The Stoic philosopher Seneca once described anger as temporary madness. Anger visits all of us at times for a variety of reasons and in varying intensities, but it is almost always a destructive force, very much like a wildfire. A fire can easily burn out of control, consuming everything in its path. The key to mastering anger is to learn to dissipate the fire before it grows too big for us to handle.
Anger management is a lot like tending a fire. Remember that all fires need heat, fuel, and oxygen. With this in mind, we can learn to “manage” our fires to keep them from getting out of control. (This all can apply to any emotion, really.)
We provide our own fuel by allowing ourselves to become incensed by external situations and people. If we are to properly master our own anger, we must learn to decrease the fuel we supply our fires, and we do this with reason. We must train ourselves through practice to start removing the amount of things that provoke us. Many of these things are trivial matters - online discussions, people on the road, pet peeves - that are easy to disengage ourselves from. With our minds, it is possible to start recognizing that these matters aren’t worth our energy. As we begin to get a grip on the petty things that bother us, we can then start working on the bigger ones. Don’t allow things to convince us to add fuel to our fires.
We can suffocate a fire by removing its source of oxygen, which in this case is the thing that’s making us angry. Learning to extricate ourselves from the source of our anger is like closing a window to prevent more oxygen from getting to our fire. This could be walking away from a person who is provoking us. It could be logging of the internet. It could be turning off the television or changing the channel. Remove the source so that it cannot provide more oxygen, or better yet, avoid it altogether.
Once we have stopped engaging the things that make us angry (putting fuel on the fire), and removed ourselves from the source (starving it of oxygen), we must let ourselves cool down. We can do this by engaging in activities that calm us. Redirect your thoughts onto something else, meditate, do breathing exercises, go for a walk. Listen to soothing music or work on a hobby that brings you serenity. Turn down the heat.
By doing these things we can learn to manage our anger as we would a fire, and we can prevent our fires from raging out of control.