Many of us were taught that anger is a bad thing and not to be angry. However, it is an emotion like any other. It is every bit as real as pain, fear, or love and joy. Most of us wouldn’t ignore or deny love or joy, and why is it that we are taught to push aside or buried anger?
Anger is a potent emotion and does have the possibility to be very destructive. It needs to be honoured and acknowledged in a manner that promotes growth, productivity and healing, and when it’s time to let go. Our anger can tell us more about who we are, how we feel, and guide us to know ourselves more in-depth.
“Anger is our guide, it a tool for us to utilize and to get to know ourselves better. It is not meant to take over our actions and rule us, but rather to reveal to us; who we are and where we stand.”
– Aimee Pugao
When we feel our anger rising, it indicates that the situation is vital to us and to dive further into the feeling and tell us about ourselves. It is our anger, and we need to acknowledge, understand the origin, and take ownership of our emotions.
Boundaries are personal parameters on where we stand regarding what we will tolerate from other people’s words or behaviours. When anger arises, it can mean that our boundaries are being violated, and we need to stand up to protect ourselves and implement a boundary. There are emotional or mental boundaries, such as sacrificing our own needs to please another, or feel like we are being manipulated, or forced to share when we aren’t comfortable. There are physical boundaries, like not liking when someone is in our personal space or being touched in a way we feel is inappropriate. There are other boundaries, such as defending our time and material boundaries, such as wanting others to be careful with our material possessions. Everyone’s boundaries are different and change with experiences and life stages.
We can use anger as a catalyst to get motivated moving, but other emotions help fuel the cause that is much more beneficial to have a clear presence and are more objective.
We might feel angry when we feel continuously dismissed, misunderstood, ignored, or disrespected. This is when our frustration morphs into anger. It could be because we cannot communicate our needs clearly and assertively or that the other party or parties refuse to listen and acknowledge us.
Our emotions are connected to our core values. This includes characteristics such as dependability, consistency, loyalty, commitment, honesty, etc. Anger can be an indication that one of our values has been compromised. We may feel that our close confidant has been disloyal and dishonest with us.
If our anger is beyond what the situation calls, perhaps we are projecting our past hurt and pain. When we stop ourselves from feeling our emotions in real-time, it prevents us from processing them. Our unintegrated feelings manifest as an emotional trigger. When events happen that remind us of the original experience (even if we are unaware of it), it sparks an intense emotional reaction.
Anger is very much part of the healing process. When we express it productively, it dissipates rather than morphing into an emotional trigger. Anger can guide us to our triggers and what we need to work through.
There are benefits to anger and honouring how we feel generally, but there are also drawbacks if we stay in the emotion too long.
Anger is a very intense emotion that can be a slippery slope to long-term negative effects on our emotional well-being, relationship with ourselves and others, as well as our physical health.
When we harbour anger, it can lead to long-standing resentment and harbouring pain. We deny ourselves the space for healing, forgiveness, and to express who we really are. When we stay in anger, it may even become part of our identity, and there isn’t a day when we don’t get upset at something or someone. We may even push people away unnecessarily, weakening friendships and our social support network.
When we harbour anger, it can lead to stress and manifest in our physical body. The physiological effects can be harmful since our body reacts much the same way it does when experiencing any other stress reaction. Taking a defensive stance and preparing ourselves for the danger (fight-flight-freeze response). When anger is intense and frequent, we become prone to any or all stress-related illnesses and disorders.
There’s also a correlation between hostile individuals and the frequency of engaging in destructive health behaviours such as smoking, drinking, and overeating. All of which can have negative effects on our physical health.
There’s a time and place for anger. Holding onto anger during the initial stages of the healing process is very normal. The emotion of anger will never disappear, but if we hold onto it as we heal, it will no longer serve us. Eventually, we want to get to a place where things will still anger us, but we won’t linger on them, we are not consumed by the emotion, and we respond without reacting.
When we are angry, our body becomes tense. Take at least three deep breaths. Breathing deeply will ease the tension and naturally calm how we feel as we focus our attention on our breathing.
We can temporarily remove ourselves from a heated situation by going to another room or taking a short walk outside.
If we cannot change our environment, we can get into our body through physical movement such as jumping jacks, dancing, burpees, etc. This will allow us to calm ourselves as we focus on the physical movement.
Track down the clues about the events, situations, responses, and people that elicit our anger. Anger often masks our deepest fears and pains. Avoid issuing blame on others, but rather take ownership. When we blame or divert our emotions onto other people, we give our power away. We become at the whim of other people to control our emotions and our reactions. It’s our anger and does not belong to anyone else. We can only change ourselves and our responses to others, not what others do to us. Let’s ask ourselves:
There’s nothing wrong with our anger; we need to allow space for it productively and safely for us and those around us. Our anger is a guide to show us where we can heal and grow. Once we are calm, and we have analyzed the situation. We can ask ourselves:
We want to be in a state where our emotions are no longer heightened. Can we express ourselves assertively and effectively by stating:
We can choose to express ourselves and speak up, or we can choose to let the conflict go without voicing our concerns to the other party. We have to determine whether the person or people involved in the event or situation can have a conversation that will provide openness, love, comfort, appreciation, or compassion in a healing way. Sometimes the answer is YES; they are capable and open. However, sometimes the answer is NO; they will get defensive, blame, divert, avoid, or become abusive. If we don’t know, and we can take the chance to express ourselves in a non-confrontational manner.
We cannot control other people’s reactions, no matter how loving and open we are. We can only control ourselves and our response.
When we pay attention to our anger’s root cause, we honour the message it’s telling us about who we are, where we stand, and how to manage future situations when they present themselves. When we feel we can handle our emotions effectively, the intensity of our anger dissipates.
Pessimism is the tendency towards negative thinking and to focus on negative outcomes. When we are pessimistic we are inclined to see the detrimental aspect of a situation, a person, or an event.
Forgiveness and letting go of resentment, pain and perhaps thoughts of revenge. It is a decision we make to be at peace. We can decide to no longer let someone else’s actions impact how we feel about ourselves or the injustice we experienced.