If you’re like me, odds are you’ve envied people who never get angry. You may have also been surprised that such people exist. You may have tried to understand them, or asked yourself skeptically, “How can someone like you or me never get angry? How is that possible?” You’d be right in your skepticism, at least to a degree. Because it’s not that these people don’t experience anger — it’s just that they experience it in a different way.
You might even consider people who claim they never get angry as having had their “nervous system removed.” That, however, is simply not possible. Granted, it’s possible to have your amygdala removed, if you really want to. Neurologist Joseph Ledoux did just that to a patient — but because eradicating only one’s anger is impossible, his patient ended up losing the majority of his emotions. The patient lost his emotional connection to life, abandoned his social identity and began to lead a very isolated existence. He never got angry, but he also never experienced joy again…
This story is a good reference point to consider the people who we think never get angry. But then, what is the real secret behind these kind of people?
Here we’ll discuss some of the ways you or others you know may be masking their anger.
The most probable answer to why most of us and the people around us don’t often display their anger is that we’re all inclined to act like we’re not angry when we actually are. There are situations when we don’t want to display our anger, such as when we’re trying to impress someone, in mixed company, at work, or at a special event. Often, we associate getting angry with outwardly showing our distress and frustration. So, we perceive anger itself as a bad thing and hide how we feel. Is that what “not getting angry” is though? Is the secret to managing our anger learning how to wrap our angry emotions in gauze and hide them away? Do our edges automatically soften when we do so?
We may appear to be very gentle in these scenarios but in reality we’re building giant towers of anger inside ourselves. In the end, we either let our anger explode with the slightest provocation or we keep it hidden and continue to let it fester. Both options are very unhealthy for our mental and physical wellness. Think about the last time you suppressed your anger for a long period of time; did it simply dissolve away or did it continue to feel heavier and more bothersome?
Those of us who are part of a group of friends often know someone who never seems to gets angry. These are very “relaxed” individuals who often have very low expectations — the kind of person who doesn’t seem to flinch no matter what gets thrown their way. We may describe them as “chill”, “down to earth”, or someone who “goes with the flow”. But do they really not feel anger? Not even a tiny little seed of resentment and frustration somewhere deep down? Or is the anger they experience so minimal that we just don’t see it? In all likelihood, it’s the latter, for they experience anger in lesser degrees than others normally do due to their lowered expectations and acceptance of things not always happening the way they want them to.
The biggest emotional and psychological problem that many of us face today is depression. Depression can manifest itself in many different ways. Though for many of us, when we’re in the depths of our depression, we have a tendency to become withdrawn and distance ourselves from what we’re really feeling and experiencing. It seems as though we’re numb and unresponsive to what’s happening around us, whether positive or negative. And it’s not just anger that we miss out on while in this state: we also miss out on happiness, joy, and surprise. Being numb to our emotions isn’t a selective process; we cannot only numb our pain, anger, and sadness without also numbing our potential to feel joy, love, and connection.
If you consider yourself to be someone who doesn’t experience feelings of anger often, it may be possible that one of the above three situations applies to you. And yet I want to stress, there is no shame in acknowledging how we cope with our anger. All of us use coping mechanisms to manage uncomfortable emotions.
What meditation and mindfulness allows us to do, though, is to become aware of those uncomfortable emotions and own them. Yes, own them. We are capable of experiencing a whole range of emotions, including anger — provided that we don’t have our amygdala removed — and we all are on a journey in learning how to manage them. So let’s do a recap of some of the most common ways we should avoid suppressing our anger:
There’s another group of people that often create the impression that they don’t easily get angry. These are people who have become aware of their own emotions by meditating regularly. We can never expect to not experience situations that spark frustration and anger within us, but with mindfulness and meditation practice, we can learn how to live through those experiences with integrity, clarity, and a sense of calm.
This is because meditation keeps us present and more aware of our experiences in the moment, as it’s happening. It helps us to notice what we’re about to do, before we do it, regardless of whether that’s saying something hurtful or raising our hand against someone. As you continue to practice meditation and reflect on how you react to anger, you’ll also start to learn how to catch yourself in the moment and make small changes in how you react and process your anger.
And now, we’re turning over the conversation to you! Do you ever find yourself masking your anger? Or perhaps you live by the motto that with low expectations, you won’t feel angry as often. If you experience depression, how does that impact how you feel anger?
Finally, would you have advice on how to better manage feelings of anger?
Translated by: Zeynep Sen