Have you noticed how anger's seen as the 'bad' emotion? The black sheep of the emotions family, shunned and only talked about in whispers.
I'm a massive fan of Pinterest (you are too? Great, let's connect!) and when I did a search for 'anger', I got a squillion memes and quotes talking about how bad anger is, how to stop being so angry, how pointless it is etc.
We deny experiencing it, we're frightened of it, we fear it, we consider it dangerous and we think it's a waste of time and achieves nothing.
Me? I find anger fascinating. Let me explain...
Okay, firstly, just to be clear here, I'm not talking about violence or aggression - violence and aggression are ALWAYS bad, and if you have anger management issues in this respect it'll spoil your life. Get help, because you can change, if you choose to.
What are emotions for?
Emotions are there for a reason; they help you make sense of the world, and if you listen to your emotions they will guide you through life.
When you recognise your emotions, you can use them to help or protect yourself. For example, if you feel fear, you can stop and assess the situation, and keep yourself safe.
Emotions can be separated into 4 types:
So if you deny your anger, you shut down 1/4 of all your emotions.
Well, THAT'S not good!
The anger spectrum
The reason we deny anger is the word conjures up the image of extreme anger: shouting, lack of control, saying nasty things - bad, scary stuff.
But as I said, anger is 1/4 of all emotions felt, so there must be more to it than that?
There's a whole spectrum of emotions that come under the 'anger' heading, from the mildest irritation to full blow fury.
So if you say you don't get angry, I say bullshit - of COURSE you get angry! But maybe you don't express it by ranting and shouting etc. Maybe you just seethe inwardly, causing yourself stress.
what causes anger?
You feel angry when there has been an injustice done, either to yourself or someone else.
It can be something trivial - someone has 15 items in their basket in an 8 items or less checkout and you're in a hurry.
It can be something damaging, like a scratch on your car or gossip that damages your reputation.
But when there's been an injustice done, the natural response is to feel anger.
If you don't express this anger, it'll turn inwards, causing stress:
- Emotionally: you feel angry, don't express it and either feel guilty for having bad feelings or get angry with yourself for not saying anything
- Physically: when you feel anger, it triggers the fight/flight response, and that causes a whole lot of physical changes which will cause health problems over time
The trick is to recognize when you're angry, why you're angry and learn to express it.
And no, that doesn't automatically mean shouting, confrontation and arguing, though an argument followed by de-briefing can be very healthy and increases intimacy in a relationship. (And by de-briefing, I mean talking it through after, not angry sex :) )
One of the best ways to start recognizing your anger and to work out how to express it is using a journal.
I recommend stressed or anxious clients (I'm a psychotherapist) start an anger journal to explore this.
It's great because it's a SAFE place to vent: You can rant, you can be bitchy, you can swear, you can let it all out and it's safe to do that.
It means you don't have to hold on to that anger and have conversations going around in your head about what happened and what you should have done or shouldn't have said when you're trying to sleep.
Then, when you've calmed down, you can work out:
a. Why you were really angry
b. What you want to do about it
(Take a look at 'How to start a journal', currently available on a pay What You Want basis.)
...because you see, the great thing about anger is, it brings about change.
So if someone keeps using your coffee at work without asking, you'll either lock it away, or say something, or suggest a coffee club - but you'll do something to make the situation change.
Or if your mother in law's criticism drives you crazy, the change might be an internal one, so the criticism rolls off like water off a ducks back (my guide 'How to deal with criticism' will help with this)
So today, I'd like you to think about what makes you angry, and how you deal with it.
Take a look at 'Understanding Anger part 2 - using anger for positive change'
And if you're aware of keeping your anger in, commit to an anger journal and allow yourself a safe place to express it.
If you need help to express your anger, I'd love to help! Just contact me and arrange a free 20 minute call without obligation to see how I can help.
It's easy to get in your own way when learning about yourself: you have blind spots, and the more soul searching you do and self help books you read, the more confused you get.
I work with people just like you, so contact me now to chat about your needs, without obligation