I have my own history with anger, a history that includes not being angry, that anger was selfish, that it was mean and cruel, that anger excused unacceptable actions and accountability. That when someone was angry “at” me I must have done something wrong. I also believed that angry needed a clear cause and that my own anger was because another was wrong.
I share this not to indulge myself but because I have seen variants of this in my clients and feel sharing my own is more authentic when available, than sharing others.
Anger has many connotations, depending on our experience of it. If anger was dangerous to us growing up then it is likely we will see anger as dangerous as adults, avoiding conflict or attacking first to give two examples. If anger was unacceptable and not expressed within our family of origin, we may learn to suppress it, shame it or deny it, allowing it to leak in a hundred different ways.
If we took the peacekeeper role, we may see anger as defying our success, if we took the hero role we may see anger as a tool to control others, if we took the lost child role we may disappear when conflict arises or if we took the scapegoat role we may act in a way that invites anger to be projected onto us. We may also do a hundred other things, for a hundred other reasons but they will all be from our developmental years and our relationship history with anger.
Anger is like any other emotion, as we get older our ability to self-regulate and our responsibility to do so increases. We can no longer throw tantrums on the floor of the supermarket because we want the toy. However, there are many of us, who do not know what to do with our anger in our adulthood, ours or others and so metaphorically speaking find other ways to throw our toys out of the pram and react to others anger.
Often anger is used to control people, when we are angry and acting it out but not discussing our needs, we leave others confused and often scrambling to resolve a situation, that we alone hold the key for.
People do stupid things all the time, we get hurt, we hurt others and often when anger presents we regress to our unconscious or limited ways of managing it, feeling consumed or powerless to the power of emotion often like we did when we were younger.
However, the emotion is only overwhelming us because we are not listening to its needs and relating to ourselves about its information in the now. We project it and blame others for it or possibly shame ourselves for being angry which gives us no responsibility for our anger and yet keeps us entangled in it.
Ultimately we are saying, my anger is your fault and I have no role within it. Which is never true. Our emotions can be triggered by others but they always belong to us and are our responsibility to regulate and honour.
Anger is as a healthy as love, used correctly. Used incorrectly much like love, it becomes damaging.
A few questions to review your relationship with anger:
- When you think of anger what words and judgement come to mind?
- What feeling do you have when others are angry “at” you?
- When you are angry how do you manage it?
- What good things have come of anger in your life or the world?
A few tips to support self regulation when angry
- Validate your feelings without condemning or vilifying the person triggering them. An example is “I feel angry because when this happened I felt …. and I would have preferred/need … to happen in future”
- Ask yourself, why does this hold so much meaning/power for me? (Consider what meaning you may have attached, consider your own history with this type of behaviour)
- What boundary is crossed? (What isn’t ok for me about what happened? Is it my stuff or has this person crossed a line that needs restoring for the relationship to continue resentment free?”
- How can I explain my anger and reinstate the boundary? (What am I responsible for doing with my anger and clarity now?)
Too often anger gets a bads rep and people consciously or unconsciously wish to suppress or deny it. People are also afraid of getting caught in it, if we take responsibility for our experience of anger and its information we will pass through the anger at the right time. However if we suppress or deny it then we will build resentments and find ourselves enmeshed with unprocessed anger every time we have a present day experience of anger.
If anger is something that catches you, your anger or others then it is a good point to work at deepening your relationship with yourself and moving forward. I see it as an invitation, not a problem.
Originally published at www.silewalsh.com.