Addicted to Anger?

Do you find yourself constantly talking about the things that outrage you? Repeating the same story five times to different people, rehashing the drama that’s gotten under your skin, feeding off the outrage that you have inspired in your friends and family? You may just be feeding the beast - an anger addiction. 

In the same way you can become addicted to poker machines (via a cascade of chemicals released in your brain from a response to the external stimuli), you can become addicted to anger.  Each time you rehash that situation that is getting you cranky you strengthen the neurological pathways in your brain that send off the cascade of cranky chemicals. These chemicals are not flash for the long term and over time it will be easier to get you cranky, you’ll find yourself upset more often and you’ll also start to attract other people who resonate with your rage, essentially feeding not only your habit but also your world view that you have a right to be resentful and surrounding yourself with other angry people (look out for that drama-fest). For the record if you’re dealing with a chronic illness this seemingly harmless habit could also be making you sick.

Sure, you have every right to be resentful. After all, no matter what the circumstances are, they’re your feelings. You have a right to feel whatever feeling you choose, but there is the key: choice. You could choose a different feeling, after all what is a feeling besides the physical manifestation of repeated thought? So if you choose to think differently, you will feel differently. If you choose to think thoughts that will empower you, uplift you and inspire you you will feel empowered, uplifted and inspired.

Ok, so you’re probably thinking “but how do I do that if someone has really just hurt my feelings?”. Well, the saying goes, it’s not the snake bite that kills you but the venom. In other words, it’s not the event that is continuing to hurt you (after all, chances are whatever happened is not happening right at this moment), but it’s the way you process that event. It’s the meaning you give to that thing that happened, those words that were said, that betrayal or incident. It is the story that you continue to tell about the event both to yourself and to others. Here’s the kicker: it doesn’t matter what the truth is. It matters whether or not the story you’re telling yourself serves you.

So if someone was mean to you, or cruel or said something nasty, you could tell yourself the story that that person is a meanie (or some other nasty description/expletive), what they did was awful and it made you hurt and upset. Or, you could ask yourself the question: ‘What boundary of mine was crossed in this interaction? What can I learn from this?’. Figuring out the learning opportunity means that not only could you possibly avoid the same situation in the future, but it is giving you something positive to take from an otherwise negative event. If you have learnt from it, it’s not a waste. You could also tell yourself something like “he didn’t mean what he was saying, he’s just under a lot of pressure right now - what I’ve learnt from this is to try a different response when I can tell he is overloaded”, or “if I hadn’t have loaned her that money she wouldn’t have been able to not pay me back so in the future I will refuse to lend her money”, or something along those lines. Evaluate the situation. You could even put a positive twist on it and think “this challenge has taught me to have better boundaries and is making me stronger”.

Another way to look at it is think “this situation doesn’t mean x. It means that I have to address y and create z”. Putting it into perspective it could look like “this doesn’t mean she hates me, it means I need to be clearer about how I will accept being treated and create better boundaries for the future”. You could even just let it go and focus on something more important (or more positive). If you’ve learnt the lesson and it’s still playing over and over in your head you can use that thought as a trigger to remind you to focus on that long term goal. “Oh yes, I’m thinking about that again. I had something more important I wanted to focus my time and energy on, so I’m going to take some action towards that”. All this dialogue adds up. Over and over we get to decide whether we will be upset, angry or resentful OR we could be learning, growing and looking forward to the future we actually do want to create.

It’s so important to pay attention to the stories that we tell ourselves and especially to the ones that we repeat. They are literally creating our future, setting up patterns both in our brain and in our external world. What stories have you been telling?