10 Tips of Ancient Philosophers On How To Control Anger

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Anger is perfectly normal, but it’s how you keep it under control that makes all the difference. And believe it or not, ways to deal with your anger are as old as Ancient Greece.

Anger is a natural and healthy emotion. The problem is that it can manifest itself in a manner out of proportion to its trigger.

Most of the time, one problem leads to another, and before you know it, you’ve already exploded, and the harm has been done. This is why it’s important to keep your emotions in check.

While we all have different ways to manage anger, some have a hard time with what they should do with all that built-up emotion. Fortunately, Stoicism is here to save the day!  

How to Control Anger? 10 Stoic Tips


1. Know the Signs

It only makes sense that to manage your anger, you must be aware of it. As the great Stoic Philosopher, Seneca puts it, “the best course is to treat the sickness as soon as it becomes apparent, at that time.”

Being the one in-charge of your thoughts and feelings, it is important that you are aware of the things that make you angry. Common anger triggers include being mistreated by others, stress and irritation, mocked, rejected, and many more.

Whatever it is, remember that anger may be channeled more effectively if one anticipates its occurrence. When you become more aware of your anger, you will be more capable of slowing it down. As they say, spot it to stop it!

2. Know that Anger does More Harm than Good

Another way to deal with your anger is to acknowledge that the emotion of anger is just problematic. Let’s say your car broke down, does shouting at a random guy who just happened to pass by fix the problem? If anything, it worsens it!

You always have control over how you react

According to Seneca, anger turns you into a slave. When you’re angry, you’re held captive by your feelings of rage and frustration. You become more prone to make errors that we may later come to regret. Anger causes you to lose sight of the future, rendering your logical self completely obedient to a lower kind of awareness.

Also, remember that anger is hard to slow down. When you are angry, you have a forward momentum that is significantly more intense than other emotions. It can also be addicting and contagious. You never know what you might do the next time you feel enraged!

Well, we wouldn’t like that, right?

3. Wait

As Seneca says, “the best remedy to anger is delay.

That’s right, waiting is actually a helpful way to curb your anger.

Even though it’s frequently the most obvious piece of advice, simply waiting or counting to ten is one of the most effective things we can do when we’re upset or frustrated. Emotions pass away after a period of time.

So, the next time you feel angry, remember to give it some time!

4. Don’t be too Curious.

Curiosity kills the cat

As the famous saying goes, “Curiosity kills the cat.” While being inquisitive is a commendable trait as it encourages you to seek answers, the Stoics will tell you to refrain from doing so.

If you always put your nose in someone else’s business and maybe hear something you don’t like. Chances are, you’ll end up being angry again, which is why Seneca also advises against being too curious.

We know we can’t resist taking a sip in someone else’s tea, but you can at least try, can’t you?

5. Remember that you can Control How you React.

Sure, you can’t control what the other person does, but you can control how you react to it.

Oftentimes, you forget that you have freewill and instantly submit to the situation. So to prevent things from going out of hand, the Stoics adhere to this concept and recognize that they have complete authority over their actions and responses.

6. See Yourself on the Other Side.

Just think of all the occasions that you’ve acted out of character. You’ve probably spoken words to someone that you subsequently regretted. Well, we’re all more alike than we are different as human beings.

Think of the other side

Marcus Aurelius says that when you feel yourself becoming enraged at another person, you should take it as a cue to change your perception and reflect whether or not you are guilty of similar, misguided beliefs.

Acknowledging our own shortcomings and keeping them in mind can help to reduce the amount of anger we feel towards others. Because when we feel angry at others, it’s most likely that we have also angered others in the past.

7. Reflect on your Insignificance

Let’s make it clear that you DO matter, but you’re not the only one that matters. The Stoics saw ego in anger, a sense of selfishness that made us think that we’re so important, everything has to go our way.

In this light, Marcus Aurelius reminded himself to look at things from a higher perspective. It was Stoics who first introduced sympatheia as the belief that we are all part of a bigger whole.

It reminds us of our importance and our insignificance, and of the interconnectedness of parts and wholes. You should know insignificance in order to understand our significance. When you get the hang of it, it can actually be empowering.

8. Having Low Expectations is key

start your day with low expectations

Of course, we want everything and everyone around us to be as impeccable as possible. Sometimes, even the slightest bit of disorderliness may irritate you.

But Stoic Philosophers say: DEAL WITH IT! It’s important to bear this in mind that some people may not be as good, smart, or quick-witted as you hoped they were.

This is why Marcus Aurelius advises you to start your day with low expectations on people you will meet. He advises people to be humble and expect less from others in order to avoid being disappointed.

This is because we are all human beings with different backgrounds and opinions. We should not be surprised when someone doesn’t agree with us or behaves in a way that we don’t like.

9. Learn to let go

One of Cato the Elder’s great farming aphorisms, which he passed down to his son, Cato the Younger, feels sensible and pertinent in our current battle with anger. According to him, “the forehead is preferable than the hindhead.” In other words, don’t look back. Take a step forward.

It’s natural to desire to reflect back on the events of the past; to indulge in a sense of nostalgia. While some memories feel good, remember to let go. By doing so, you are also letting go of that anger that used to hold you back.

So leave the old tales at the door and come up with something new!


10. Use Art and Music to Calm Yourself

There is almost nothing your favorite music can’t fix just like no emotion ever gets away unnoticed with art.

sing the anger away

For those who are often frustrated and find it difficult to let go of their anger, Seneca recommends that you seek out soothing art or music. When it comes to creative forms, music is generally adored, and everyone has at least a few tunes that when they hear them, make them feel more at ease. So sing that anger away.

By this point, we can all agree that we all get angry. But just because it’s normal, doesn’t mean we should. Anger, if left unmanaged, can lead to situations you will most likely regret. Some lose friends, others go behind bars.

How about you? What has your anger cost you?

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Manasa is a passionate person who loves to share insights on life and everything it has to offer. She also love to explore the human mind, as well as offer advice for those seeking help in their journey of self-discovery.