Strange title, that one. Just to clarify, I won’t be discussing lions, tigers, or bears. My topic is much more general. One that we all know personally and that hangs in the air these days, slipping unbidden into the media, personal conversations, the psyches of drivers on the road, political campaigns, and because of its preponderance in the world today, in us.

A basic human emotion, anger is a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a perceived wrong. According to Psychology Today, it is related to the “fight, flight, or freeze response of the sympathetic nervous system; it prepares humans to fight.” That can translate into a positive response, such as changing a situation for the better, talking out a problem, or changing one’s viewpoint; or it can erupt into a violent reaction, like yelling, throwing an object, or punching someone. A few people operate from a place of anger on a regular basis. My suggestion for those would be professional help.

My intended audience is the rest of us, who can feel anger around us as thick as Lowcountry humidity. Sadly, it’s often as contagious as Covid. I personally don’t like being angry, as I’ve encountered enough of it in one lifetime, thank you very much. Admittedly, I’m a Pollyanna and choose to live positive day-to-days whenever possible. But that ol’ feeling that someone’s doing me wrong can creep into my house, even though I try to avoid the news like the plague.

So what’s to be done when anger is coming at us from all directions? Fortunately, great minds have addressed, and continue to address, this issue, and surprisingly, we have a plethora of options. Gotta love options. When I left my home for the University of Kentucky a while back, my mother gave me a terrific piece of advice that I will continue to use until I go toes up.

“Whenever a problem arises,” she said, “as long as you have another option, you’ll be fine.” Thank goodness I’ve lived long enough to realize how wise she was. Sometimes, another option isn’t immediately clear, but I believe there’s always at least one. Sometimes more.

First, know that anger is a normal feeling and can be used to help work through emotions and details surrounding an issue that needs to be resolved. It can be a great motivator to urge you to move ahead in a different direction than you were initially going. For instance, when friends are coming to my house, and it’s a complete wreck, I can use the anger at myself for letting it become a candidate for an episode of “Hoarders,” turn on some background vibes a la Queen, shift into Molly Maids mode, and shine the abode up to company status.

Anne Lamott, beloved author of Bird by Bird, a treasure of a roadmap for writers, describes holding a grudge as “drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”

If your anger is focused on someone in particular – it could even be yourself – and resolution of the situation has come to a standstill, you can choose forgiveness of either the other person or people involved, or of yourself. Sometimes it’s easier to blame someone else for anger that’s ire at yourself. If you can take a breath, dig deep into your emotions or your heart and forgive, you can ease the tension and move on.

The benefits of forgiveness on your physical, mental, and/or spiritual health include lowered blood pressure, relief of anxiety and stress, lessened feelings of aggression, decrease in depression, and improved condition of your heart. Forgiving and moving on with your life is definitely worthwhile. Realize it is possible to forgive someone who treated you wrongly. Then choose to forgive, and if possible, let the person you’re forgiving know that you have done so. This can be the path to freedom for you.

Buddhist Monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that dealing with anger is like preparing for a sudden storm. Before anger arises, we have two or three seconds to practice coming back to ourselves and breathing mindfully. When we can do that, we are no longer afraid of our anger, and we do not become a victim of, and overwhelmed by, that emotion. A simple mindful breathing technique was developed by U.S. physician and integrative medicine proponent, Dr. Andrew Weil ( Known as the 4-7-8 technique, this practice consists of inhaling to a count of four, holding the breath for a count of seven, and exhaling from your mouth to a count of eight, all while sitting in a relaxed position. This type of breathing seems simple, and it is. Visit Weil’s website to learn its benefits.

Hearkening back to my mom’s advice, let’s now explore more options to succumbing to anger:

  • Step back and breathe. Practice Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing.
  • Take a walk, work out at a gym, ride a bike, hit some golf balls. You’ll feel calmer.
  • Relax your muscles, one at a time, while breathing deeply.
  • Neck rolls and shoulder rolls can help control your body and emotions.
  • Take a mental vacation. Go to a quiet part of your house. Take a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Visualize a beautiful scene in nature. Be there in your mind.
  • Let music soothe your anger away. Or shake a leg to some great rock’n’roll.
  • Take a break from talking for a while and let the angry words dissipate.
  • Refocus your angry energy into doing a good deed for someone else.
  • Write in a journal. Take Julia Cameron’s suggestion from her lifechanging book, The Artist’s Way, and write daily “morning pages”, i.e. three pages of what’s on your mind.
  • Write a letter to the individual to whom your anger is directed explaining your anger and why you feel that person is wrong and perhaps hurt you. Then tear it up without sending.
  • Create a well-thought-out response that you may someday use about the situation. Edit this over time until you choose to use it.
  • Talk to a close, supportive friend. His or her perspective may help yours.
  • Practice gratitude by focusing on the positives in your life, or empathy, by putting yourself in your “offender’s” shoes and imagining his pain.

These are but a few options for taking the fire out of anger. Above all, be easy with yourself as you pursue a new life pattern that’s sure to enhance your days.

The following wise words are from psychologist, hypnotherapist, family therapist, and mind-body wellness coach, Joanna Zajusz: “If you… do just one thing to heal anger, ask yourself, ‘How would I live if I truly loved, cared for, accepted, and respected myself?’ This is what will heal us, this is what will heal the world.”