Goswami Tulasidas in Sunderkand of Ramcharitmans explains the frame of mind of lord Rama in the following verse:

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Roughly translated to English, it means that when Sea did not give way for three days after repeated requests, Lord Rama said angrily, “There cannot be love without fear.”

Utility of anger

Anger has got its uses. It can send a clear signal, is a great communication device and probably the only effective method other than physical combat to attack people where it hurts. Sarcasm probably comes a close second. However, most of us have not mastered the power of anger and get immersed in the negative spiral of it.

As Aristotle said centuries ago, “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

As everything is strategic these days, let us look at some of facilitators and impediments that stop us from employing ‘Anger’ strategically. Ask any consultant on change management, she will inform you that anger is the first sign that people are moving towards accepting change. The problem is that many remain stuck at this stage of the change process and are not willing to move towards acceptance. It manifests itself in road rage, shouting at spouse in the morning over lost car key or in extreme cases physically hurting self or others.

Ways to keep anger under control

One way, we can achieve our objective of Anger management is by doing what experts in the concept of Emotional Labour call “Deep Acting”. Horschild who is credited with the idea, describes Emotional Labour as the work that requires managing emotions in a particular way to provide service to the customer or contributing in the desired way to the organisation. Obvious examples are employees in Hospitality Industry, Airlines, Police force etc. Deep Acting is about a person trying to feel a specific emotion that they are thinking about in their mind. For example, the impact of a shouting Boss on emotional state can be minimised by thinking about approaching a weekend trip to the wilderness. It is different from surface acting that is manifested in learned plastic smiles or robotic calls from call center executives.

The second commonly suggested way is delaying a response to a situation that makes one angry. It requires great discipline. Creating a work environment that gives one time to respond is the key to this solution. This can be done by doing small things like not checking email every minute or simply cutting off from WI-FI for the time you really don’t need it. One of the reasons, Gmail has also introduced ‘UNSEND’ button is this proclivity to respond immediately that sometimes lead to a reply that we regret immediately after sending it.

Third way can be to try to look things in wider perceptive. Daniel Kahenmann in his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, talks about looking at the long game.  Statistically, you are likely to encounter some good bosses and some bad ones in your career. Same is true about events good or bad. However, sometimes these events or bosses coalesce together. It seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. In these situations, self-awareness and broader perspective can help us to manage anger.

Mindfulness, meditation or simply acquiring a hobby or even a pet that you really care about can help in this. For avoiding procrastination, it is advisable that we do these activities initially in a group or with the help of some expert or institution till it develops into a habit.  Journaling or writing diary is a simple method of keeping a record of life’s experiences. It can provide us with reference material to understand the implications of present or future events.

Another strategy to manage anger is by developing an ecosystem where one can channel one’s anger in a safe manner. Keeping in touch with the lifelong friends, being part of multiple social surroundings and making efforts to connect with people at a deeper level can broaden our horizon and help to be less angry and happier. If one depends solely on one dimension of social life, be it family or work, chances are that quite often we may find ourselves completely lost and without any hope. This feeling of helplessness can ignite unmitigated anger. Avoiding negative people and letting go some of the relationships can also help in some situations. Toxic relationships can hurt other meaningful relationships.

In work environment or in life, everybody will not get what they want and sooner one realises that ‘Life is not fair’, is good for mental and physical health. Anger is natural and sometimes useful also. Though, if it distorts one’s chances of realising one’s full potential, then certainly time has come to take a deep breath, evaluate our responses and move ahead.

Contributed by: Harsh Sharma, Professor in Human Resources, Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad

In collaboration with myumeed.com