Anger is natural. It is simply an emotion that is evoked when our psyche believes an injustice or unfairness has been done. It happens when we believe we have lost something that we wanted to keep or when we feel like we have been victimized someway. Anger is an incredibly strong emotion and is not easy to manage; but it is absolutely possible to manage.
Why is managing anger something we would want to do? Anger has a powerful energy behind it. It is a fiery energy that can quickly grow so large that it prompts action which is usually impulsive and destructive. Anger held internally affects the body and mind in a negative way as well. Stress caused by hidden anger creates illness, , and blocks clear thinking. Out of control anger creates pain to ourselves and others. Suppressed anger does as well.
Abuse is a direct result of both uncontrolled and suppressed anger. Abusers often feel the need to control others and when they perceive the other person as stepping out of line, they lose control. They get angry and lash out in an attempt to bring things back to where they are “in control”. They take their own latent, suppressed anger at themselves and turn it outward towards their victim. Uncontrolled and suppressed anger is the greatest danger of being human. We can not stop anger from happening completely, it is a natural emotional response, but we are wise to recognize it for what it is (an emotion) and not let it take control.
You’re Responsible for Your Anger
To put this into an easier framework, consider the point of view that anger is nothing more than an emotional reaction to a belief. If I believe you have taken something from me unfairly, or I believe you have lied to me, it triggers my values of integrity and honesty. My first and natural reaction is anger. However, it is my responsibility as a compassionate, evolving human to realize that no matter what you have or have not done, my response to my emotional reaction to the belief I am holding is completely my responsibility. This is the difference between reaction and response. Reactions happen quickly and without enlightened thought. They are like reflexes. A Response, however, is what you choose to think, say or do and that choice means you have identified your emotion, your initial reaction and then thought about how you want to respond. A healthy response is purposeful, thoughtful and has the desired result in mind BEFORE an action takes place. It keeps you in control instead of your anger reaction.
Managing Anger in a Healthy Way
So what kinds of things do we do to manage anger in a healthier way?
1) Become aware of what it feels like when anger happens in you. Do you feel your heart race? Do your thoughts start to race? Do you get tense? What thoughts start to happen? Identify any victim thinking that gives your power away to someone else. Remind yourself that you get to choose your response. Nobody can “make you” do or say anything that isn’t in alignment with who you want to be.
2) Once you have centered yourself in your own power of choice, choose the words you want to use in order to communicate your experience. Do not suppress or stuff your emotions down – they are there for a reason and you have every right to be heard. Choose words that express your experience without creating a victim or blame setting story. Express yourself without yelling or name calling. You are in control of the choices you make and the response you choose. It is a powerful place to be.
3) If the high energy of anger still isn’t lessening enough to help you maintain; use a physical release to move the energy through. Go for a walk. Workout. Clean the house. Do something to help your body process the cortisol and other energy producing hormones that get released when we are emotionally triggered with anger. Understand that the energy surge you are feeling is chemical and you can do something to help your body manage it. You do not need to express it through rage and certainly not by causing physical or emotional harm to others or yourself. Choose to help yourself.
According to Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (one of my favorite thought leaders), “when you find yourself in a fury, the person you perceive as causing it is your greatest teacher at that moment. That person is teaching you that you have not yet mastered yourself, that you still do not know how to choose peace as that button is being pushed. When you feel something like anger, practice mustering up the courage to say how you feel without being abusive or loud. You will see that communicating rather that stifling yourself will end the rage almost immediately.”
Try it. It takes practice, but it is worth it. Nothing kills love as quickly as uncontrolled and suppressed anger. Anger happens. What you do with it matters. If you aren’t managing anger in your relationship, find someone who can help.