Has anyone ever told you that your anger can be a friend?
It’s easy to stigmatize anger because of its effects. We have all seen some of the hurt and resentment caused by unhealthy expressions of anger. Many of us know first hand the effects we have caused by things we have done or said in our anger.
But we can’t undermine the importance of anger and its healthy expression. Without anger, it would be difficult to find the motivation to do something about injustice. In fact, without anger, it could be difficult to know when our personal boundaries are crossed!
Anger is a complicated feeling, and it’s important to know why we feel it and how we can manage it.
In this article, we’re going to do exactly that. You’ll learn:
- What your anger is telling you
- The secret need your anger is pointing to
- What you can do to help regulate or manage your anger
Your anger is speaking – are you listening?
Your anger is almost always the result of something you’ve experienced internally or externally. As such, it can be a critical self-examination tool.
When, how, and where you become angry can tell you some important things about yourself. It can tell you what you’re afraid of and what you love.
Suppose you are passed over for a big promotion. You feel sadness, and perhaps a sense of shame. But you also likely feel deep anger. You worked hard for your company, and you felt you deserved this promotion. It makes no sense to be rejected!
As you realize your feelings, you may want to take a step back and ask, “Why am I feeling so upset about this?” The answer may surprise you. Maybe you wanted to surprise your family with a vacation that this promotion would have allowed you to afford. Maybe you wanted your colleagues to be impressed by you. Maybe you wanted to be able to afford a better lifestyle.
And on a deeper level, maybe you realize that you wanted to make your family happy because you feel guilty about how much time you’ve spent at the office. Or maybe you realize that your main source of identity has become success at your job. Or maybe you didn’t grow up with a lot of money, and you want to feel safe against hardship.
Not getting the promotion may make you feel disrespected, unvalued, worthless, unsafe, or not worthy of love.
Your anger often points to a threatened value. Learning to recognize this is a critical step towards managing your anger.
Your anger is asking you for something
Your anger may also point to a needed change. Perhaps someone has insulted you repeatedly – you may need to set boundaries or terminate the relationship.
Perhaps you feel emotionally short-changed by your partner, and you need to have a conversation with them about how their actions hurt you and your relationship.
Or, on a different scale, your anger may ask you to work towards political or economic change. Maybe you need to take action by signing a petition, calling your congressman, or joining an organization that supports your cause.
In all of these examples, your anger is asking you to do something. It’s an indication that action should be taken so that the status quo is changed. This can result in a healthier relationship with yourself, with others in your life, and with the political landscape you live in.
Anger can also be a response to unprocessed trauma. When we experience something traumatic, it can be so uncomfortable that our body and mind can’t or won’t make sense of it. When we experience something similar to the trauma-inducing moment, we can be re-triggered. We may be irrationally afraid. And we may become angry as a result.
(This is one reason why we do what we do! It can be a challenge to learn and connect with yourself and your anger, so professional guidance can be a real help.)
Manage your anger by practicing
Changing can be difficult. Perhaps you realize how your anger has hurt others or yourself. Or maybe you’re understanding that you need to change how you relate to a toxic or out of control person.
Start by envisioning the kind of relationship you want with yourself or with those around you. Is it peaceful? More productive? Less fearful?
Then, take steps to achieve that goal.
If you have realized your own anger is an issue, you may want to:
- Create a list of triggers and review them frequently. This will help you be more self-aware.
- Avoid the trigger altogether. Does traffic make you infuriated? Try leaving earlier for work.
- If you can’t avoid a trigger, make a plan. What will you do to recognize your anger? What will you do calm down in the moment?
One easy way to practice managing your anger is to make deep breathing a habit. Twice a day, take a one-minute break from what you’re doing and sit quietly in a chair. Inhale through your mouth as slowly as you can. Then exhale through your nose as slowly as you can. Do this several times over until your minute is up.
Remember, oxygen is an anxiety-killer! Breathing may be able to help you more than you think.
Making peace with your anger
Your anger is an indication of a deeper value or need. If you learn how to listen to it, you’ll be able to know yourself better and thus manage your anger better!
Practicing breathing exercises can help you feel in control when you feel angry, and it can help put you in touch with yourself.
Want to get reliable expertise about your anger? Reach out to us. We would love to help you find freedom and peace.