Dr. Jeffrey S. Nevid as an experiment for you to try. For the next 60 seconds, try to make yourself really angry. That should be simple enough, right? There are plenty of things that can set you off—a coworker, traffic, your mother-in-law—whatever it takes. But here’s the snag, you have to get angry while keeping your mind completely blank. That’s right, you can’t have a single thought in your mind while you’re trying to get angry. Dr. Nevid claims that, if you’re like most people, you won’t be able to get angry without those thoughts.
“Anger is directional,” says Dr. Nevid. “You need to be angry about something to feel angry. And having something to be angry about comes down to perceiving that someone or something (the object of your anger) provoked you or treated you badly or unfairly. Without the connecting thoughts as bridges to your emotions, the feeling simply fades away.” So the trick to not being angry is to take away the thoughts that cause you to be angry. “You can control anger by changing how you handle angering situations and what you say to yourself under your breath when you feel you have been wronged,” says Dr. Nevid. It’s all in the reactions, and as Dr. Nevid points out, no one can make you angry, unless you let them make you angry. “So all anger is really self-anger, and therein lies the potential we have to control it,” explains Nevid. “We may not be able to keep people from doing stupid or angering things, but we can control how we respond to them.” Learning to control your anger has plenty of benefits, such as reducing damage to your cardiovascular system. If you can remove the angering thought, you’ll also remove the anger, and that will help you out in the long run. So the next time you feel your anger rising, trying clearing your mind of any thought—especially the thought that has you feeling angry. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the feeling dissipates.