What is anger? Is anger good or bad? There are a lot of people that would say anger is bad and they would be wrong. Anger is a healthy emotion that needs to be recognized, acknowledged and guiltlessly accepted.
Negative emotions like anger are warning signs that something is wrong in our lives. They are a sign that we need to take some type of action to make things better. No one can control their emotions. We can not control how we feel and we should not associate guilt with anger.
We can control our physical actions. Only volitional or willful actions can be wrong or associated with guilt not anger itself. We need to experience all of our emotions for real intimacy with others.
We can get angry with a friend or loved one without fearing they will leave us. Real love requires being real with our partner. Suppressing one emotion weakens our ability to share all the others.
An interesting thing about anger is that as anger goes up our reasoning ability seems to go down. Anger is related to pain. Pain in the future is anxiety. Pain in the present is hurt, loss or sadness. Pain in the past is anger. Anger is about something that has already happened.
The Vikings felt anger was a gift of the gods. When it came upon a warrior in the midst of a battle as a berserker rage the warrior was invincible. In modern society a berserker rage is not seen as a good thing. In life of death situations it still might be.
I remember reading about a study done on Vietnam veterans with spinal injuries and anger. According to the study veterans with spinal injuries that left them paralyzed below the waist did not experience anger in the same manner as they used to before the spine injury. Prior to the spinal injury anger welled up from deep inside and exploded like a volcano. After the spinal injury anger was experienced more like a tempest in a teapot. It did not have the explosive force anymore.
This is important evidence that anger is substantial. It is an energy that travels through the nervous system and does build to explosive force within us at times. It needs a pathway and it needs to be released. It is a physical energy with a physical basis.
Anger causes somatic responses. Our body responds to anger in different ways. What kind of body language expresses anger?
Do you clench your jaw?
Get a stomachache?
Raise your voice?
Refuse to speak?
Want to hurt someone?
Want to get away?
Become verbally or physically abusive?
Sweat or turn red?
Does your tone of voice change?
Do you cry?
Do you shake?
How does anger make you feel?
Do you procrastinate in doing things?
Are you always late for things?
Do you have a sadistic or ironic humor?
Are you sarcastic, cynical or flip in conversation?
Do you sigh frequently?
Are you over polite or “Nice”?
Do you smile when hurting?
Do you have bad dreams?
Do you have trouble sleeping?
Are you bored with things that are usually fun?
Are you more tired than usual?
Do you get really picky and irritable with others?
Do you get tired when you shouldn’t?
Does your anger make you feel guilty?
Do you feel anxious?
Do you feel ashamed?
Do you feel withdrawn from others?
Do you know when you are angry?
What is your anger like?
Does it last to long?
Does it flare up frequently?
Does it express itself even when you are trying to suppress it?
Does it go away quickly?
What does your anger do?
Does it interfere with your jobs or relationships?
Does it contribute to physical problems?
Does it lead to accidents?
Does it get you into legal problems?
Knowing your own anger and how you respond to it is very important. You need to know when you are angry so you can safely do something about it. Take a few minutes going through this list and determine if any of them apply to you. Try to decide if you have a problem with anger or not.
There is a need to use up anger and get rid of it. One is left feeling purified:
Unsafe ways to use up anger:
Stuffers are conflict avoiders. They are people that will avoid conflict and confrontation at all cost. This makes them easy targets for more aggressive people. They have a lot of stress under the surface and never really confront the issue or problem. People that stuff their anger may become depressed or physically sick with stomachaches or headaches. The only way they know to find relief is to let things get so bad everything falls apart. Then they can start over.
Withdrawers are passive-aggressive in dealing with anger. They don’t address the issue or problem directly. Instead they might spread rumors or gossip. These are subtle and not obvious ways of showing anger. Often these people hurt themselves the most by missing out on closer relationships or being misunderstood by others. They often feel guilty and responsible for things that are not in their control. People who withdraw miss out on the power of having their anger work for them.
These people withdraw emotionally. They give others the silent treatment. They might become ill or anxious. They feel they don’t have the right to become angry. They feel anger is not appropriate. They fear they might lose control of their anger and hurt somebody. They can’t cope with strong feelings and avoid them whenever they can. They think people will dislike them if they show anger. They are afraid of losing a job or a friend. They don’t want to hurt or offend anyone.
Blamers express their anger by name calling, attacking, or by putting other people down. They never take responsibility for their own problems. This may cause the people that live with them to have low self-esteem if they believe what the blamer is saying about them. They might also become blamers and never take responsibility for their own problems either. It is very easy to get sucked into a vicious circle of negative behavior around a blamer.
Instead of dealing with their anger directly trianglers get someone else mad at the same person so they can be mad together. This creates a lot of tension and the victim knows something is wrong but doesn’t really know what it is.
Exploders use violence to express anger. They may push, shove, kick, slap, beat or even kill someone. These are all harmful behaviors. It is not safe to be around an exploder because it is only a matter of time before someone gets hurt. The exploder is often unpredictable and no one really knows what will set him off.
People that live with expoders are often hyper vigilant, wondering when it is a safe time to do something or bring something up. They often have self-esteem problems and think the exploder might be right in treating them the way they do.
Blamers blow up at people and use intimidation to get what they want in life. They might break things. They might fly off the handle at small things or keep bringing up old grievances. They need to be the boss. They are afraid of getting close to others. They can’t stand to be wrong and don’t know how to communicate calmly when they are angry.
Displaced and distorted anger often causes:
aggressive/overactive sexual activity
violent dreams/misfortune to others
identify self as aggressive
over sweet “nice guy”
subtle sabotage to others
Unhealthy Anger Components:
denying, disguising, prettying up
difficulty/guilt accepting anger
rationalizes, justifies all the time
delayed response-suppressed or diluted
not intense enough
long lasting and corrosive anger
pursuit of perfection
physical ailment/over working
Safe ways to use up anger:
Expressing anger directly:
Write an angry letter. Keep it for a week and then burn it, bury it, or shred it up releasing the anger as you destroy the letter.
Write the person’s name in big letters on a piece of paper and then rip the paper to shreds as quickly as possible releasing the anger as you destroy the paper.
Write the person’s name on the bottom of your shoe and grind the name into the floor with every step you take until the energy is released and you feel better.
Go to a closed room and yell, scream, cry, or beat your pillow until the energy is released and you feel better.
Go to the gym and exercise. Imagine the punching bag as the source of your anger and let go of it wit each punch. Let the energy out and you will feel better.
Pick up the phone and dial the person that you are angry with. When they answer the phone disconnect the phone but continue talking into it about what you are mad about. Often hearing the other person’s voice will help provoke your anger and you can release it completely.
Imagine the other person is sitting in a chair in front of you and really tell them off. Let them know exactly how you feel. Then sit in the chair and pretend to hear their response or lame excuse. Finally, stand back up and really discredit them. Tell them how they are completely wrong.
Split wood, clean the attic, clean the garage, paint the house and scrub the floor. When you are exhausted you will have a feeling of being purified.
Take a walk in the cool air or take a cold shower.
Ridiculous imagery. Imagine them in a rubber duck suit or something.
Don’t blame your anger on another person. Only you can make you feel angry.
Express your angry feelings honestly and assertively so that no one is hurt in the process.
Don’t put the other person on the defensive if possible.
Use “I” statements so others don’t feel attacked.
“I am getting angry.”
“I am getting very upset.”
“I really don’t like what you are doing.”
“I get mad when you do that.”
“I get angry when you are fifteen minutes late every time we get together. I would really appreciate your being on time from now on.”
Dealing with the anger of others
The louder and more angry they become the quieter and calmer you should try to become.
Problem solvers can admit they are angry and then look at why they are angry. They put thinking between their feelings and their behavior. They use their anger creatively to solve the problem or to make needed changes. If they can’t use their anger to solve the problem they will express the anger safely and then let it go. People around problem solvers feel safe and learn to make their own anger work for them.
Be aware of and in touch with your own anger.
Admit your anger to yourself and to others.
Accept your anger as a natural thing.
Think about your anger later. It is all right to be wrong.
Express your anger when you feel it. Don’t let it build up.
Only get real mad over important things.
Don’t make mountains out of molehills.
Try to use your anger constructively.
Your anger is energy, express all of it. You will feel better and clean.
Learn to speak up when you are angry. It is your right to have angry feelings and to get angry when something is not right. Let the other person know that you are angry.
Fighting between husbands and wives is natural. So is fighting between parents and children. Don’t be ashamed of fighting.
If someone is angry respect his or her right to be angry. Don’t be afraid or run away. Don’t tease them or make them feel worse.
Listen to what the angry person is saying to you and make sure you understand.
Be certain the reason you are fighting is a good one. Attack the behavior or problem and not the person.
Don’t attack the other person. Attacking the other person will hurt and make them more defensive and harder to reach.
Learn to recognize when you are letting off steam. Learn when the other person is letting off steam. Don’t get into a fight unless you need to. Don’t take things so personal.
Don’t keep reminding people of how bad they have been to you.
Don’t say things you can’t take back, things shared in trust or past mistakes.
Don’t fight or try to solve problems when you are tired, hungry, drunk or unstable.
Be able to admit to the other person that you are wrong when you are wrong even if saying so will be embarrassing or painful. It is needed for personal growth.
Study your anger. Make a list of the things that make you angry.
Visualize yourself in the same room with the person you are angry with. Write down what you would tell them.
Choose a time to talk with the other person that is good for both of you. Maintain eye contact and keep a calm voice when talking.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Let yourself be wrong some of the time.
Avoid blaming, attacking or bringing up old problems.
Use “I” statements.
Can this situation be changed or avoided in the future? What has been learned?
Remember you can’t control how other people will act but you can control how you respond.
Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or slowly counting to 20. Focus on a peaceful place or thought.
Use positive self-talk. I’m angry but I can leave it and get on with my job or my life.
Know your limits. Seek counseling if anger continues to be a big problem in your life.
Importance of recognizing anger and owning it:
All pleasure and happiness are expressed through emotions.
Negative emotions are a warning that something is not right and we are acting contrary to our well being, happiness and true nature.
We must accept sole responsibility for our anger, for understanding it and dealing honestly with reality.
By working through anger we develop competence and gain self-esteem.
Emotions are natural. Only actions can be right or wrong.
Recognize your own mood swings and take responsibility for them. Tell others you are not in a good mood and maintain a low profile.
Remember it is your resistance to what “IS” that is causing your anger.
If you are angry with any part of your life your beliefs must change because a belief or expectation is not in accord with reality.
Your mind will refuse a boring life and create a crisis unless you create something more exciting instead.
We get angry when we want things to stay the same. All things change. We must befriend change.
We act upon what we believe. The consequence of our actions is reality.
Using anger creatively or constructively:
Dealing with anger:
Learn to recognize feelings of anger. Accept them. Everyone feels angry at times. It’s ok to feel angry.
Explore why you are angry with someone else.
Explore when you are angry for no apparent reason and try to discover the hidden reason certain behaviors make you angry. You may be “over reacting” because of something that happened in the past.
Find alternatives. Are your expectations realistic?
Risks involved in expressing anger:
Fear of rejection
Fear of losing control
Fear of being counter attacked
Fear of hurting others
Fear of being hurt by others
Fear of repeating bad experiences
Fear that the anger is not acceptable to others
Fear of feeling guilty after expressing anger
Fear that others will see us as weak if we express anger
Understand what anger habits and patterns prevent you from getting what you want in life.
Don’t waste energy on things you can’t change.
Focus on things you can change, not on other people.
Do something you can get excited and feel joy about.
Your viewpoint determines if your life is hostile or pleasant.
Is the glass half empty or half full?
Many people work best in a well defined, structured environment in which expectations are clear. There is not a lot of uncertainty.
Don’t tease or mock people when they are angry.
Give frequent compliments to others when they do a job well.
Be matter of fact when correcting others. Don’t rub it in.