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Anger: Be angry, not mad !

Feeling anger and pain is part of being human, but it's important to handle these emotions in a manner that is not self-destructive.

As children, all of us have expressed anger in ways that have hurt us more than it hurt the person we were angry with. Some of us may have refused to eat a meal, or purposefully broken our favorite toy, or stubbornly refused to go out to play even though we desperately wanted to. We thought we were punishing others by engaging in self-depriving behaviour and in the process derived a sense of revenge. Such behaviour served the purpose of letting the concerned adults in our lives know that we were angry, hurt and upset because, as children, we do not necessarily know how to experience and express our anger. Perhaps, the helplessness we experienced with our strong feeling of anger came out in a self-punitive manner.

For the most part, as we grow up, we learn to abandon this helpless and self-destructive manner of venting our anger. This is not to say that we must learn not to experience anger. Feeling of anger, annoyance, irritation, hurt and dissapointment are natural by-products of being human and living in a human world. How well we learn to handle these feelings in a manner that is least destructive to others and ourselves is related to our emotional and psychological maturity. Age alone or our level of formal education does not automatically equip us with ways of handling anger.

There are several instances of misdirected anger in our lives - the times when we refuse to eat meals to punish others, or maintain a haughty silence to get even or when the husband gets drunk at a party and acts obnoxiously to get back at his wife. Unfortunately, we can take self-destructive expression of anger to an extreme. Often suicide fantasies or actual attempts are a misguided way of punishing the ones we are angry with. We believe that by harming our lives we will finally make people realise how badly they have treated us. Sadly, we forget that we are dangerously playing with the most precious and fragile gift - our life.

Indirect and self-destructive expression of anger may have some effect on others in the short run (assuming that they are aware of the implications of our behaviour), however, the fact remains that we alone pay the price of our behaviour in the long run. The effect of the emotional blackmail that we impose on others by our behaviours is short-lived 'coz others get tired of being manipulated repeatedly. Our feelings of anger do not get shared with the ones we are angry with, there is no understanding of each other and hence no chance of us learning to move beyond them. That is when we get stuck with a long list of how we were wronged by others which we keep going through our minds making us more miserable.

As adults we are no longer helpless in dealing with our feelings. One aspect of emotional maturity is the ability to rationally analyse situations that make us angry, and taking the time to acknowledge our anger as well as deciding how we can explain that anger in a way that does not damage ourselves or others.

Anger, when it is dealt with in relationships through open and honest discussions, can serve to deepen the relationship, bring people together and above all, increase our level of self-awareness and inner security.