We all know what it’s like to feel varying degrees of anger. From the slight annoyance at the slow driver on your day off, to the overwhelming rage when that person happens to be doing 5mph below the speed limit the morning you are late for work AGAIN!
Some of us have specific triggers, some of us walk around in a continuous state of frustration or anger. Most of us are in denial and/or aren't even aware that we spend a large percentage of our time somewhere on that scale.
I think that many of us would agree that it is not a comfortable truth to admit to yourself or to others that you are an "angry person". So why the shame? Why the discomfort? I experience anger in my life and sometimes it becomes overwhelming. It reaches a point where it is affecting my life more than I want it to and always the same reaction occurs. I get scared. Scared and pretty ashamed of myself!
I eventually got fed up with feeling like the incredible hulk on the inside whilst desperately trying to enjoy my day with a smile on the outside, so I sought to understand this emotion better.
Firstly why do we feel anger? Its really simple. We get angry when we feel threatened either emotionally or physically. Anger is a reaction to a perceived or real threat. A very human and very natural reaction, that has ensured our physical survival on this earth and our individual emotional survival. We need to be aware of threats and react to them.
But anger is not socially acceptable. So here we are having a perfectly normal and healthy reaction to the world around us and immediately we resist it. We ignore it, run from it, we push it down, we channel it into a moan about a friend or a rant about politics or we avoid it completely, distracting ourselves with TV, a cigarette or a glass of wine. Anger is an energy, it needs to move and when we do this we trap it there, it becomes stuck under the surface for days, weeks or even years.
Next let’s understand what lies beneath. Underneath anger lies fear and a feeling of powerlessness. Take any time that you have been angry and underlying that anger was a fear. For example...
* The original anger is - I am angry at you because you don't help me with the housework.
* But underneath is - I am scared that the housework is mounting and we have people coming over, what will they think.
I am scared that you expect me to do everything, you expect me to be like your mother! I am scared that you don't value and appreciate me. I am scared that you don't respect me or see how much I do for you. I am scared that it will always be like this and get worse, you are taking me for granted etc
After spending some time understand to why that person was really angry ie what perceived threat was scaring them and making them feel powerless, it really isn't all that surprising that they would feel so angry. Especially when you remember that anger is our way of protecting ourselves when a threat makes us feel scared and powerless.
Now add into the situation that this person was raised in a family where they were made to feel like a bad person for getting angry. Now the anger that they feel has, in its self, become the threat. Now they are angry that they are angry because anger is not ok.
So what to do? Below I have listed different ways that can help us move past these patterns that we have developed:
1. Begin to realise that anger is good. Anger is telling you that your boundaries have been crossed. It is valid and you are valid to feel it. Maybe even make a list of reasons why it is a good thing (you will probably need convincing). I will start you;
* anger takes you from a feeling of powerlessness to a feeling of power
* anger protects you from danger
* it points out situations that feel scary and debilitating so you can create something better
* it shows you have self-esteem and boundaries.
2. Start to develop a new habit - once you have recognised that you are angry give yourself the time to understand what is making you feel powerless and what the fears are that lie underneath. I find a pen to paper is the best way. Ask the question what is it about this situation that is scaring me and/or making me feel powerless? Don't hold back, nobody needs to see this, get it all out and get to the bottom of it!
3. Learn to communicate the truth of the anger to the person involved. I am angry because when you do that it makes me feel like I will never be good enough. It makes me feel like my Mum used to make me feel. You might be surprised how good it feels to have those things heard and what a positive reaction you might get.
4. Learn your distraction techniques ie the ways that you distract yourself when you feel things you don't want to feel like anger. You can’t learn to move through anger until you can be aware of its presence in your life. Distractions will not deal with your emotional state, you need to be with yourself.
And most importantly….
5. Allow it. Don’t try to stop it, change it, run from it, worry about it or wish it wasn’t there. If you are angry there is a legitimate reason why. Instead of falling into a negative state, realise that this is a chance to understand yourself better. This is a chance to grow and by allowing it, being with it and understanding it you can use this
moment to change course. Your emotions are a gift, they are not your enemy and now it is time to use them and allow them to guide you.