Don’t shy away from the issues your anger is trying to bring into focus! Address and express this emotion for positive change, starting with these four transformative tips
From Bruce Banner’s “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” alter ego to Taz the Tasmanian devil’s destructive rage, anger is often portrayed as a ‘negative’ emotion we should be ashamed of, and must try to hide at all costs. But really, what are we so afraid of?
Every emotion has the ability to teach us something about ourselves, how we’re really feeling, and whether there’s something wrong that we need to address. So rather than shying away from our rage, it’s time we accept it – perhaps, like ‘the Hulk’, it could even become our superpower.
In reality, anger encompasses so many varied feelings, and experiencing it could signify that we feel threatened and endangered, or perhaps it’s tinged with envy, bubbling frustration, or a feeling of injustice. By exploring what our anger really means and expressing it in a healthy way, it could be harnessed as a force for good, helping to reduce our stress, and empowering us…
Start with curiosity
Imagine an iceberg; 90% of it is under the water, out of sight. This can be a great metaphor for exploring our emotions. Think of anger as just the tip of that iceberg; a secondary emotion and the part we show, as therapist Beverley Hills explains in Counselling Directory’s short film ‘What is Anger Management Therapy?’
“There’s a train of thought that anger is bad,” Beverley notes. “That we must control and manage it. Actually, we must incorporate it, we must recognise whether it’s a good or a negative anger and the why behind it, so that anger becomes part of our repertoire, and not all of our repertoire of emotions.”
So let’s start there. Get curious about what’s going on underneath the surface. What’s brought you to this state? Why are you here? What could your anger be trying to tell you?
Drill down into your anger
Anger is one word that covers so many feelings, the scale of which can actually range from annoyance to frustration, bitterness to injustice. To really understand the various emotions we encompass and reduce to ‘anger’, it could be worth searching online for a ‘wheel of emotions’ diagram, which reveals a full spectrum of feelings. Use this as inspiration to write down the words that resonate with you and your current state. Let down? Humiliated? Resentful? Bitter? Mad? Aggressive? Frustrated? Get granular with the description of your anger. It will help to shed further light on the source of the issue.
Take a piece of paper and write ‘I am angry because…’ and then fill in the blank space. Every time you finish a sentence, add ‘because’ and continue to write, until you feel you have everything out of your mind and onto the page in front of you.
For example: I am angry because I’m overwhelmed and have no time for anything I need personally, because I’m working full-time and looking after the house and family, because I get no support with domestic chores, because everyone knows that I will do them, because I always do, because I can’t rely on anyone else to think of what needs to happen to keep life running smoothly, because when I have done in the past, I’ve been let down.
Re-read what you’ve written and start a new section with: ‘I will change this anger to action by…’ Every time you finish a sentence add ‘then I will’ until you’ve run out of steam!
I will change this anger to action by sharing that I am overwhelmed and need some time of my own, then I will ask each member of the family to volunteer to take on one thing I am doing instead, then I will trust them to do it, and then I will book the appointments that I need to keep me healthy, mentally and physically.
This exercise could be illuminating and hopefully, it will provide you with an action plan.
Scream, shout, let it out!!
Anger that remains unacknowledged can build to a point where it will inadvertently spill out into unproductive interactions. But you have the power to change that. Because anger has a physiological reaction in the body, a physical release can be helpful. The fight or flight response in us can lead to an increased heart rate, faster breathing, and neurotransmitters called catecholamines releasing, which can give us that feeling of a ‘burst of energy’. Your muscles might feel more tense, as you prepare for action and adrenaline kicks in, so letting this energy out physically can help.
Find yourself a safe space away from others, and let your anger out. You could beat a pillow with your fists while shouting and swearing, listen to loud music and go for a power walk, or write a letter to the issue that provoked the anger, then tear it up. Dispersing angry energy – safely – is a good thing.
If your feelings of anger are prolonged, or are negatively affecting you or those around you, visit the Counselling Directory for help and information.