You probably can't hit a baseball as well as Albert Pujols. Why? Certainly major league players were born with some level of physical advantage over the rest of us, but most of their skill comes from training - relentless training, year after year. Imagine a baseball coming toward you at a hundred miles per hour - that's less than a half second from pitcher's hand to catcher's mitt. Decide whether to swing. Then decide how to swing. Then actually swing the bat. All in less than a half second. Does Albert think about swinging the bat? I doubt it. That quick a reaction has to be instinctive. Instincts are something we are born with, right? In this case, no. The instinctive response Albert now has to the approach of a fast moving baseball is the result of years of training.

Most people think that anger is an instinctive response, and that some people were just born with the temperament to get angrier faster than others. That statement is half right. Anger is an instinctive response. We respond to an affront with anger in the same time as a pitched baseball reaches the batter - essentially instantaneously - much too quickly for conscious thought to be called upon. But the instinct of the anger response can be trained in the same way as a batter's response is trained - through conscious repetition, visualization, and coaching. Visualization is seeing the event we desire to master in our mind's eye. We see the approaching baseball or the antagonistic action as if it were real, and then mentally practice our response.

During his training, a baseball player strives to make each swing better than the last. The repetition of a faulty swing would be worse than useless. It would ingrain bad habits. The same is true of emotional responses. If we allow ourselves to continue to have the same angry responses, we just entrench our anger habit. But if we strive - through consciousness, visualization, and coaching - to moderate our anger response over time, we can train ourselves to respond to events as we choose, without anger. You can't magically be free from anger tomorrow, but you can put yourself on a training program that will reduce the frequency and intensity of your anger response day by day, year by year.

My training advice for moderating the anger response is:

1. Consciously practice responding with a little less anger each time a situation provokes you.

2. Practice visualizing aggravating situations and rehearse the response you choose to make to such events.

3. Have patience. It took you years to get so angry. It may take years to reduce anger down to a minor twinge.

4. Understand that you can never completely eliminate the anger response. Minimizing anger requires lifelong conscious practice.

The preceding advice is intended for those who are quick to anger, and who display their anger outwardly. But what about people who don't appear to anger? Some people who don't show anger have trained themselves to moderate their anger response, but many others internalize their anger rather than expressing it. While withheld anger may save family and friends from having to endure an outburst, unexpressed anger is even more damaging to its owner than is anger that is verbalized and acted upon.

For those who suffer from repressed anger, there must be an intermediate stop along the path from anger to freedom. First the anger must be expressed. While I believe that most people can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of their anger responses through the training steps above, overcoming repressed anger is usually not a do-it-yourself proposition. Professional counseling - often including the physical expression of anger in a controlled environment - can reveal and heal the childhood traumas which triggered the lifelong habit of repressing intense anger and hostility. Once a person has become able to express their anger, it becomes imperative to immediately begin moderating that response, with the goal of feeling no anger, either repressed or outward.

The view that there are benefits to anger has become common, but I believe that statements such as, "When anger is channeled and controlled, it can be a catalyst for much positive change," represent a distorted view toward the anger response. The argument goes that if we didn't get angry, we would become pushovers, but the assumption that we can have values and stand up for those values only by getting angry is faulty.

The other view toward anger, with which I totally concur is, "Anger is now known to be quite detrimental to us physically and psychologically." We don't need anger to be assertive any more than we need a stiff drink in order to stand up for our beliefs. As a example, if someone doesn't repay a loan to me, I can be assertive in demanding the repayment, or I can bring legal action to recover the money, at least as well if I am not angry. And more important, I will be far healthier, both physically and emotionally.

Anger is a destructive emotion that becomes instinctive over the years. Through conscious training, the anger response - whether in the form of outbursts or repressed - can be moderated over time, until it is virtually eliminated.

Author's Bio: 

Read Jonathan's article Stop Anger Before It Stops You - 7 Secrets

Read Jonathan's Daily Insight & Quote.

Jonathan Lockwood Huie is an author of self-awareness books, including Simply An Inspired Life: Consciously Choosing Unbounded Happiness in Good Times & Bad. He has been dubbed "The Philosopher of Happiness" by those closest to him, in recognition of his on-going commitment to seeing Joy in all of life.

** Today is your day to dance lightly with life. It really is. - jonathan lockwood huie **