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Thursday, September 12, 2024

Life is 10 Percent What Happens to You and 90 Percent How You React to It

There are numerous situations that are out of our control. When things aren’t going our way or the deck seems to be stacked against us, anger can rear its ugly head. Older adults can experience a mixed bag of emotions – including anger – as they begin to give up independence and rely on caregivers. Those forced into the caregiver role by unexpected circumstances can also be faced with grief and anger. Anger is a completely normal and healthy emotion – despite our culture’s aversion to it. However, sometimes this powerful emotion can turn destructive and lead to problems in personal relationships.

According to the American Psychological Association, some people are angered more easily than others: some don’t react dramatically but are continually grumpy, and others withdraw and sulk. There is evidence that some children are born irritable and have a low tolerance for frustration. These kids have a hard time rolling with the punches. Other sociocultural factors – such as families lacking emotional communication or chaotic familial backgrounds – can cause people to have a low tolerance for frustration.

Our instincts tell us to respond aggressively to protect ourselves, but letting our frustration run wild leads to more rage and aggression. It does not help resolve the situation. In reality, we can’t physically lash out at everything that irritates us, but we can discover what triggers our anger and develop strategies to keep us from exploding. There are three common approaches to deal with anger: expressing, suppressing and calming.


It is possible to express your feelings in an assertive but non-aggressive way. You don’t have to be pushy or demanding; remember to be respectful and speak and treat others the way you would want to be treated. This is actually the healthiest way to express anger. It simply means articulating your needs and how they can be met without hurting others. Don’t jump to conclusions and say the first thing that comes into your head; instead slow down and listen carefully to what others are saying – and think through your responses before answering. Maintaining your cool can keep a conversation from spinning out of control.


Suppressing anger? That doesn’t sound like a good approach to dealing with anger…. Unexpressed anger can lead to hostile behavior where one is constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments. Suppressing can also lead to passive-aggressive behavior where one avoids confronting someone head-on and instead chooses to ‘get back’ at them indirectly without telling them why.

So why is suppressing listed as a good approach for dealing with anger? If you hold anger in without ever converting it to something positive, it can be dangerous and lead to high blood pressure, depression and stress disorders. However, if you hold anger in and focus on something positive, then the anger can be converted to more constructive behavior. This requires changing the way you think. For example: instead of cursing and telling yourself how horrible the situation is, tell yourself it’s frustrating and that it’s okay to be upset, but that it’s not the end of the world. Becoming angry will not fix the situation. Keep in mind that logic trumps anger every time because it provides you with a more balanced perspective.

According to the American Psychological Association, angry people tend to demand fairness or a willingness to do things their way. They feel they are morally right. When their demands aren’t met or their plans are changed, they feel it is unjust and their disappointment becomes anger. By becoming aware of your demanding nature and converting your expectations into desires rather than demands, you’ll experience the normal frustration and disappointment of not getting what you want, but without the anger. Humor can be a great tool for converting anger into a more constructive behavior – not by laughing off your problems or becoming sarcastic, but by finding humor in the situation or by visualizing a funny scene. Humor can provide the realization of how unreasonable you are being or how unimportant the things you are angry about really are.


Calming is a technique to control your external behavior and internal responses which involves taking steps to lower your heart rate and letting the fury subside. Examples of calming are deep breathing and visualizing a positive outcome or image. Calming can also mean going for a walk to remove yourself from the environment that is irritating or providing space and time to clear your mind and come back with a fresh perspective.

Obviously we can’t rid our lives of the things that enrage us, but we can learn to control how we react. If we know what angers us, like traffic or a messy room, we can react by taking a less congested route or closing the door so we don’t have to see it. If there’s not a solution, we can focus less on how we are going to fix the problem and more on how we are going to face it and handle it. We can stop taking ourselves so seriously, and instead use humor, love, and compassion to diffuse the anger.


Information taken from
Title Quote by Charles Swindoll


Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living

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