system, we know that energy cannot be destroyed. Therefore, when our perception of unfairness creates this emotional energy; we need to direct it appropriately.

How we choose to direct this energy determines whether we mastered our anger or whether it has enslaved us.

Left on its own, anger tends to be destructive. It wants to break through the obstacle on its way to the desired goal. Often this is exhibited in verbal of physical violence.

Anger is the deepest form of caringBut what most people do not realize is that like all emotions, anger also has a flip side. The opposite of destruction is creation. We have the ability to either break through the obstacle or build a bridge over it. The energy is in our system, we can decide in which way it will flow.

My invitation is to choose to let the gift of anger build a better world.


When managing this flow of energy, we can ask the question, what would the constructive way be to get to my goal? How can I get what I want and have a positive relationship?

Yes sometimes there is an obstacle that needs to be removed. Just remember demolishing is not the same as destruction. Use your energy wisely.

Still managing and on the way to mastering.


Better than others? Measuring ourselves consciously.

What is your default feeling to other people? Do you feel they are better than you or that you are better than them?

It is an instinctive for people to measure themselves against other people. We instinctively value ourselves in relation to others and by doing it we unconsciously determine our status towards others. This perception of our status determines if we feel comfortable in the presence of others or not. It allows us to keep boundaries intact or makes us succumb to manipulation.

Two questions arise:

  1. Does this measurement work for us?
  2. How can we use this instinctive action pro-active?

We walk into a room and the first thing we do is to look who is there. We identify those we know and greet them. Depending on our relations with them, we either go to them or evade them. Some people immediately intimidate us and some immediately make us feel comfortable.  Obviously when we feel intimidated, it does not work for us.

This “go to” or “evasion” is determined by our subconscious measurement or evaluation of our relative status towards other people.  It is the brains preconditioned way of playing it safe. If we have a positive status with someone, we feel safe and move towards that person and visa verse.

These preconditioned mind maps are created throughout our lives and therefore can be re-created.

The first step in re-creating is to accept this process as normal.  Do not fight against it by stating you do not care what others think about you. You do care – either consciously or unconsciously. The conscious way is always the best, because then you can manage the process.

I would like to propose a status continuum as a tool to assist us in the conscious management of this process.

In the center of the continuum is the confidant ego. This is present when the individual has created a positive self-esteem from the interactions with life. You have been tested and know your ability. You have internalized you value and accepted the scope of your influence.

To the left of this continuum is the macho and wannabe ego. This individual hides an unconscious inferiority with a false sense of possibility. Dreaming that he/she will be great but not willing to pay the price to be great. Pretending to be the dream, but lacks the substance to carry it.

To the right of the continuum is the arrogant and conceited ego. This individual denies a feeling of inferiority by judging themselves as better than others. There has been some accomplishment. Either by the individual or the group the individual identifies with. The past success unfortunately keeps on defining the individual.

The confidant ego is created by a dynamic process were the self-esteem is kept healthy, like keeping one’s body healthy with exercise and a good diet. The confident ego has made peace with its past, has clear goals for the future, but lives in the presence. It accepts both its strengths and weaknesses as part of the holistic picture and plays with its strengths and outsources its weaknesses. It is mindful of its mental maps and thinking patterns and changes them to be effective. The confident ego tends to go into optimal performance aka Flow, easier and more often than any of the other egos on the continuum.

Hopefully this tool offers a useful structure to think in when we measure ourselves against other people. Remember we create our own life.

Still creating.


Power Struggle (Part 2)

Knowing that we are responsible for giving power to someone or something to be exercised over us, allows us to have a look at how we do it.

If we look under the surface we find a very interesting dynamic playing out. Power closely links to our perception of status. This is the brain’s default mechanism to place us in a pecking order once we engage in a social relationship.

If the brain perceives that our status is protected or enhanced it moves towards the person or situation that enhances our situation. Linking back to the relativeness of power that depends on the recognition of a quality, it is understandably that we give power to those who enhance our status.

When we perceive that our status is threatened or broken down, we immediately activate our defence mechanism. One of which is to engage in a power struggle.

The moment we engage in a struggle, the need to be in control moves to the foreground. This is a reactive or secondary need. The primary need is for certainty. Our brain does not like uncertainty and moves away from it.

As these two principles are major drivers in our interactions, we need to be aware of our belief systems, mind maps or mental maps regarding status and certainty.

Evaluating our mental map of status is an observation of our comparison ability. We inadvertently compare ourselves to others. It is normal. My question is “What are your measuring criteria?”

Do you compare using material possession or external physical looks? This is the same as trying to measure the ocean with a yardstick. Not very smart.

My suggestion is to measure yourself with yourself. When you are your own criteria, the criteria are: Do you live out your potential? Are you true to yourself? Have you lived today in such a way that you may die tonight and smile, knowing you gave it your all?

How will this measuring criteria influence the power you allocate to other people?

Our mental maps around certainty hinges around our perception of change. Change for most people implies uncertainty. We tend to feel comfortable if we know what is going to happen next and uncomfortable when we don’t.

Again this is normal. The problem comes when we get stuck in the need for certainty. For change is the only true certainty.

Sounds paradoxical? Well it is, and that is the beauty of it. It is in the tension between two seemingly total opposites that life happens. Life is never one dimensional. Change is constant. And we need to acknowledge this.

When we embrace change we also activate one of the brain’s pleasure centers. You know – that good feeling when you buy a new pair of shoes or when you smell that new car smell. Well that same center activates when we embrace change.

In our allocation of power, it would be to our advantage if we keep this tension between change and constant in mind. Is this person or thing I am giving power to, going to enhance certainty or change? Which is best for me now, change or more of the same?

I assume that when we become more aware of our own thinking in a power struggle, the struggle part dissolves and only the conscious exchange of power happens.



Breaking the Golden rules

I think Jesus missed the plot when he said “Do unto others what you want them to do to you”. That or his disciples did not remember everything he said and quoted him incorrectly.

In my experience the golden rule should be “First do unto yourself what you want others to do to you”. This is in line with “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Which Jesus quoted from the Torah.

Recently I experience liberation from one of my illusions that showed me this truth in a new way.

In my nature I am a caring person. I find a sense of self worth when I can be of service.

A subconscious expectation that someone in return will take care of me was exposed one morning when I annualized my mind maps around the anger I felt making my wife some breakfast.

We feel anger when we perceive an injustice or unfairness. These perceptions of unfairness are either real or imagined. Mine was imagined because it rested in this false expectation that if I take care of enough people. They in turn will take care of me.

The effect of this inefficient belief system is that I have an external locus of control regarding taking care of my self. Resulting in me being overweight, unfit and drink chronic medication for all sorts of things.

Seeing this false expectation made me realize that I am responsible for taking care of myself and brought home the truth of do unto yourself what you want others to do to you.

I acknowledge that this is my process and respect that yours might be different. I share this because I belief there is a universal truth that must be spoken. The truth that you must love yourself in the same and equal manner you love other people.

Let us have a clear definition of love. In my mind love is a verb, an action. It is that what you DO for the one you love that will leave them better of.

It is a beautiful interconnected truth.

Narcissism and selfishness does not fall under love. Selfishness cuts us of from people around us and it is healthy for us to have people in our lives. Narcissism locks us up in a small world of only ourselves and in this world the psychology and maturity of a two year old rule. It is not good for you.

This truth interconnects healthy relationships with other. Relationships where boundaries are clear and porous. Clear, because we have a understanding of who we are apart from others and porous because we also understand that we are because of other people.

This beautiful (and I agree sometimes difficult) dance of being ourselves for other people can only be done harmoniously if we keep to the beat of “First do unto yourself, what you want others to do too you”. Be true to yourself, if you want others to be true to you. Love yourself first, if you want to be loved by others.

This also implies that you are clear about who you are and what you want for yourself.

Reminds me of the story of the two monks washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung.

The other monk asked him, “Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?”

“Because,” the monk replied, “to save it is my nature.”

So I still make my wife breakfast. Not because I expect her to do the same for me, but because it is in my nature to do so. I am therefore true to myself.

In truth