7 Critical Checkpoints for Your Anger

7 Critical Checkpoints for Your Anger

Humans are wired for anger. It’s an important part of our evolution. Anger tells us when something needs our attention, when we have an unmet need, or when something is missing. The problem with anger is in our mismanagement of it. And it can be incredibly destructive.


The best way to curb the destruction caused by anger and to use it more intelligently is to understand the feeling, to be curious about it. The more we understand our triggers and patterns, the more present we can be with our anger.


Start by identifying what activates it. Get a pen and paper and answer these questions.


What triggers your anger? (Here are some common ones)


-loud sounds

-having to wait (for someone, for something to happen)

-receiving critical feedback or being corrected


-when someone talks over or interrupts you

-being/feeling avoided

-being/feeling smothered

-being in conflict with someone


-inconsiderate actions/remarks


Then, start thinking about your pattern of anger. Once your wire is tripped, how do you react?


What’s your typical expression of anger?

-lashing out directly at someone, yelling, attacking

-passive aggression, withholding affection/love, trying to control someone using emotional manipulation/guilting, off-handed comments, gossip, isolating

-blame, resentment

-avoidance, defensiveness, stonewalling

-punishing, intimidating, judgment, criticizing, contempt, threatening, using ultimatums


-throwing things, breaking things

-physical violence

-broken promises


What’s it like for you when you engage any of these strategies? Does it get the job done/ get your needs met? At what cost? Do you like yourself when you use these strategies?  


What unmet need underlies your anger-trigger?

Here are some common needs that when unmet, cause us to feel anger:

-Feeling disrespected/ need to feel respected

-Feeling invalidated/ need to feel validated

-Feeling scared or unsafe/ need to feel safe

-Feeling abandoned (physically or emotionally)/ need to feel continuity of relationship or proximity

-Feeling or being out of control/ need to feel in control

-Feeling worthless/ need to feel worthy

-Feeling unlovable/ need to feel lovable

-Feeling inadequate/ need to feel adequate or good enough

-Feeling mistrusted/ need to feel trusted

-Feeling wronged/ need to be treated justly


When we stay caught in anger, we behave regrettably. We have no idea what our unmet need is. And we don’t even care; all we know is that something has pissed us off and whoever or whatever it is needs to pay. We can go so far off the rails that we forget we love the person with whom we’re angry. When we don’t know how our anger works and it just happens to us, we can’t catch it, pause, and redirect ourselves. Left uninvestigated, anger can kill or deeply wound any relationship.


It’s not easy to respond wisely to our anger. I know that. We run on the fumes of righteous indignation. We feel powerful when we yell or stonewall or manipulate or judge. We’re right, and they’re wrong. If the person really loved us, they wouldn’t do this. Given a choice between fully experiencing our vulnerability or a quick jolt of power, most of us would choose the quick jolt. But learning how to take care of ourselves, translate our anger, and address unmet needs is a much more satisfying, viable, and supportive power. This gives us the opportunity to connect on a deeper level and know true intimacy.


“When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.
When no true word can be said, or heard,
And you mirror each other in the script of hurt,
When even the silence has become raw and torn,
May you hear again an echo of your first music.
When the weave of affection starts to unravel
And anger begins to sear the ground between you,
Before this weather of grief invites
The black seed of bitterness to find root,
May your souls come to kiss.
Now is the time for one of you to be gracious,
To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt,
Reach out with sure hands
To take the chalice of your love,
And carry it carefully through this echoless waste
Until this winter pilgrimage leads you
Towards the gateway to spring.”
-John O’Donohue


Love and Be Loved,

Learn to Manage Your Anger

Learn to Manage Your Anger

I will be the first to say that plenty of things have irritated me, made me mad, frustrated me, or gotten under my skin. I will also be the first to say that I hated how I felt and wanted to be more easy-going about most of the things that bothered me. Some years back I decided that I should probably find out how I could manage my frustration if I wanted to feel more easy-going about things.

Eventually, I started reading, researching, and talking to people about anger. Where does it come from? What drives it? What are some effective ways of understanding and managing anger?

Before I started my quest, I felt the effects of anger on my brain, but I had a hard time seeing the fuller picture. I knew that it was hard to think clearly or make wise decisions the angrier I felt. As I explored the effects of anger, I learned the way the brain shuts down and impacts our behavior (and our relationships) as it succumbs to the anger. Simply, anger makes us stupid.

Sometimes it takes a lot to make us angry. Sometimes it just takes a certain look, a comment, or what would normally appear to be an insignificant action (but for various reasons sends you into full blown rage). It can start to feel like we’re at the mercy of our emotions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of being controlled by my feelings. I feel more stable and resourced when I am managing my emotions.

So, I decided to take what I had learned and put it to good use. Over the years, it has helped me to be more curious about my experience. What is important about how I am feeling? Why?

A couple of years ago, I brought this way of thinking to my therapeutic work to help other people who wanted to learn better ways of managing their feelings. Now, I am bringing it to you. If you have any questions or would like clarification about anything, let me know!

Alright, think of a situation that makes you angry. Maybe you feel it when your partner makes a particular comment or when you’re engaged in various activities at work. Thinking about it right now, ask yourself, “What is important about how I am feeling? Why?”

At first, anger appeals to us because it can make us feel powerful. Situations in which we might otherwise feel vulnerable or powerless tend to leave us feeling ineffectual. These are times when we might reach for the closest coping mechanism, no matter how it impacts us later. Eventually, using anger doesn’t feel as good as it used to and we start to feel like our anger is controlling us. What is that anger doing for us? And what is hiding underneath it?

Take a look at this:


A n g e r

/               \

Hurt       Fear


Typically, when we react in anger to something or someone, we are hiding behind that feeling to avoid experiencing less savory feelings such as hurt and fear. Depending on the accessibility of our feelings, it might take any amount of exploration. Why does a specific comment get to you the way it does? If you are honest with yourself, you know that it doesn’t simply “piss you off” or feel disrespectful. Ask yourself some questions. What about it pisses you off or feels disrespectful? Why is that important? These are good starter questions if you have a hard time thinking of yourself being hurt or fearful.

For those of you who have more access to your fear and hurt, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of? And what part of me is hurt/wounded and seeking protection underneath this anger?”

You can use these questions to slow you down in the moment or after the fact to gain perspective (and strengthen yourself for the next time around). As you use this strategy, let me know how it’s going for you. I can’t wait to hear about it!


Love and Be Loved,