Don’t Control Anger, Control Yourself

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” ~Ambrose Bierce

I once had a much-cherished friend who meant the world to me. The problem was that we were both short-tempered individuals and the word patience was fictional to both of us.

There is a thin line separates right from wrong and when one is blinded by anger; it can be near impossible to see this line.

Invariably, my friend and I kept crossing it and ended up destroying what was one of the most beautiful bonds anybody could ever have.

One day in a fit of anger we said some mean things to each other in front of a lot of people, and that was the end of our relationship. From days of completing each other’s sentences, crying on each other’s shoulders, and growing together as best friends, we are strangers who walk this planet today.

Much has been said about anger, an emotion that most of us experience often. We read about anger, we learn anger management tips, and we know that it is an emotion with the power to destroy, and yet when it comes to our own lives, it’s an altogether different story.

When I replay the way I “reacted” to the whole incident instead of “responding” to it, I think of a hundred different things that I could have done right. I still wonder why I said those things, and in front of so many people.

When we were little kids we used to write with pencils. It was a sign that told us that our mistakes could be corrected. As we grew older we received permanent markers to paint with on the canvas called life. This is because we were expected to take the responsibility of not making irreversible mistakes.

How we manage our anger will decide if there are ugly marks on this canvas.

Anger may be an emotion that we cannot evade, but the truth is that life is much more beautiful when we learn not to succumb to it.

I have always been a short-tempered person. I’ve tried various things to control this, in vain. After having ruined many relationships because of this, I decided it was time to do something about my anger.

I’ve been asking myself “Is it possible to be someone who never gets angry?”  

There was once a saint who felt like having a bottle of beer. He asked his disciples to get him one. When the shocked disciples did as they were told, the saint simply folded his hands and stared at the bottle.

Later, he asked his disciples to take it away. When one of them asked him, “What was it that you did?” the saint told him something that we all need to understand. He said, “I cannot control the feelings, the emotions, or the temptations but I can definitely control my actions.”

As long as I keep my hands folded, there is no way I can grab this bottle of beer, and even though I cannot control my temptations I can control my actions.

While anger is something we cannot control, what we do when we are angry is something that we definitely can control.

Imagine you are working on a beautiful painting and suddenly there is a power outage and it’s pitch dark. Would you continue to make strokes on the painting, hoping that it miraculously became a masterpiece?

In the same way, when you are angry the best thing to do would be nothing at all. Anger is like a power outage for the thinking part of your brain.

These days, when I get really upset I choose not to say anything. I retire to my room for a couple of minutes, listen to some music, or distract myself. I let myself feel the emotion, but I don’t let myself react.

Like the saint, I hold my hands and control my tongue, because if I cannot control anger, I will control myself at least.

The Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

When I look back at the incident with my friend, I feel like a lot could have been different had I not succumbed to my emotions. In the process I have hurt myself more than I have hurt my friend.

So I ask you, the next time you get angry, don’t try to control the anger; instead try to control yourself. With a little practice, it becomes a part of your life and you become a person who never lets anger ruin a valued relationship.

Photo by Scarleth White

About Nandhitha Hariharan

Nandhitha Hariharan is a student and a passionate writer. She enjoys writing and has a couple of published articles to her credit. Apart from writing, her other interests includes debating and cooking.

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  • Yabberzz

    Thank you for the article. I have been in a similar situation. So I know that anger can sometimes get the better of you. No longer though. 🙂

  • “In the same way, when you are angry the best thing to do would be nothing at all. Anger is like a power outage for the thinking part of your brain.” — this couldn’t be more true for me. I used to have such a terrible and explosive temper, to the point where I would get into the occasional fist fight. The inability to control my anger and my tongue led to problems in my personal relationships, even my marriage. Learning how to turn off the part of my brain that yells, “tell them what you REALLY think!!!” has been a huge part in learning how to calm down and keep the peace.

  • Great article….. I’m working on controlling my actions with this emotion – I too have severed relationships because of it.

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful message, thank you for sharing your story! 🙂 Very wise advice!

  • Just A. Guy

    Had a similar trouble with this. I found a minor linguistic change very helpful- I went from saying “I am angry” to “I feel anger”; just a reminder that anger is a feeling, not my identity.

  • I love the “pencil when you’re young and permanent marker when you’re an adult” metaphor.

    It’s true that we can’t control what happens to us but we CAN control what we do about it.

    If something on the outside changes the way we feel on the inside, it’s fully within our control to keep it from resurfacing on the outside again.

    It’s all about taking responsibility. We’re always in control.

    Thanks Nandhitha for being so honest and sharing some of your life story with us.

  • Michael

    Thank You so much Nandhitha Hariharan for your great article and sharing your life experience with us. I am very guilty of what you have experienced and I try and try to correct myself, but seem to always make the same mistake. I Love You for you ability to correct your problem.

    May Peace and Love be with you,

    Michael A Delaney

  • Alexey Sunly

    Anger is a powerful stimuli, but it’s a direct product of frustration of not being able to control your own emotions. So, your strategy can work, but it might take a while to adapt it successfully. Much more efficient path would be to both meditate regularly and practice compassion for yourself and others. Specifically for when you feel angry, acknowledge your feelings, communicate them to others, forgive yourself for having them and, finally, just laugh about it 😉

  • Nandhitha Hariharan

    I agree. That is a good way 🙂

  • Nandhitha Hariharan

    Thank you. My Pleasure 🙂

  • Nandhitha Hariharan

    I agree. once we take responsibility half the problem is solved!

  • Nandhitha Hariharan

    Thank you 🙂

  • Nandhitha Hariharan

    Thank you!

  • Nandhitha

    I totally agree! keep the peace – the most important thing ever! 🙂

  • Nandhitha Hariharan

    My pleasure 🙂

  • Love this! These are the same lessons I am working on with my six-year-old who is having anger/emotion issues at school. I keep reminding her that it is okay to be angry, but she can choose how she acts and responds. Thanks for the reminders for grown ups too!

  • mroge

    Very good article. I always have the confusion of feeling like I need to speak up for myself, and then realizing I crossed the line. There are times when it is best to keep silent, if you know that speaking up will not change anything. I had a big blow-up with my family that has resulted in my removing myself from their presence. They have been very verbally abusive to me for years. However my trying to talk with them has only made things worse. When I do bring things up, I am pretty blunt about it. Recently they have been trying to draw me back into the relationship without addressing the problems in our relationship. Everytime I go through the useless exercise of explaining my point ot view. Now I realize that it is best to leave them alone. I just got invited to their son’s middle school graduation. Since the last time we got together I got thrown out of their house over a minor misunderstanding I simply don’t feel safe being around them. But instead of trying once again to try to get them to understand and also bringing up my feelings of anger, I am going to politely decline and then send a card and a present. I am actually feeling a measure of peace about this, because I don’t always have to react angrily. That doesn’t always mean that I should never feel angry, but with some people getting drawn into it only makes me more angry and more obsessive with the idea that I can make them understand. That unfortunately is not within my power, whether I speak softly of if I yell.

  • enghn

    I sent my husband this article, and he said the following: “This is exactly what I am trying to do when I shut down and dont talk to you during an argument. I work really hard at controlling myself so that I dont do or say something that I will regret forever.” However, he shuts down, and I have no idea when he will open up. One time I waited for him to open up, and it took like half a day. Any suggestions for us to work on him not saying something that he will regret yet but it not taking a half of a day for him to open up? (FWIW, he came from a family where all emotions were swept under the rug. Emotions literally did not exist.)

  • Nandhitha hariharan

    One thing that really works for me is that i take a pen and a paper.. write down what exactly i feel.. This way i have more clarity as to what I am thinking and I also know what I want to say without hurting someone else (And without taking half a day!) .. hope that helps 🙂

  • Thomas Sounness

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. Whike i am not explosive with my anger, I am often in fear of being overwhelmed by too much of my viscious sharp anger arising from within, and suffer a suppression of anger as a result. Recently I have found it can be enough just to say that I am angry, and the edge can be burred off, allowing the ‘what am I angry about’ to bubble to the surface. It is an imperfect approach, but suppressing anger I find suppresses a lot of other things as well. My experience of meditation is that it gains intellectual clarity but not necesarrily emotional clarity. Managing a healthy balanced emotional spectrum, including anger, is my goal.

  • Alex

    This is a great article and was an excellent read! I’ve take an anger management course in Essex and have found it quite useful!

  • Karthik Bhai

    For every small issue , i getting high anger.
    And scolding all other in family. All saying i have short temper and im too fat.
    Is fatness effects for any variation in anger.
    how to control myself from anger.Kindly give me a suggestion…,

  • Dafina

    Amazing & eye opening.

  • Guest

    Thank you for sharing. I had a similar experience with some friends. Toxic friends, to be exact. We are no longer friends because I chose to walk away and keep silent. Speaking to them has not changed anything. In fact, speaking to them made me resent them more. Controlling myself by not talking to them has been the smart way out. If I can remove myself from an occasion where I get angry, I have every right to do so. Some people think it’s a form of weakness to not say anything or do anything when they are angry. In reality, it’s simply self control.

  • beautiful

    now i can have self control

  • christine cearfoss

    Hi Karthik,
    It sounds like your family has developed some behavioral patterns, like shaming you and each other, that have worn on you. I see your angry behavior as a demonstration of the hurt, frustration, and fear that this behavior will continue. Also, I see their behavior as fearful too… fearful that they need to have their guards up and attack others to protect self and/or fearful that your life may be more difficult for you due to your weight concerns. Everyone is hurting everyone else due to their fears. My suggestion, for the well-being of all, is some sort of anger management counseling to uncover the root of these fears and break the unhealthy communication patterns. If you cannot engage your family members in this option then I recommend talking to a professional to learn and practice ways to avoid falling into angry behavior when you are hurt and scared. It sounds like a very difficult situation and I wish you the best.

  • justjeffrey37

    The answer to the question of whether anger can be controlled, is yes. If we can understand anger, would we then be capable of understanding happiness? I believe that answer to be yes, also. I understand anger. In a nutshell, it is a misconstrued belief, that one person or group can make another person or group understand. Which of course is misconstrued, because we control our ability to listen to understand and not the ability to make others listen to understand us. The last time you got angry, who were you trying to make listen to understand you?

  • justjeffrey37

    Reciprocal behavior in the absence of fear. By listening to understand him first, you will not get angry, because anger is trying to make him listen to you. And his reciprocal behavior will be that he will listen to understand you back. Arguments get out of control because the reciprocal behavior becomes each person trying to make the other person listen first. Self control is listening to understand, lack of self control becomes trying to make him listen… Happiness is found in increasing our understanding and growing.

  • justjeffrey37

    Anger in the absence of fear equals violence. Young children are found to be quite violent when they lack fear and reciprocate perceived behavior. I would say model another behavior and explain it’s importance in creating reciprocation and self control. Model, listening to understand your daughter first, they learn behavior modeling. The modeling she has picked up on, is making others listen first, and getting angry when they don’t. A behavior busy parents sometimes model without realizing. Do you get angry at your daughter for not listening first? My wife does… Don’t feel alone, the child getting angry back at your daughter was modeled the same behavior. People make more friends quickly by listening first, because most people are not capable of self understanding and have a need to be understood. Think about your chosen friends, I bet they listen to understand you, or you have common understandings, that make each of you feel understood.

  • justjeffrey37

    People make the same mistakes over and over, when they don’t increase understandings. Understandings motivate actions. People judge their motives and actions and often times fail to increase understanding. The reason for this is because judgment impairs understanding, as understanding impairs judgment. It is easy to judge that which you don’t understand. It is impossible to judge that which you do understand.

  • justjeffrey37

    You can’t control anger. Anger is a misconstrued belief that one person or group can make another person or group understand them. If you understand that you control your ability to listen to understand, and not the ability to make a person listen to understand you, then you have understood anger away. All living things grow, we grow through understanding, to feel alive we must increase understanding and grow. Happiness comes from growing. If you reconnect with those you have become separated from, and apologize for not being more understanding, then through understanding first you will grow and become happy. In the absence of fear people reciprocate behavior and the other person would then be able to listen to understand you. Relationship rebuilt. Relationships by nature are based on understanding. They are destroyed by lack of understanding.

  • Control – such an intriguing word. It seems like controlling anger is really just trying to ride the bronco. A wild stallion almost completely out of control that will always eventually throw you – one way or another.

    But if we feel our feelings we have a chance to change them. A different form of control. There must be a way, after all, if there wasn’t then we would be mad at age two and still be angry today.

    So what happened?

    We felt our feelings. Acknowledged what was happening. Then we can feel the emotion powering this limiting belief. If you want to change your feelings you have to feel your feelings.

    Here is a short process that took me forever to figure out that guarantees change of any limiting belief we had programmed in to us. Sometimes this next step can be very touchy to people. I only mention it because it works.

    The example I like to start with is that forgiveness cures anger. If someone is angry and they forgive them then their anger dissolves away. It is not repressed or denied. It is simply gone. It takes emotion to resolve emotion. This is the basis of gutap. And the best anger management there is around.

    And remember, forgiveness is not trust. Trust must be earned – forgiveness is only to free ourselves from being tied to them.

    False beliefs or negative programming simply has a couple of powerful negative emotions that keep the false concept controlling us. Dissolve them and the false belief is completely diminished.

    So how does it work?

    When someone is angry they naturally direct their feeling of forgiveness into their feeling of anger. The two emotions must connect to be resolved. False beliefs though often have a couple of emotions that have to work together. Complicated but not impossible.

    Gutap – The three steps described:
    1 – Feel the feeling of your limiting belief. If you want to change your feelings you have to feel them. (Everyone already knows this step.)
    2 – Insight: Find what the positive answer is that it actually wants you to know. What does your limited belief want you to know that is positive? What is the good thing it wants for you but trying in a negative way? (A slight shift on the insight people are seeking.)
    3 – Connect the feeling of what it wants you to know and let the feeling of that answer flow into the feeling of your limiting belief to change it. The positive feelings changes it – not you.

    That is as simply as I can put it.

    Gutap by Toby Jensen (just google for more)

  • Neena sharma

    Thank u so much for great information !!