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
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,