Anger. This emotion is so often disregarded. We disregard another person’s anger or we disregard our own anger. We can try to do anything to avoid another person’s anger or avoid our own anger. We can try to convince ourselves that the time we yelled or treated someone horribly, that we had good reason.
This article will give you one path to truly let go of your anger. I’ll be giving you 3 steps, and sorry, you can’t skip the first 2 and jump to number three, even though you might be tempted. Emotions need to be felt before they are met with reason. As someone once said,
“No one in the history of being told to calm down, has ever calmed down”.
The Pendulum of Anger
Anger can make us really uncomfortable. We are told, “Get over it”, “Let it go”, “What’s the point in being angry? It doesn’t change anything”.
We can be told that our horrible actions were justified because another person “had it coming”.
What Do We Do With Anger?
The remedy to anger is to:
1) Acknowledge your anger
2) Feel your anger in a way that suits your personality, and
3) Reflect on what about the situation made you angry.
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Anger
This is the unfiltered part of what is making you angry, even if it’s “irrational”. “I hate the way that person looked at me.” “That person is being an asshole.” And all the softer or louder interpretations of those words.
The goal is not to say these words to person who triggered you. It’s to either say these words out loud (e.g. in the bathroom, while walking, or in your head, whichever approach suits the situation you’re in.
Step 2: Feel Your Anger In a Way that Suits Your Personality
Sometimes a loud person thinks they need to show their anger more quietly and a quiet person thinks they need to express their anger loudly. If you want to try either of those on, go ahead, but there is not one best way to express your anger.
That being said, it is always your responsibility not to take your anger out on another person.
So where can you express your anger in a respectful way?
There are an infinite number of ways to express anger, the adventure is finding out what is most suited to your personality. It can be saying it your head while you feel the anger. It can be going for a run and screaming in the forest. It can be shouting in your car with the music on. It can be daring to put it onto paper and ripping it up. It can be taking out the energy of that anger into a sport you play.
What feels right to you? Experiment with different options.
Step 3: Reflect on What About the Situation Made You Angry
We can’t move on until we have owned and felt our often long-repressed anger. We need to get curious about where our anger comes from. Are we projecting child-hood frustrations and problems onto the people around us? Are we minimizing our feelings because we’ve been taught that our feelings aren’t important?
Do you have the tendency to blame when you feel anger?
Do you have the tendency to take responsibility for other people’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviours?
Both of these tendencies are LEARNED from somewhere. If we can realize the source of our reactions, this gives us insight when another similar situation occurs and the chance to respond differently. Maybe you’ve under-reacted to situations where you could have set boundaries. Maybe you’ve over-reacted to situations that were a little too close to home.
Compassion, Not Perfection
Anger is a misunderstood emotion in our society, so it can take time to change a habit that has often been engrained for years if not decades. So if you catch yourself in another situation and you respond the same you’ve always responded, pause and show yourself some compassion. “Of course I reacted that way, that’s really not too surprising because I’ve responded that way for decades! Next time I’ll try again”.
After giving yourself compassion, reflect on what you need to do.
Do you need to apologize if you have treated a person poorly? Notice if you want to blame your angry behaviour on someone else.
Notice if you want to blame someone else’s angry behaviour on yourself. Do you need to make an intentional choice NOT to apologize? Consider ways to set a boundary with that person.
As always, when you stuck or overwhelmed by a situation or an emotion, it’s good to seek support from someone who is compassionate, honest, and encouraging.
What have you found to be the best way to help you with your anger?
- If you want a few more curious questions to help you with Step #3 (What about the situation made me angry) OR you’re a parent and want to explore how to support your child’s anger, here’s a previous blog I wrote Anger What Is It Good For? A quick tip is to notice your tendency to problem-solve, and try validating. “I can guess why you would be angry about that” AND give them 3 reasons why you think they might be angry. The goal is not to be accurate or even agree with why they might be angry. The goal is to connect with that person and show them you care about them. Acknowledged anger diffuses it.
- The book The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner is an excellent read for anyone exploring their own response to anger. It is written with the lens of supporting women, but it’s really a book for anyone.