What if, instead of trying to manage anger, we just never got angry?
While the question may seem to contradict human nature and maybe even seem like an unrealistic proposition, what makes the difference, David J. Lieberman says, is perspective.
In his new book, Never Get Angry Again: The Foolproof Way To Stay Calm and Cool In Any Conversation or Situation, Lieberman, who is also the author of Get Anyone To Do Anything and Never Be Lied To Again, explains that by recognizing the underlying reasons we get angry, we can learn how to utilize our innate neuroplasticity to rewire our brains toward a state of calm.
At any given time, there are multiple forces placed upon us. We desire comfort and pleasure, the approval of our peers, and to feel good about ourselves at the end of the day. How we answer these competing demands plays a large role in the level of anger we feel.
Lieberman writes, “When we routinely succumb to immediate gratification or live to protect and project an image, we become angry with ourselves and ultimately feel empty inside.”
When, through our choices and life decisions, we don’t like who we have become, we often seek to escape our feelings through excessive behaviors, endless entertainment, and even abusive behaviors. Eventually, as Lieberman writes, “our willingness to endure short-term pain for long-term gain wanes.”
Irresponsible behavior and the underlying feelings of guilt, insecurity, and shame also cause us to compensate, often placing our own defects elsewhere. Lieberman writes, “To the degree that we refuse to accept the truth about ourselves and our lives — and overcome our laziness and fear of pain — the ego engages to protect us and it shift the blame elsewhere.”
The gaping hole between reality and our contrived reality then interferes with our adjustment to the world around us.
The emotional instability that drives anger is, at its core, a fundamental lack of clarity. “The wider the chasm between the truth and our ability to accept it, the more fragile our emotional health becomes,” writes Lieberman.
Our need for reality to conform to our self-image comes at a psychological and physiological price. Cognitive dissonance, the tension that arises from holding two contradictory positions at once, causes the reasoning areas of our brain to shut down and forces us to edit the world around us to avoid threats to our ego.
Lieberman writes, “We hide behind a carefully crafted façade, and the identity that we build to shield ourselves soon becomes a shell encasing us. Over time, we fall into a hellish gap of unrealized potential, our true self weakens, and we feel hollow inside.”
Focusing on our own pain and on how difficult life is for us is a predictable recipe for anger and one that keeps us from truly connecting with others. Lieberman writes, “Parenthetically, the ease with which we rise above our own problems and shift attention to the welfare of another is a reliable marker of emotional health.”
When we can separate our needs for approval, respect, and admiration, we are free to choose our own reality. “When someone acts rudely toward us, it doesn’t mean anything. This person’s words or deeds cause us to feel bad about ourselves because of our self-image,” writes Lieberman.
It is often our beliefs about others behaviors and what they mean that drive our anger. We may conclude that we are not worthy of love and fear being rejected and alone.
The result is the feeling of shame. Lieberman writes, “Shame is our conscious, the voice of the soul that says, I am less because of my actions; it is the painful belief that our behavior makes us unworthy of love and undeserving of acceptance — and by extension, all that we love is neither safe nor secure.”
By acting responsibly, we build the self-esteem that gives us the strength to delay gratification, tolerate discomfort, live in accordance with the soul, find meaning in adversity, have faith that things will work out as they should, live productively, and follow a path that is not paved with circumstances, but rather, our response to those circumstances.
Self-acceptance can also transform our perspectives on the past, learn to forgive, live authentically, and choose to respond calmly irrespective of our own or others’ emotional states.
What we will find is a life not free from anger triggers, challenge, frustration, or adversity, but one that, despite those things, offers meaning, purpose, self-acceptance, joy, and gratitude.
Parsing psychological processes into elegant and applicable concepts, Never Get Angry Again is a book that can be read and re-read.
Never Get Angry Again: The Foolproof Way To Stay Calm and Cool In Any Conversation or Situation
St. Martin’s Press, January 2018
Hardcover, 240 Pages