Anger is a dirty word where I come from.
It is a negative emotion, its almost dangerous and it certainly makes people feel uncomfortable.
And I agree—it’s all those things but it is also much more than that. I’ve learnt that if you listen to it, it can also be an amazing teacher.
I’m one of those people that has a cool and calm exterior. I am told repeatedly that I create an atmosphere of serenity and peace around me.
People come to me for advice and often look to me in times of stress. People confide in me. It is not cultivated and it is certainly not something I work at—it just seems to be part of who I am and what I emanate. Beneath the cool, calm and collected exterior is a whole word of emotion.
I come from a family and an environment where it was almost shameful to have a strong emotions—good or bad. I was told repeatedly from a very early age that I was either “too emotional” or “too sensitive “—really just “too” for anyone to handle me.
So I learnt as a child that this “too” was not acceptable nor was it a good thing. I decided in order to get through life without being being told off (which at the time was my main preoccupation), I was to stop this “too” business and just get on with fitting in. Problem was, that it just wasn’t me.
All that “too” was being pushed down and it piled up. Until of course it had to escape one way or another.
For me, the escape valve was depression—for others it may be violence, anxiety, drugs or alcohol. With time, I turned the non-expressed anger and emotion inward—I turned on myself. The anger, masked as depression, was a constant in my life and it was ever present.
Once it all got too much and I was triggered, I exploded on my loved ones.
I exploded on my boyfriends. On my friends. The anger scared me. It scared them.
Until one day, a very brave friend of mine held up a mirror and showed me how scary it was to be faced with that anger. I retreated into my shell. I was deeply ashamed. I was so embarrassed and I felt I could never show my face again.
Here I was 30 years later being “too” again. How shameful.
I asked myself, “How do I even begin to deal with this anger? How do I handle this shadow of mine? Can I even handle it?” I was ashamed but now aware of it and desperate to see if I could change something. Anything not to live with it anymore.
I read books about it, searched the internet for answers and even went on a course. I learnt that anger can be expressed or suppressed. Suppression clearly hadn’t worked for me. It no longer served its childhood purpose of fitting in. How then was I supposed to learn how to express anger in a positive way? I kept thinking, “Is there a way to have positive anger?”
The theory I learnt, was that I had to start to express the anger I had by making it clear what my needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. But that was the theory. How the hell do you put that into practice?
And this is what I learned. I found out that for me, it was and is about releasing the tension in a physical way. Because the alternative—relieving the tension with words—hurts. And doesn’t just hurt my loved one.
It hurts me.
When I do get angry and the red flags are raised, what happens to me is physical. There is a huge surge of energy that builds up and bubbles over to all the cells of my body. Some people see red and want to hit someone, collapse or even shut down. I feel like I could bench press a hundred kilos or take on Mike Tyson in a boxing ring—there is so much energy moving around my body.
I have learnt that as a first step, this energy needs a physical outlet.
So in my quest to find a solution I have found the following really helps me.
They are not miracle solutions by any means—because as you know there are never miracle solutions, but for me it is the start to managing that “too” feeling.
If you can, remove yourself from the situation that is angering you.
Go into another room. If you live in a small apartment like I do, grab a pillow and shout into it. If you are in the bedroom or in the living room, pound your fists into the bed or sofa while you are at it. Just like a child having a tantrum. Don’t stop until you are exhausted. Tantrum the anger out of yourself.
Shout in the car.
Drive to a place where no one can hear you and shout. Its a bit like shouting into a pillow, but as you can hear the sound, I find it more therapeutic. Cry and scream and shout. The sound has to come from the belly—deep and rumbling. If you shout from your throat you’ll just end up loosing your voice. Belly shout until you are exhausted.
Find a sport that releases the tension.
Boxing works for me. But running up and down the stairs the fastest you can also helps. The trick is to do this on a regular basis so that the tension doesn’t build up. Book yourself into a regular class and keep going to it.
Once it is released, the next (miraculous) step is the one of learning from the anger.
The precious moments where anger surges but you observe it for what it is without hitting back, that is where your life lesson begins.
The anger has pointed you in the direction of uncovering the pain that needs to escape. And when you have found your pain, you can work with it, explore it, acknowledge it and make friends with it.
That emotion then has a possibility to be released. That is the miracle of anger.
See. I told you. Anger can be an amazing teacher.
Author: Niki Parker
Editor: Sara Kärpänen