By: Michell Stanley, LICSW, ACC, RYT
Anger can be both a useful and harmful emotion. In some cases, we are angry because of specific situations like being stuck in highway traffic; however in other occasions anger may hide an underlying desire which is the opposite of what you express.
While anger may seem like an emotion we should all strive to avoid, it can actually be helpful when understood. Learning to inquire and understand what is underneath anger, can help you better understand your needs and meaningfully connect with others.
Keep reading to find out how to use your anger to understand yourself better!
“Imagine you are circling a crowded parking lot when, just as you spot a space, another driver races ahead and takes it. Easy to imagine the rage. But now imagine that instead of another driver, a cow has lumbered into that parking space and settled down. The anger dissolves into bemusement. What really changed? — You” -Leonard Scheff
1. Understand what anger is.
Anger is a normal emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. It’s a natural response to feeling threatened, frustrated, or helpless. When these feelings become overwhelming, they can lead to angry outbursts.
The different types of anger that people may experience include:
Passive anger: This type of anger is characterized by feelings of resentment or bitterness. It may be directed at oneself or others.
Aggressive anger: This type of anger is characterized by aggressive behaviors, such as yelling or violence.
Displaced anger: This type of anger occurs when someone takes out their frustrations on someone else, often in an unrelated situation.
Suppressed anger: This type of anger occurs when someone tries to bottle up their feelings of anger instead of dealing with them in a healthy way.
2. Identify the signs of anger.
There are both physical and emotional signs of anger. Physical signs may include clenched fists, tightness in the chest, and increased heart rate. Emotional signs may include irritability, frustration, and feeling out of control.
3. Understand what triggers your anger.
Anger can be triggered by a variety of things, including stress, personal problems, and even environmental factors. If you find yourself getting angry frequently, it may be helpful to keep a journal to track your triggers and how you respond to them.
4. Feel anger without becoming anger
When we experience a wrong, it’s natural that our first reaction is anger. Anger is a natural reaction that provides a temporary relief from hurt feelings. There’s a reason why kids feel better after they throw a temper tantrum. If you have the temptation to unleash or explode on someone, consider if there are creative (or non-harmful ways) to express anger. Such as screaming in your car by yourself, trying to push a big tree over or vigorous exercise, can physically release anger out of your body.
5. Look Under the Veil
Anger can be a protective emotion because it masks other feelings. Underneath anger is often an unmet need or a silent demand. Take time to make a list of any silent demands or unmet needs you have in regards to a situation or relationship.
6. Take Responsibility
Anger serves as an invitation to refine or establish boundaries to protect you from getting repetitively hurt from patterns you can be responsible for influencing or shifting. Sometimes, anger stays around until the role it serves is satisfied.
7. Find healthy ways to cope with your anger.
There are many healthy ways to deal with anger, such as talking to a friend or family member, writing down your thoughts in a journal, or taking some time for yourself to relax and de-stress. It’s important to find what works best for you and to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol or using drugs.
If you want to discover and dive deeper into overcoming emotional obstacles (like anger). Join me, Sonja Favaloro and Afa Alizada in our Journey into Forgiveness beginning in a few weeks. I will hope to see you all there!
Psychotherapy alleviates symptoms of emotional distress (such as anxiety or depression). As a holistic psychotherapist and a life coach, I use life coaching and psychology to help couples to be more intentional in their communication so that they can evolve through conflict and enhance connection.