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What Are Our Arguments Really About?

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What Are Our Arguments Really About?

Assuming that you are a human being reading this – apologises if you are not – I suspect that you will have argued with individuals close to you at various points in your life. Conflicts are sometimes considered to be a negative aspect of life but if you begin to contemplate the situation a little more, arguing can often be a positive, constructive experience. High Existence offers an interesting perspective on why we argue:

WIthin the animal kingdom, if you’re a lion and another lion encroaches on your territory you roar and growl to let the other guy know this is your space. Testing the water, he roars and growls right back at you. Often, after a series of traded threats the outsider will stand down and the argument dissipates. Occasionally, the other lion does not back off and a bloody fight ensues until one is mortally injured or submits. Sound familiar? How often do we argue with our significant others, our siblings, our parents, our friends with the overwhelming need to be right, to be the victor? And what’s wrong with that? Well, wrong is a matter of perspective, but I will say that we are not lions…most of us, anyway.

In our animalistic past, we did in fact have to fight with others to protect ourselves, our family, our territory. In that sense, arguing or fighting is a survival instinct, a threat response. The problem is that during an argument, unless we are very conscious of our feelings, thought processes, prejudices, etc., then our brain automatically defers to that instinct. This means that every time we get into it with someone, the instinctual response is to be right, to dominate. While this may work for animals, it doesn’t yield such effective results for us.

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Arguing constructively

“If you’re arguing with someone for more than five minutes, chances are it’s not about them or their actions. It’s about you.”

My grandfather

When I first heard that I thought I understood but it has taken me many years to decipher that statement. I’m still finding deeper truth in those words every time I engage in an argument. I’m realizing that staying present in those tough situations is paramount. By ‘present’ I mean taking a moment to breathe, check-in with oneself, and to honestly examine what is there. We cannot argue effectively if we are unaware of what is going on inside. Furthermore, once we confront those thoughts and emotions, we must learn to accept. For instance, if you’re furious, allow yourself to feel furious. Notice, I did not say act furious. But how can I feel something and not let it affect my actions? Isn’t that just repression? Let’s see.

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Christina (my significant other) left the country for two weeks with some friends. I wasn’t able to accompany her due to work and a few other obligations. We’ve been together for eight years, and it had been a while since we had spent any extended time apart. So we agreed that we would set aside some time each day to check-in. One morning, we had begun one such conversation when suddenly the rest of the group arrived at her room and wanted to have breakfast. She told me that she had to go and I asked if we were going to speak later. She was getting flustered and couldn’t give me a straight answer because she was unsure of the plans for the day. I said, “fine” and we hung up.

I was furious. I felt completely dejected and blown off. In my fury, I sent her a very nasty message telling her how ridiculous I thought it was that she couldn’t make a few minutes for me, and blaming her for being inconsiderate and cruel. In turn, she called me back, full of anger, and told me how inconsiderate was acting. And so we argued and blamed each other for everything and anything. We became two ferocious lions trying to subdue each other.

I had to sit with my fury that day, which was a good thing. It allowed me to examine what was really happening. It had been a long time since I had experienced that sort of anger. Why now? I sat in a meditative state. I focused on my breath first to calm myself, and then on the anger. I allowed the thoughts and feelings to flow. I realized two things. First, when Christina blew me off, I wanted revenge. I wanted her to experience the pain I felt. This realization led to the next: I was feeling lonely and insecure being so far from her for the first time in years. I felt how much I really missed her.

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The next day, we finally spoke and I told her what I had discovered. There was resistance at first. She was still angry. In turn, I felt my own lingering anger start to rise up. Instead of reacting, I thought about what I had learned. I sat and listened to her talk. She confided that she was feeling stressed out because the trip was non-stop activity, and she was catching a cold. She told me that the way I had acted the day before had really hurt her and made her feel guilty. I apologized for my incendiary behavior, but I also calmly told her that when she more or less hung up on me, I had felt devalued and unimportant. She then apologized, and admitted she could have handled the situation better. We both admitted to still feeling a little angry, and that was OK. No one won. No one lost.

Enslaved to the Unconsciousness

Get the picture? Now imagine what that situation could have been if we had started in the place we ended. Maybe I would have started the conversation that day with the feelings I had been experiencing. In turn, she may have also told me about her troubles. The point is that even before the fight began, we had not been conscious of our mental/emotional processes. If we had, it may not have happened. Or it may have happened regardless, but we would have approached it differently. We would have been able to have a constructive argument from the get-go, which probably would have dissipated much sooner.

We get tangled up in our anger and it blinds us to the truth. The minute that occurs, we start growling, roaring, and blaming. Only when Christina and I spoke peacefully, candidly, and honestly did the healing begin. It then became not about who was right, but about how we were feeling. Why is this so effective? Because you cannot argue with emotion. Your feelings are your feelings and no one can tell you otherwise. The difficult part is learning how to speak openly about those emotions. It can be a frightening and vulnerable position, but those are just more insecurities we must acknowledge and accept.

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The bottom line is that when we argue with someone else, it is about what’s going on inside of us. When we realize that, then arguments can be an enormously constructive part of life and love. As such, learning how to argue constructively is a must if you want to be in any long-term relationship—romantic, familial, or platonic.

Why We Argue | Highexistence

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Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan is a passionate writer sharing about motivation and happiness tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

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How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.

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Poorly-Timed

Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

Being Honest

Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

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Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How to Deal With Anger

If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slow Down

From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

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When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

2. Focus on the “I”

Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

3. Work out

When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

5. Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

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That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

6. Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

7. Be Grateful

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go or motivated. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

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More Resources on Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

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