Anger is an emotion that can be difficult to deal with. Sometimes it’s experienced as a fleeting annoyance while other times it consumes our bodies with a burning rage. Anger is a natural human emotion, and it happens to everybody, whether we openly express it or not. The problem is not that we have anger. How we process anger determines whether it becomes a tool for self healing or a weapon of destruction.
Anger is a wave of energy. It is not who we are (as in “I am an angry person”). Instead it is an emotion that is visiting for a short while — unless we decide to hold onto it. If anger is acknowledged and released in healthy ways, it can lead to deeper feelings of love. If anger is welcomed as it occurs and seen for what it really is, it will pass. However, not dealing directly with anger can lead to subtle forms of anger that can last for days or even years. These subtle forms of anger may include resentment, impatience, chronic irritability, withdrawal, isolation, etc. Consistent prolonged levels of anger can affect health producing migraines, arthritis, and head, neck and shoulder problems. As with any suppressed emotion, unresolved anger can lead to self-soothing with comfort eating or other addictions.
One of the reasons anger can be so enigmatic is that many of us were not given permission to express this emotion while growing up. We were often told to go to our room or calm down. Some of us were taught to “stuff” emotions, especially anger. Children often learn that the negative feelings aren’t real or shouldn’t be displayed. We are conditioned to pretend to be happy, nothing is wrong, smile pleasantly, be nice, and keep emotions hidden. Or we witnessed unacceptable, harmful expressions of anger and decided for ourselves that this is not how we would live our lives. The result is we grow up without knowledge or experience of how to cope with anger in healthy ways.
Not So Healthy Things to Do with Your Anger:
____ over eat / binge / bulimia / anorexia
____ compulsive exercise or pushing your body to fatigue
____ drinking and drugging
____ cutting or self-mutilation
____ sexual escape
____ withdrawal into silence or silent treatment
____ calm on the outside, steaming inside
____ ignore or deny the problem
____ avoid confrontation
____ abusive shouting/lashing out at others with angry or hateful words
____ physical aggression, throwing things at another person
____ internalize anger and frustration
____ dwell on intrusive negative thoughts
____ hypercritical self-thoughts
____seek revenge of punishment on another
____ dwell on how bad you have it
One method to deal with anger is to personalize it into a separate being. This allows you to see the energy of anger as separate from who you are. The following is a guideline for working with anger. The steps work best if done out loud because this brings out the internal dialogue of the mind so you can become conscious of what is really going on for you beneath the anger.
1. Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won’t allow connection with your feeling, and won’t allow movement to occur. Acknowledge that you have anger and take some time to feel it within your body. Decide not to run away from it. Thank the anger for being present. Allow for the ideas that even if you don’t understand your anger completely, somehow you felt threatened. Your anger is attempting to fight for you. Gratitude will melt resistance you have towards your own anger.
2. Give anger your unconditional acceptance. Commit to yourself that you will not judge, ignore, shame, reject, criticize, or punish yourself for having anger. It is allowable for you to have anger. Your experience is meaningful.
3. Share your desire to get to know your anger, why it is here, and what it wants for you. Anger is not your enemy. Anger indicates you are in pain, hurt, or fear. It’s very presence allows an opportunity to heal or open the doorway to greater love. Express your desire to know what experiences might be connected with this anger. Communicate with your anger in a way that you allow yourself to be its friend, and that your desire is to have it express itself to you.
4. Allow your anger, words, or memories to have a safe space to come out. As you listen to your anger, go beyond the surface and ask what you are feeling threatened by. Ask what you would need from yourself to feel even a little better. Notice the energy in your body, breathe into that energy, and allow it to expand until you feel a physical shift. Continue to remember anger is an experience, not who you are.
5. Recognize that beneath your anger, you felt threatened in some manner. Listen and be willing to understand what lives inside of you. Offer love to your anger and the tender place beneath your anger. This is the process of transformation. You don’t need to solve anything, rather you need to bring a loving presence to the hurt that lives beneath anger. Your job is to realize exactly what caused you to feel threatened, and now allow for new assertive, loving, and adult ways of dealing with that threat.
Dr. Annette Colby, RD can help you take the pain out of life, turn difficult emotions into joy, release stress, end emotional eating, and move beyond depression into an extraordinary life! Annette is the author of Your Highest Potential and has the unique ability to show you how to spark an amazing relationship with your life! Visit www.LovingMiracles.com
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