If there's one emotion I've long been well acquainted with, it's -- unfortunately -- anger. Anger comes in many different forms and for many different reasons. For me, I have always gotten angry at the most trivial things, and for the most fruitless causes. For instance, if I'm driving on the Capital Beltway and am cut off by a jerk, to me, it instantly becomes a moral dilemma. "This is not something I would do," or "Why does this person not follow established norms of driving etiquette?"
And, in the past, I could have thought about that aggressive driver's actions all day -- and I would have let it ruin my afternoon. But I've recently asked myself the simple question: "What good comes from me getting angry?" It works to ask yourself that question, because, in the end, that aggressive driver will go on with life, never even being concerned that I was upset with them. I may very well see that person in the grocery store next week buying milk or completing some shockingly mundane errand, and not a single piece of them will long to calm the unwarranted anger that I showed towards them on 495.
But for many, anger stems not only from specific inconveniences, but from general frustration and exhaustion, as I learned after a bit of my own medicine was used on me. I started this awful trend on my crew team; if someone is even slightly worked up, I will announce to them that they're "mad." For example, "that row wasn't great" would be supplemented by my retort of "Oh, so you're mad." And it was cute until it was used on me, literally driving me into an abyss of unreasonable frustration. I rowed a new lineup just the other day that had some issues, and when it was suggested that I was a cause of this shaky boat, I fervently disagreed.
Fervent disagreement quickly turned to unwarranted and, frankly, obnoxious anger. And I was quite disappointed, as I'd been working for so long to stay calm. Again, we have to ask ourselves: "What good does it do to get upset?" Even if I were being wrongly accused of doing something that I wasn't actually doing, why should I feel the need to prove myself innocent? It's such an insignificant, isolated problem in my life that there's no point in wasting my breath, much less raising my voice. And worst of all, I probably was leaning a bit too far to port. We can still screw something up and keep our dignity, and that's something that has been a quite helpful tip to remember in my relatively recent struggles to take greater (sometimes even unreasonable) responsibilities and self-control.
Not a single one of us can go through life angry at others for not handling situations the way we would have handled them. I can't possibly cope with debating each and every person I disagree with -- no one can. After one year in college, I left every Facebook political discussion group in existence, which really boosted my quality of life. Because, really, these insignificant, pointless frustrations are things of which we all just need to let go.
So, when you find yourself upset, stop and consider the (truly rare) benefits of getting angry. Decide if this issue -- whether it's a car cutting you off or a baby crying on the train -- really needs to become a philosophical, moral issue. It isn't easy, but I've been trying. And until recently, I was at a record high of about a month.
But I can beat that record, I'm sure.
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