Can you remember the last time you got really angry? I’m not talking about the kind of anger you breathed out a few seconds after it welled up. I mean the kind that takes over your entire being. You know, the kind that makes you feel like you’re no longer the person directing your own body.
If the last time you felt this way was a long time ago… good for you 🙂 You either don’t have too much bothering you at the moment, or you’ve learnt to cope with anger really well.
If you didn’t have to think back to too long ago, or if you feel this way a lot of the time, let’s talk.
Anger is a fascinating emotion, really. It starts from deep within your body. It heats you all over. Your heart pounds, your teeth grit, your face tightens. You feel like you could burst out of your own skin.
Sometimes it actually feels good to lose control… to go with the anger. Do you remember a time you lost it? Just freaked out? What did you do? Did you break something? Hit someone? Punch a wall? Cut yourself?
I’ve always found anger to be a very beautiful emotion because it has a lot to say. When people act out we frown upon it because, let’s face it, it could be dangerous. But the irrational, irresponsible behaviour always says more than we see on the surface.
Anger usually arises as a response emotion. It’s so fast to raise it’s head, that we don’t even notice there’s a softer emotion being smothered beneath it. When we finally get anger to calm down, we usually find something like hurt or shame under there. These are vulnerable emotions that need more protection than anger does.
Why would I want to know what emotion is underneath all my angry moments? It’s hard enough coping with anger, I don’t want to have to deal with vulnerability too. I see your point. At the same time, in my experience in my work with anger, I usually find that when the emotion underneath is acknowledged, the anger dissipates.
What the hell are you talking about? Emotions underneath emotions? Anger as a response? Yes…anger is a response. It’s a response to people who make me fucking angry. Yes, you’re right. Anger does come about as a response to people doing things that we don’t like, and that’s okay. Everybody feels anger from time to time and that’s a good thing. Anger is our body’s way of letting us know that we’re not okay with something. But if you’re feeling angry a lot of the time and if it’s interfering with your relationships, your work, or your happiness, then you’ve got an issue to deal with.
I want to make one thing very clear. There’s nothing wrong with you if you experience a lot of anger, or even rage. You’re not a bad person. But if you want to live a happier life, or if you want to treat the people around you with more respect than you do when you have angry outbursts, then you have a responsibility to do something about it. You are not an “angry person”, maybe you’re going through an “angry time”. Maybe you think you know why, but you’re not quite sure. Maybe you know exactly why, but you don’t know how to stop the angry feelings. Maybe there’s someone in your life constantly pushing your buttons, provoking you, trapping you in a corner. All of these are valid reasons to speak to someone about the anger that you feel and to try to understand it better.
The way that we behave when anger takes over is ineffective to us getting what we really need. We’re not understood and we don’t end up feeling better. We usually just feel worse about ourselves and we do some damage to our relationships… sometimes, irreparable damage.
If this sounds like you, I really recommend finding a therapist you think you can click with and committing to working on your anger. In the meantime, here are some tips for you to work on with yourself:
- Become aware of your body when you feel angry. Notice the changes in it – the tightening, the heat, the energy, the rapid breathing. The more aware you are of the beginning of an angry outburst, the better chance you have of quelling it.
- Acknowledge your anger. “I’m angry.” “He’s invading my space and it’s making me angry.” “I feel like she’s trying to manipulate me, it’s making me angry”. Just say this to yourself. Your emotion needs to be recognised, and the first person who needs to recognise it, is you.
- Breathe. When we experience anger, our breathing usually becomes shorter and faster. Notice your breath and choose to take a longer inhale, and a conscious longer exhale. Do it again. Even if you’re mid-argument. Drown the sound of the other person out, and breathe.
- Ask yourself: “How can I take care of myself in this moment?” There is no point in losing it. As I said before, you won’t get what you need and you typically end up lonely and looking like the bad guy. So, what can you do to make sure you don’t lose it? Remember, this is your body. You have a choice. Anger doesn’t control you. You feel anger, it gives you information about the situation you’re in, but it doesn’t tell you what to do. You tell yourself what to do. So now that you’ve breathed slowly a few times, and your body is slightly calmer, do you think you need some time out? Do you want to go to another room and write in your journal? Do you want to go out for a walk or a jog? Maybe you need to sing? Or punch a punching bag? Whatever works for you. Just don’t sit down and turn the energy inwards. Get the anger out of you in a safe, responsible way.
- When you have a calm moment, let your loved ones know that you’re working on your anger and you need them to respect that. So, if you get into an argument with them and you know that you need time out, just tell them, “I need some time out.” It might not be the easiest thing for them to understand, but if you take the time and go back to them when you’re both calm, you’ll have a better chance of working things out, and they will learn to understand why you take the time out.
I’m wishing you luck in your journey of self-exploration. It’s not easy, but it’s so interesting and rewarding. Please comment below or send me a message if you have any questions. And please be sure to like and share this blog post, because you never know who it may help.