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How to Make Friends With Your Anger – Part 1

May 19, 2017

This needs to be said: Your anger is not negative or bad or destructive. Your anger does not need to be justified or defended. You don’t have to earn the right to be angry or receive approval about it from someone else. Your anger simply is.

 

There are a lot of reasons to be angry these days. From the way politics are playing out in our country to the increased number of people texting while driving on our shared highways, the injustices against Muslims, immigrants and the vulnerable in our society, the assault on our environment and its protections being chipped away, street violence and refugee conditions across the world…

Our anger may also be triggered by something a spouse does (or doesn’t) do, a child acting out, a colleague’s behavior towards us or social media interaction.

 

Our culture stereotypes and ridicules angry women. They are seen as bitches, irrational and unfeminine. A great example is what the media and political opponents did to shape perception about Hillary Clinton (whatever you think of her).

Additionally, there may have been someone in your life when you were young who was scary when angry. It is only natural to make adaptations in order to feel safe and believe that anger is dangerous, something to be controlled or suppressed.

 

Feeling angry does not have to mean anything about who you are. It is not a life sentence, a character distinction or anything permanent.

 

Another myth is that we can make someone angry. We can be responsive and take responsibility for our parts but nobody makes someone angry. You are not responsible for causing their feelings or what they do with them.

 

Personally, I have a hard time witnessing adults inappropriately blame their own anger on little children or threaten them with it (even when I have great compassion for the adult).

“Little Johnny, you made momma so angry by throwing your toys on the floor! It’s all your fault that I am so furious.”

“If you do that one more time, Lila, I am going to get so pissed at you!”

“If you don’t stop, I am going to tell your daddy and he will be so mad.”

No wonder we have anger issues in our culture when it is used to blame, shame, punish, coerce and control.
A reason that others may feel threatened by our anger is that it’s a call for change which can be uncomfortable or in direct opposition to what that person wants.

 

Anger is an emotion with a message. It tells us that a boundary has been crossed or needs to be protected, that something needs to be restored or that the status quo is harmful.

 

The next time you feel angry, ask yourself:
Where has there been a violation or a boundary crossed?
What needs to be protected or restored?

 

Anger may be a secondary emotion. Some psychologists and researchers categorize anger as one of the emotions that is likely layered like a protective cover over another emotion.

Most often, anger covers the more vulnerable feelings of hurt or sadness. Sadness is connected with letting go and we may need to use our anger to protect ourselves before doing the work of sadness.

 

Tears can accompany sadness. We know that they help carry away stress hormones for a cathartic effect. Anger seeks to use those stress hormones for action and change.

 

When you feel angry, especially if you notice an attachment to being right or justification of your perspective, try sensing if there is a deeper hurt or sadness beneath it or something more vulnerable that seeks being felt.

 

Beware of displaced anger. Common discomfort with anger has resulted in a lot of displaced anger. Not only is it not your job to carry someone else’s anger or take the blame for it (or likewise), but the inability to recognize what we are really angry about and feelings of helplessness can result in taking it out elsewhere as impatience, hypersensitivity, reactivity and in extreme circumstances as violence. This can be completely unconscious.

 

In situations where someone may not feel comfortable or safe expressing their needs, say to a boss, client or authority figure, they might over-react at home to a child running around or making a mess, snap at a partner or friend for being unsupportive or demonstrate aggression in the form of road rage.
Anger is rooted in love and care. While it’s true that reactivity and anger can be activated by stress, vulnerability and unmet needs in the form of neglect, the pure feeling is in relation to what we hold dear. Anger arises out of what we love or care about, our deepest needs and desires.

 

Either when you begin to feel angry or when you are not angry, identify what you love and care most about, what is important or at stake, your big why, what you hold sacred and defensible. This is your righteous anger from which healing and wholeness can be restored.

 

Consider this equation:
Righteous Anger + Fierce Love = Radical Action/Social Change/Transformation

 

In Part II of this series, I will share practical tools for becoming friends with your anger and techniques for damage control.

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