People get angry all the time, and anger was something that the ancient philosophers would often discuss. For them, it was at the root of many problems.
Guys like Seneca, Plutarch, or Aristotle before them, would go into detail on describing anger and ways to counter-act it. However, even in the way more distant past, before the time of Greek and Roman philosophers, many of the ancient people recognized the power of anger.
For example, the ancient Egyptians used the color red to signify this emotion. This color was also associated with chaos, and fire. Linking these elements together shows the destructive character of anger, and its ability to overwhelm not only the individual, but society.
The thing about anger is that it is an inherent part of human nature. There are probably many times in your life when you got angry. Unfortunately, this often leads to bad consequences. How can you prevent yourself from getting angry and avoid these bad things?
There are some techniques that you can do to calm yourself down and to get your rational mind to take over from your emotional mind. One of them is distancing.
I discovered the calming effect of physical distancing, when I got into heated arguments with my parents. I would get emotionally overwhelmed and storm out of the room. As soon as I left the room, the strong emotions would die down and I would turn calm.
Besides physical distancing, a technique that can have the same effect is mental distancing. This is a technique that the ancients used when things would start heating up.
Emperor Augustus had a Stoic philosopher, Athenodorus Cananites, as one of his tutors. You can imagine that as an Emperor he was often faced with situations where he would get angry with certain people.
In order to calm down, Athenodorus told him to repeat the letters of the alphabet to himself.
“Whenever you get angry, Caesar, do not say or do anything before repeating to yourself the twenty-four letters of the alphabet.”
In this way, he would mentally distance himself from the situation at hand and calm down. This would then allow him to proceed in a rational matter.
You will often be faced with situations where you won’t be able to keep your emotions bottled up. Having a couple of distancing techniques in your arsenal can help you to overcome this and give control back to your rational mind and reason.
Marcus Aurelius: how to survive in adversity.