“That makes me so mad!” One hears it all the time. It has to be among the most commonly uttered phrases in the realm of emotional experience. And, of course, it’s completely and utterly wrong. Your anger is a wholly contained neurochemical response. To credit something external with your anger is to grant that person or thing power over you–to enslave yourself. (Stoic philosopher, and former slave, Epictetus was known to piss off gentlemen citizens by asking them if they were “really free.”)
This isn’t to say there isn’t just anger. However, think about what emotions are. Our emotions are a system evolutionarily evolved to allow us to make decisions with limited or no information. Without emotions our species, if we ever came to be, would have likely become extinct by way of “paralysis by analysis.” We know that happens to people who have neurological damage that keeps them from experiencing emotion. You might think they would become cold and rational Mr. Spocks, but the defining characteristic of such people is that they become paralyzed by indecision. It turns out that we make a lot of decisions with limited information or from an inability to determine a clear winner by way of facts and reason. Emotion plays and important role in those cases.
Chances are that if your immediate gut reaction to something is anger, you probably haven’t worked out a rational argument for your preference. If one has a clear line of reasoning rooted in fact, anger isn’t necessary to justify a position or decision. If your gut reaction to something is emotional, see whether you can noodle out a rational reason before you swing into too rash an action…. unless the crosstown bus is careening at you.