Before I took more control over my thoughts I had a bit of a temper. It wasn’t bad by temper standards, but there’s people you’d never say had a temper and I wanted to be one of them because it seemed to me that it was a damaging state of mind to be in. Now I can still get angry if I’m tired or hungry—even really angry every few years if those conditions are extreme—but it’s been decades since I’ve had anything you’d call a temper. It’s not a common place I go to. I’ve got it down to fairly minor levels of irritation with occasional moments of sharp frustration and thankfully whatever negative state of mind I get into I can also get out of pretty quickly.
I don’t totally want to dispel my negative emotions because I need them for contrast so that I know which feelings I truly want to actualize in my life. They are like guidance systems—like the rumble strips on the side of the highway. They quite clearly tell me I’m headed in the wrong direction. Sometimes our battle is with our ego—where we’re just talking to and undermining ourselves. But if we follow our sense of something—if we’re working hard at it and it still feels unpleasant despite the fact our mind is quiet and uncomplaining, then that is the universe’s communication to you that it’s time for the next part of your adventure. This is not a problem. This is notification of an opportunity.
All emotions are reactions to calculations in our consciousness. If we see a tiger and our brain processes what it knows about the humans and tigers and the reaction is fear, that in turn doses you with adrenaline and a variety of other biological agents. So if you’re focused on irritating and frustrating things all day long—as a great many people voluntarily do—that leaves you primed to have an angry reaction. Most of the chemistry is already present and you just need to add a trigger and you’ll jump up to the next level of chemistry, which takes your intense frustration and adds the last dose to create full-on anger. And yet, if that same trigger had hit been injected into the day of a person who hadn’t spent their day in that part of their brain, then the impact would have been far less pronounced.
Getting angry is something everyone does. It’s human, so there’s no reason to make it go completely away. But do we want that flush of chemistry to lead us to make poor decisions for our future? Obviously not. So it’s in our own best, selfish interests to try not to go there any more than we have to. And you don’t fix that just before you explode in anger. You fix it by not priming yourself all day to get angry. Because if you do that you’ll start spending so much time angry that instead of being frustrated you actually will have a temper.
You don’t want your emotional set-point to be an angry, tight emotion. Go there when it’s appropriate, but in a huge number of cases you’ll never even need to start feeling that way. Because if you’re not watching the world all day for stuff that bothers you, then that frees up time for you notice how great people and the world really are. And that is like armour for whenever you do have to deal with things you don’t enjoy.
Stop letting your thoughts run wild or they’ll convince you you’re the issue rather than that your thinking is unconscious. Use your emotions as guides to help you pay better attention to where your thoughts are at, and if you don’t feel good just shift your attention to something better. Stop yourself at irritation or frustration–before you reach anger. Divert your thinking and divert the chemistry. The more you do it the more you get better at it. Do that enough and you will have built yourself an amazing untempered life. 🙂
Have a wonderful day.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.