Sometimes things happen in our personal lives and even in the world... that bring up anger. An event happens to us, or someone we care about or there's a wrong committed in the world > and we are ANGRY. Then, 3-2-1 > we begin to feel uncomfortable with anger. What next?
It seems like there are two main anger coping styles:
1) Those who lash out and express their anger out into the world and onto others, and
2) Those who hold it in and become passive-aggressive and even depressed, not feeling capable or confident to say they're angry and not knowing what to do about it.
Lately, with the Supreme Court Justice hearings, anger has been coming up even more - especially in women and among those who have been victims of sexual trauma. I see this development as a sign of hope. When events happen that bring private and silent burdens out of the closet, then we can individually and collectively heal... even if it's a painful process.
Even though I've been a therapist for years, there's always something new I can learn. Since the Kavanaugh hearings, I've been researching anger. I had never thought about all the different kinds of anger:
* Passive - you're ticked off and haven't been able to do anything about it. This may turn into aggressive, where you express your anger in other round-about ways,
* Explosive - Something sets you off and you see red and can't disconnect to calm down and come back from the edge,
* Getting Even - you have been wronged (or think you have been) and you want revenge,
* Resentment - this is being stuck in anger, maybe you have truly been wronged but you can't move on and you are waiting for someone to apologize who probably won't,
*Ongoing - You are generally angry all the time and live in this state of always finding something to be angry about,
* Event - This anger comes from a wrong being committed and you are angry about the wrong, and
* Compassion - You can be angry on behalf of someone else - a rape victim, an animal being mistreated, children separated from their parents due to immigration issues, etc.
Once I started tuning in to anger around the Supreme Court nominee hearings, I began to notice "event" anger more. I was driving to work yesterday when the city bus in front of me passed three people waiting for it. The bus kept going. Then the bus passed someone else trying to wave it down. I could see their frustration that the bus did not stop. I'm sure they were all "event angry" based on this situation, and I had "compassion anger" - where I was angry on their behalf.
Like many people, I was not brought up to know much about anger. For many of us, our parents didn't really know how to teach us emotional maturity. Maybe they didn't even have much of it themselves. I know I didn't have emotional maturity to deal with anger myself, let alone with my children.
At the age of 20, I became a mom. And again at 24. These are pretty young ages to be a mom. I definitely had not worked out my issues and I was not emotionally mature. During that time, my anger boiled just beneath the surface. I think my frustration and discontent at not knowing how to manage life just created constantly turbulent boiling water inside me, ready for a tsunami if a glass of milk was spilt or some other small incident happened.
As I grew older, my relationship with anger didn't mature. I felt uncomfortable with anger. It felt wrong to be angry... I didn't think about if it was justified or not. I guess I always felt justified to be angry and guilty for being angry at the same time. So I tried to put it away, and that resulted in depression. I turned my anger inward and it was a destructive force.
A few years ago, I was at a Shift Charlotte talk, where a speaker talked about how our emotions are like our GPS. They tell us when something is off. And just like the "Check Engine" light goes off to warn us of a problem > so do our emotions.
The definition of anger is "a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility." It would make sense that feeling angry would be a natural emotion in life. Things happen to us. Sometimes people mean to hurt us. Sometimes they don't, but it hurts just the same.
We are going to feel annoyed, displeased, and hostile sometimes > and then what?
Being fully healthy is being fully emotional, and that means NOT shutting down our anger. Instead, become the observer who watches and then chooses to respond skillfully.
Here are five tips to be present with your anger and then as you choose to do so >> transform it into the fuel to make change in your life and in our world:
A - awareness. The first step to address any problem is to be aware of its existence. When you are aware that you: respond quickly with anger or stuff anger or have anger issues > only then can you make progress. Identify what kind of anger you have.
N - Next step. When you are triggered into anger or any difficult feeling, consider your next step. Wanda Petunia and I recommend your first next step always be self-care! Sometimes you don't know what to do, or you're not in a place to do anything constructive. Self-care will help you no matter what!
G - Genuine. Be genuine and real. It's okay to feel your feelings, to be angry. This is honoring your life experience. Give yourself the gift of being where you are and feeling how you feel.
E - End game. I always try to focus quickly on "What do I want to experience?" "What am I moving towards?" This will help you find the motivation to move beyond difficulty into a better feeling place... eventually, even if you're not ready to do it now.
R - release. Learning to release frustration, annoyance and other negative emotions in healthy ways is possible. Releasing is NOT forgetting or pushing problems under the rug. The release is the fuel where you take the pain of anger and create something constructive, not destructive. When you commit to do this, you help yourself and the planet!
What your anger can be? Fuel. Fuel to create change. Only you can decide to transform your anger into something constructive and powerful... GRRRR!