Anger is quite a powerful little 5 letter word that means very different things to different people. For some it is an emotion that is rejected or avoided at all cost and understood as evil, bad, or unacceptable. For others it is all too present and readily available to use to hurt, damage, or destroy – sometimes irreparably so.
Anger, like most emotions, is not a bad or shameful emotion in and of itself. It can even be very appropriate and useful at times. Without anger as a motivator for action we might feel less compelled to fight against injustice, oppression, and discrimination with the same degree of will and determination.
Anger can also give us a very clear sign that something is wrong. Anger feelings directed toward another provide us with a clear indication that someone has done something to threaten or injure something vulnerable inside of us. Further to this, anger is often referred to as a secondary emotion – an overt reaction serving to protect something internal. So what does all this mean Julia? Anger can be an absolutely invaluable resource if we learn how to use it to our advantage. When we notice ourselves getting angry at someone, we can stop and take a second to check in and ask ourselves “What is this anger protecting? If I take a closer look, what am I feeling beneath the anger?” and this will give us some insight into what’s really going on. More often than not the anger is going to be protecting feelings of hurt, or sadness, or fear. By choosing not to react and assault our (often unaware) perpetrator with the anger, (which will likely not only injure the relationship but will also leave us to deal with the aftermath of our own guilt and shame) we give ourselves the opportunity to take a step back, do a check in, figure out what’s really going on and decide if we can express ourselves immediately in a non-aggressive way, or if we need some time to cool off before we can communicate that vulnerable primary emotion. Often, in my experience, the latter works much better.
Easy to say, difficult to do, but like most things worth anything it takes patience, practice, and persistence.