Anger has always been a difficult emotion.
When it starts, it often seems unstoppable—as if we are never going to feel calm again. But it is also one of the emotions we are most often shamed for feeling.
Anger can be damaging when we allow it to fire us up so that we say the things we know will hurt the person who has provoked us, but that we do not necessarily believe. The person on the receiving end doesn’t know that, however, so all they feel is our seemingly vindictive hate toward them.
This kind of unchecked anger and its wreckage can be irreparable. Daggers spat out in anger can chip away at our self-esteem, causing us to second guess ourselves at every corner.
Each of us experiences anger differently. Some people are easily angered and quick to react, some are simmering pots that build up into a boil, and others slowly let off steam as it shows up.
However we experience anger, we need to know that it is nothing to be ashamed of.
It is an emotion, one that we all have.
I’ll say it again: there is no shame in anger. The distinction is that shame comes when we weaponize anger and use it to hurt other people. It is okay to be angry, it is not okay to be cruel.
I wrote this article with one intention: to help you deal with your anger in a healthy way so that you cause as little devastation to your life as possible.
First there are a few things you should know about Anger.
1. Anger, like all emotions, comes in and out like the tide.
Huge crashing waves of anger come, causing devastation. In their wake is an eerily calm silence as it sinks back into the sea.
2. Anger is sadness’ bodyguard.
Behind every feeling of anger, is another feeling: sadness, loss, pain, regret, hurt, embarrassment, fear, shame, grief, overwhelm…you name it.
To avoid feeling these feelings, we get angry as the ultimate protection. It is important to know that while we are angry, we are actually sad or whatever other precise emotion. Focusing on the underlying feeling is helpful because it helps us to regain and feel in control.
3. It is easier to be angry at someone than it is to tell someone you are hurt.
Being hurt hurts. It is much easier to be angry and shout at others than it is to be vulnerable. Sometimes we aren’t given that space to explain, and that means we need some space to let the situation diffuse so we can come back from a place of vulnerability and calmness.
4. Shouting often gets us nowhere.
Getting angry doesn’t actually get us the things we want. Often, as soon as the energy rises and the shouting begins, people stop listening. Anger makes fools of us all by making us a little deaf. If we are in a heated argument, each party feels attacked and both feel the need to defend. So we dig our heels in and refuse to show compassion.
5. It’s helpful to understand the seven stages of anger.
There are seven stages to being angry and upon reading them, I am sure you can relate. It works a lot like the grieving process in the way that we move through the system until we reach acceptance.
>> Rage: Pure blinding uncontrolled rage.
>> Retaliation: You want to hurt them like they hurt you.
>> Resentment: You resent them for hurting you.
>> Resignation: It has happened now—there is nothing you can do about it.
>> Realism: Perspective, you realize that is wasn’t the earth-shattering debacle you thought it was.
>> Resolution: You find a way to come to terms with how you have been hurt and you begin to move on.
>> Release: You let go of those angry feelings toward someone.
6. Finally, compassion is the opposite of anger.
Practicing empathy and seeing how the other person is feeling helps us to not feel so attacked. It gives us the ability to understand that we aren’t the only ones hurt in a situation. Other people are hurting too, and by practicing compassion, we calm our anger and reach a solution.
Now that we know a little about anger, how do we make sure that we handle it in a mindful and aware way?
There are a few things that we can do when we are angry:
1. Walk away.
If you feel the anger rising into your mouth and about to burst out of your face, leave the situation, conversation, or location. Get away from who or whatever is triggering you to be angry and find a safe place to breathe and calm down.
2. Calm down.
Once you are safe, there are lots of things you can do to help yourself calm down. Normally meditation or workouts are the most common suggestions, but that never worked for me. If I am angry, I have no interest in working out.
3. “Work out” what the feeling underneath your anger is.
Is it sadness? Is it a hit to your pride? Loss? Pain? Embarrassment? Shame? Find out what your anger is defending.
4. Feel that feeling.
Feel your sadness, shame, loss, or pain, and breathe through it. Cry, express it, face it in whatever way you find yourself drawn to.
5. Own your anger.
You were angry; own it. Don’t blame it on other people; take responsibility. It is your job to calm yourself down, to fix what has been broken. No one is going to fix it for you anymore. Our parents used to put out our anger, but now we are responsible for controlling and managing it on our own.
6. Journal it out.
Everyone processes anger uniquely, but instead of saying all the things you want to say to a person, say it to the journal. Pen it out. Every rage-filled statement. Let it flow out of your head and into a safe space. Then do it again and again until you feel calmer.
7. Chat it out to a friend.
Once you feel calmer, chat to a trusted buddy about it and receive advice that comes from a good place of love.
8. Find a solution that is within your control.
It’s that simple. Remember to make it about you.
9. Face your problem when you are calm.
Write a little presentation with all the points you want to cover and explain why this hurt your feelings and how you can avoid this situation in the future. Then present it in a calm and orderly fashion so the person receiving it can actually hear you and has the chance to grow too.
10. Practice forgiveness and know that grudges aren’t healthy.
Don’t get me wrong, some people aren’t worth forgiving. But we forgive other people for ourselves, not because they deserve it. Forgive, but learn and don’t fall into that trap again.
11. Take care of yourself a little more.
If you are struggling and anger is defending you, it means you are struggling with sadness, loss, or any number of feelings. Take time to take care of yourself. Forcing yourself to move forward doesn’t help anything. It’ll only cause more problems down the line.
12. Think about what this experience has taught you.
Specifically, think about what it has taught you about yourself.
Did you uncover a new feeling or trigger or pattern of response?
Did you discover that you are in an unhealthy relationship with someone?
For every time you are angry, learn something new about yourself and your life.
I hope this process helps with your feelings of anger, whether they are everyday occurrences or are a rarity.
Always know that you shouldn’t take everything so personally. Most of the time, it is not about you. It is redirected aggression and you just happen to be in the firing line.