Because I grew up in a home environment in which anger was a daily occurrence, it is not surprising that I was an angry person by the time I reached adulthood. Fortunately, my anger never reached the depth that my parents’ anger attained. For example, my anger never led me to violence. Nevertheless, anger caused me and those around me significant unhappiness.

Over the years I worked diligently to understand and overcome my anger. I developed many strategies, several of which worked very well for me, indeed worked to such a degree that they simply became part of my unconscious behavior, that is, I didn’t even have to think about them any more.

In this article I’d like to discuss one of these strategies that I think is quite simple to adopt and which works exceedingly well with a little practice.

Here is how I simply dismiss things that get me angry by just “getting over it.” I put those last words in quotation marks because they remind me of a story that’s quite pertinent to what I’m talking about.

I had a friend who was a psychiatrist. From time to time when we were out he’d tell me stories from his practice, of course never with any identifying information about the patient he was discussing.

Once, after he related a story about a patient who struck me as not mentally ill but rather just an extremely unpleasant person, I said, “God, Jerry, don’t you sometimes want to just grab these people, shake them hard, and scream ‘Get over it!’” He smiled and said, “No, never. That’s why I’m the psychiatrist and you’re not, Martin.”

Well, of course I understood him, but I thought then, and still do, that “get over it” can be a very productive way of dealing with our anger.

The first thing to ask yourself about an incident that makes you angry is, “Is there anything I can do about it?” And you need to answer that question reasonably.

Sure, if someone cuts you off in a car, I guess you could easily enough just smash into his car with yours. Let’s not even talk about the consequences of that angry act but admit that unless we’re seriously mentally ill, that’s not an option.

Truly, there’s nothing you can reasonably do to “get even” with the other driver. And of course getting even doesn’t really mean anything either. Maybe you’ll be exacting revenge, but that’s not going to make up for anything. What happened to you happened, and you just need to accept it and realize a couple of things:

• Other than causing a dose of adrenaline to shoot through your system, and maybe getting scared for a moment, nothing happened to you.

• There’s nothing you can reasonably do about what happened anyway.

• And the longer you stay angry, the shorter the period of contentment and happiness you’ll experience that day.

I just read that Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” And if you are focused on trying to bring contentment and happiness and peace into your life, you realize that every sixty seconds is important.

I know that the kind of thing we’re talking about now, i.e., getting upset about another driver, is no big deal. This strategy isn’t meant to confront the catastrophic causes of our anger, things like gross injustice, untimely death, infidelity, job loss, etc.

Nevertheless, we’ve all experienced in ourselves and have seen in others how angry a small incident like an unpleasant driving encounter can make us. And similar incidents happen to us all the time.

Perhaps it’s frustration with a company’s telephone menu system; maybe the tellers at the bank are being unreasonable; possibly you need to see the doctor and can’t get an appointment for three weeks. I’m sure you can name dozens of other things such as these that occur constantly and make us angry. But it’s just not worth getting angry about these things for the reasons I discussed above.

So the next time something like this happens, as soon as you feel your anger boil up, just try to remember that it’s really meaningless and you shouldn’t allow it to ruin your day, your hour, or even your minute.
I also find that if I shake my head with a smile (and the smile is important) and say (not scream) something like “boy, what a pain,” I can get over it really easily.

Author's Bio: 

Martin is a retired university professor of language and literature. He is also a retired software entrepreneur. He is also a retired Internet executive. He has published two books, several academic articles, and many translations.

Shortly after retiring for the third time he moved to Costa Rica where he lived happily for more then five years.

He is now back in the U.S. living a comfortable life and concentrates on strategies for older people to achieve and maintain a life of contentment and happiness.

To that end he has created a blog at http://www.seniorcontentment.com