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Anger management in a recession

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By Francis Ewherido

Nigeria is in a recession, you do not have to be an economist to know. There is reduced economic activity and increasing unemployment, among other negative indices. Not surprising, there is increased anger in the land. It is apparent in public places, an aggregation of domestic anger.

It was therefore understandable when my good friend, Rev. Fr. Theodore Martinos, the priest-in-charge of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Baruwa, Iyana, Lagos, invited me to talk to his parishioners on, ANGER MANAGEMENT: A TOOL FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN THE FAMILY AND SOCIETY. That talk forms the basis of our column today.

What is anger management? “Anger management is the process of learning to recognize signs that you’re becoming angry, and taking action to calm down and deal with the situation in a positive way. Anger management doesn’t try to keep you from feeling anger or encourage you to hold it in.” (Mayo Clinic). Anger is normal for every being.

God wiped out mankind from the face of the earth during Noah’s time (Genesis 6). Jesus used a whip to chase out traders who desecrated the temple (John 2:15). So the issue is not anger, per se, but letting out anger and managing it in a positive way to stay out of trouble. St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:26, that you can be angry, but do not allow your anger lead you to sin and do not let your anger linger.

To start with, anger is not a condition (except in some extreme and rare situations, in which case the person might need medical attention); it is a symptom of underlying problems (financial troubles, marital troubles, office troubles, anxiety, sexual problems, etc.). It is therefore important that you go to the root of the problem rather than trimming the branches.

What is making you angry? Identify it so that you can begin to find solutions. In finding solutions, get help if it is beyond you. Certain situations linger in some people’s lives because they are either too shy or too proud to ask for help.

Two, avoid people and situations that get you angry, if possible. I said if possible because it is not easy to avoid every person or situation that gets you angry. For example, if your spouse is the person who gets you angry, you cannot avoid him/her. But you can discuss your source of irritation with him/her. If he/she is sensitive or loving enough, he/she will make amends. But what if your spouse is not? You have a right to be happy and it begins with your state of mind.

Stephen Covey said that it is not what people do to you that matter but how you react. React positively, maturely and with dignity. Do not give anybody (including your spouse) the opportunity and pleasure of turning you into an angry wreck. Remember the only person you are largely in control of is yourself. Others are largely out of your control.

Three, you must learn to walk away, literally or connotatively, before the situation boils over, especially when the situation is not worth the trouble. Most fights and fatal outcomes would not have occurred if one party had walked away. Then, one respondent asked what he should do if he is walking away and the other party is pulling him back and hauling insults at him? I responded that such scenarios are more common between spouses and in multi-tenant dwellings.

If the person is a co-tenant, get the landlord/caretaker involved. If they are unable to resolve the matter, relocate before you commit murder/manslaughter or get killed. Relocating is a small price to pay. But if it is your spouse, something is fundamentally wrong with you, your spouse or the marriage. A spouse who torments his/her other half for no just cause needs temporary relocation to the left side of Yaba or Uselu (psychiatric attention).

On the other hand, if there is something you are doing that is turning your spouse into a “lunatic,” you need to mend your ways. But if the problem is in the marriage, then it is built on sand. Both parties need to work on building a solid marital foundation.

Four, stay quiet until you can talk calmly. My President Emeritus (Urhobo Social Club), Emmanuel Evue, always says “you cannot quote silence” and it has become one of my guides. People utter hurting words they later regret saying in fits of anger. Even if you apologise later and your apology is accepted, it does not erase what you said. So it is better you shut your mouth while angry until you calm down and can talk sensibly.

Five, a spirit of forgiveness is a must for anger management. Unless you habitually forgive, your anger will linger and that is not good for anger management. An unforgiving spirit is even unhealthy. It weighs you down and can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and depression. Develop a spirit of forgiveness as a habit.

Six, anger management is not a one-off exercise. You develop the art over time until it becomes a habit. The key is to make little progress everyday no matter how minimal.

Another tool that helps in anger management is Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John13:34). You must learn to genuinely love, especially those around you who you interact with regularly. People are usually more tolerant of their loved ones; it is also very difficult for anger to linger in such situations.

Eight, it is always good to be right, but remember that being kind is more important than being right. I used to be a very angry man on the road because of the lawlessness of the average road user, but my disposition is changing.

Nine, majority of mankind is proud; forget all this skin-deep humility. You only need to get most people angry and pride manifests. But anger management and pride do not travel together, so control your pride to manage your anger. Another respondent drew my attention to the issue of anger management and pride.

Finally, remember tough times do not last, but tough people do. Do not cut short your life or somebody else’s due to uncontrolled rage resulting from the economic situation. We shall overcome.

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