Consider the following scenario. You’re winding your way through your local grocery store, eager to collect your ingredients for the new Pinterest recipe you’ve discovered (seriously how much do you love Pinterest? It’s like an addictive stimulant! Ok back to my scenario). With every turn and aisle, you find the same thing: people. They’re in your way, they are slow, their children are loud and they are blocking the path with their inconsiderate cart placements! By the time you make your way to the register, you’re having visions of knocking over display cases and openly weeping.  

We live in an anger driven society. The evidence is all around us. Don’t believe me? Try traversing any highway and you will see the proof. Frustration and rage abound and it’s getting more and more prevalent. Question is, why so much anger? Why do people jump to this emotion before all the rest?

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Anger = Power. We as human beings have a wide range of emotions, most of which can be broken down into two categories: Positive and Negative. The scope of these two categories is vast. Exhilaration, Happiness, Joy, Love, Jealousy, Impatience, Rage – we can feel them all in a day (especially when our husbands leave the toilet seat up, am I right ladies? Just kidding I live alone and am in a committed relationship with yarn. But I digress).

According to Raj Raghunathan Ph.D, The negative emotions take away our power. Did we treat our co-worker badly today? Most likely this will cause us to feel guilt. Guilt makes us feel indebted to others, and thus there’s no power in it. The loss of a loved one or divorce comes with feelings of sadness and maybe regret. These feelings are weakening. They again leave us feeling powerless.

Anger, however, is a different kind of negative emotion. With anger we get to push the blame for our pain onto another person, therein seemingly regaining our power.  Most often anger is triggered by feelings of injustice or unfair treatment. We don’t want to feel victimized so instead we hide behind a wall of anger like a child hides behind his father. It feels safe and secure, but is it?

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I’m Entitled to my Entitlement Mindset! In addition to being a defense mechanism against so called “softer” negative emotions, anger often stems from a false sense of entitlement. Sometimes referred to as Generation Me, the trap is constantly focusing on oneself:  I deserve this, someone treated me badly, I deserve to be first at the grocery store (the grocery store really makes me angry guys. It’s a problem.)  Anthropologist Carolina Izquierdo described this society as having “a unique combination of narcissism and helplessness” (ouch).  Constantly complaining and demanding what we deserve may seem like a power move, but it’s temporary. Eventually people stop catering to a complainer. So what really is the key to regaining our power and consequently our happiness?

Anger ≠ Happiness.  Many people use anger as a tactic for controlling others. If we are in control we will be happy. Close but no cigar, according to our good ole friend Raj. The key to happiness is being in control, but not of other people. The control is of your own emotions. Once you control your emotions you take the power back, without using anger as a crutch.

So the next time you’re feeling that frustration well up inside take a deep breath and consider what emotions you may be masking. And if you happen to be at the grocery store, just crack open the Ben and Jerry’s in your cart and wait your turn.