Lately I’ve become quite fascinated with anger. I find myself reading and re-reading any and all information that comes across my path on the topic. I haven’t been intentionally seeking out literature or information on anger… not just yet anyway, but am finding the more I learn the more I want to know.
Anger is one of those funny emotions. Not really funny ‘ha ha’, but more ‘ha, that’s curious, what’s this all about?.’ Many of us fear anger. For women, most of us were taught as children that good girls don’t show, let along feel, anger. As a result, many of us have this sort of shame and guilt when it comes to both experiencing or, heaven forbid, expressing our anger. For men, it’s kind of the opposite story. While growing up, and even as adults, it seems like the ONLY acceptable emotion for a man to feel and share is his anger. This then leaves men with the understanding that any and every emotion he experiences is anger simply because that’s the only emotion that real men are allowed to feel… however, they know and we know that how they’ve learned to express said anger is rarely productive for any of us. Oy! What a mess we’ve made. The point here is that many of us fear anger… it’s kind of a taboo emotion in our culture, but we’re still human, and we still experience anger. So now what? When we don’t know how to understand it, handle it, or express it in a healthy way we cope with it by turning it back into an attack on ourselves. That’s not so helpful.
What is helpful is to use a much healthier and much more productive strategy for dealing with our anger. One such way is to learn to say what we want and negotiate for the change we’re after (aka being assertive). Anger is quite often a side-effect of feeling helpless and powerless because we don’t express our needs or we express them infectively. We all have needs and preference and we all have the right to ask for what we want, and although we may not always get it because others have the right to say no, we can still ask. So one of the keys to learning how to tame the beast as opposed to pretending like he’s not there, feeling guilty when he rears his head in a destructive way, or just plain jaw clenching and hoping he goes away on his own is to learn to be okay with both giving and receiving no. Believe it or not this strategy in and of itself has a huge effect on our feelings of anger – both toward others and toward ourselves.