We Make Ourselves Angry

 Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

If you have an anger problem and have a tough time trying to handle it, this thought can give the breakthrough you are looking for--"I make myself angry."  Nobody makes you angry, you make yourself angry.  A thought such as this is drastically different from the normal mode of thinking.  In fact, it is a revolutionary thought.  Normally, when someone says or does something we don't like and we hate his or her guts for saying or doing that, we want to scream in the face of that person and say, "You make me angry."  Let's question that assumption rather than taking it for granted:  Is it really true that he or she makes me angry or am I making myself angry?  
Let's examine what really made me angry in the above example.  Someone said or did something that was unacceptable to me.  Perhaps, it seemed unfair to me.  It creates a new problem for me, or makes it difficult for me to get what I want.  Naturally, I don't like it.  It frustrates me.  It upsets all my plans.  This may be directly opposite of what I expected from this person.  It denies me what I really wanted.  But all the things I mentioned are "I", "me" and "mine."  I made myself angry because those are my perceptions, my desires, and my expectations, etc.  Those may not at all be the perceptions, desires, or expectations of the person who I mistakenly think makes me angry.  Isn't that often the case between two people in conflict, "they don't see eye to eye with each other?"  Each one is angry because the other one is not meeting his or her expectations, demands, wishes, and the like.  The fact is that each one is making oneself angry, blaming the other for one's own anger, and both become furious and utterly frustrated with each other because neither of them wants to change his or her ways.  

Keeping this context in mind, we can now outline the three stages of emotional maturity in regards to anger control.  The first stage, at which most of us operate is, "You make me angry.  I wish you would quit doing that."  In this position, one does not take any responsibility for one's own anger and blames "you" rather than "your" specific behavior. The second stage of emotional maturity is, "I feel angry when you do (such and such)."  In this position, the angered person takes part responsibility for one's feeling and does not blame "you" the person but a specific behavior of yours.  The third stage of emotional maturity which only a very small fraction of people ever attain is, "I make myself angry when I ...."

When Johnny attains the emotional maturity to say, "I make myself angry when I do not get what I want, or when my rules are broken by others, or when my demands are not met," Johnny is absolving the other person of any responsibility for "making me angry."  Johnny is taking full responsibility for his emotions and saying, "the buck stops here."

I agree that this approach is not for the weakhearted.  It takes immense courage to say that I make myself angry, but, once you take that position, you have won the most difficult battle of all.  The road is clear for you and you know which way to go.  This is when you stop waiting for others to quit making you angry.  The game of blaming---I blame you and you blame me--comes to a halt.  You are no more participating in a shouting match of arguing and asserting who is right and who is wrong.  You start modifying your behavior, your desires, your expectations, and whatever else that gets your goat.  

The reason that we try so hard to prove that the person in front is at fault, is probably not so much to blame the other person but rather has to do with protecting our own self-esteem.  If we don't defend ourselves vigorously and blame the other person with equal vigor, we may have to admit to ourselves that we were at fault.  The most ruthless judge sits inside our own heart and is ready to whip us, shame us, and rub our nose to the ground at the slightest suggestion that we are responsible for the mess we find in our lives.  

Once, for three long years, I had a difficult relationship with someone I worked with.  Both of us blamed each other.  I was convinced I was absolutely in the right and she thought exactly the same for her position.  Then I heard someone talking about assuming one hundred percent of the responsibility for whatever goes wrong in your relationship.  The next morning, I went to my colleague and I told her that it was not her fault at all for the misunderstanding and tension that existed between us and that I take one hundred percent of the responsibility for every thing.  I ended stressing that she was not responsible for creating this situation, but was coping with the situation the best she could.  Her reaction was shock.  She said she didn't know how to take it and thanked me.  As I started leaving, she said, "You know, I too had been absolutely pig headed about the whole thing myself for all these years.  I am glad we had this talk."  


Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



Click for Dr. Sharma's credentials
Dr. Vijai Sharma
Your Life Coach
By Telephone

Feedback- Let us know how we are doing

Terms and Conditions

Web site designed and maintained by Chanda Taylor