If you’re angry a lot or you have a short fuse, you might want to think of how hostile you tend to be, rather than thinking of yourself as an “angry person.” A lot of us tend to think that if someone has done us wrong (sometimes even by accident), that they deserve to be screamed at, flipped the bird, or even muttered at under your breath. That guy that just cut you off on the road or the one that failed to pick up that thing you were giving away on Craigslist – they deserve to at least hear what you think about them. Maybe you feel like you NEED to tell them. That if somehow if you don’t get it out, you will go crazy or get depressed or something worse.
This is called hostility. It is directly related to high blood pressure and heart attacks in some people. It is also related to low quality of life, marriage and parenting problems, job dissatisfaction, ability to find and keep friends – and did I mention heart attacks? What it is not related to is getting your way. In fact, hostility often leads to a phenomenon called reactance in the other person – the strong desire to do the opposite of what you are being asked to do. So what do you do about hostility? Well, just like almost everything else I blog about, it really depends on your specific situation. You can read it in a self-help book, but does that book know anything about you?
If you don’t want therapy, one good starting point would be to read a non-self-help book about positive psychology (one of my primary focuses) in Steven Haidt’s – who was once a UVA professor – “The Happiness Hypothesis.”