I feel this analogy works very well in describing anger. When I get angry, I feel like there is a part of me that continues to seek justification for my anger. My anger may just start out as mild annoyance. When I am mindful of my thoughts, I realize that I can just let the issue go and move on. But, when I start to think about the cause of my annoyance, these thoughts begin to justify my annoyance. With this validated feeling of annoyance, I find myself beginning to observe more life events as potentially annoying. The more this feeling of annoyance is given sustenance; it can then grow into a feeling of general frustration. The more my frustration is fueled by my internal dialogue, that frustration can grow into anger.
For example, the other day I was biking home and a car absent mindedly pulled out from a driveway and almost hit me. The first thought I had was “okay, that person was just not paying attention”. This thought was drown out by another voice clamoring, “forget that, I was almost knocked off my bike. I could have been killed.” The rest of the way home, I focused on every event where a car was not considering bike safety. By the time I got home, I had a general feeling of “poopy-ness.”
Our tendency to become angry is greatly influenced by a thought and physiological response feedback loop. When we experience a perceived threat, our body is flooded with stress hormones priming us for that edgy feeling. Since we feel the physiological response to stress / anger, we begin to composes a story of what is going on that is consistent with our stressful feeling. Since our stress chemistry typically lasts longer than the stress event, we have a moment where there is a potential inconsistency between our thoughts and our feelings. If we are mindful and are well practiced at observing our thoughts, we can more towards letting it go. However, there is a chance that we will continue to compose an internal story to explain the remaining stress chemistry. Since our thoughts have the power to trigger a stress response, we can be stuck in a stress/anger cycle.
If you find yourself repeatedly becoming annoyed, frustrated or angry, remember that you can take a moment and reflect on your thoughts. You have the power to thing of something different. Stop feeding the anger within.