4 therapy on the fly…

Anger gets a Bad Rap January 4, 2010


Anger gets a bad rap. Maybe you are the exceptional person who can tell someone else that you are angry when you are but then you are exactly that, the exception. Instead you are more likely the person who thinks if I tell them I am angry then I will hurt their feelings, they will get angry at me, I’m being mean, I’m scared that I wont be able to stop and I will blow up at them or I don’t get angry . All the things we tell ourselves so that we don’t have to deal with being angry.

There is no such thing as not expressing anger. If you are feeling it be sure you are expressing it, especially when you don’t acknowledge that you are angry. You are the silent one with the steely look in your eyes staring through the person you are supposedly not angry with. You are the person dropping comments about not going to the concert you so wanted to go to because remember you are not angry. You are the person telling the story repeatedly of your boyfriend canceling plans to go see your favorite band with you because you aren’t angry with him. Banging coffee pots, shutting doors loudly, answering questions with monosyllabic answers, ‘yes’, ‘no’, all because you are not angry. So guess what? You are angry. The more you hold in anger the less control you have over how it comes out.

So friends now that you know you are angry people. Just kidding. Now that you know you are human and you too get angry, what do you do with that? Well first it is important to understand the difference between feeling anger, expressing anger and acting out anger.

Feeling anger is natural. It is what you choose to do with that anger that is important. Feeling angry is not an excuse to treat people badly. People are scared of anger because they have so often seen anger misused. Screaming, putting people down, slamming doors repeatedly, throwing things, punching anything living, walls and windows as well, calling people names or saying nasty things to them all fall under the heading of acting out. This is not expressing anger. This is acting anger out all over someone else and if this approach is used repeatedly then this is abuse. We have all done all or few of these things which does not make us abusive. But when this becomes the way we always or most often express our anger then we are being abusive.

Expressing anger sounds very different than this. It sounds like ‘I am really angry with you right now because you said or did…’ or ‘ When you do that I feel really angry…’.

Two things to watch when you are expressing your anger to another person are screaming and prepping anger. If you find your voice rising more than once during a discussion then maybe this isn’t the time to be having the conversation. Go take a break. Prepping for anger is when we find ourselves saying ‘If she says …then I am going to be so pissed and I am going to just lose it’. If you haven’t even seen the person yet and you already predicting that you are going to blow up at them then of course you will. Essentially you are giving yourself permission to do so. You are obviously angry with this person so you might as well just say instead, ‘ You know when you did this I felt really angry at you’.

First step, acknowledge your own anger. It is really OK to be angry, to feel angry. Give yourself a little time to figure out why you feel that way. Anger isn’t good or bad. Feelings aren’t moral . We don’t plan them, they are not logical or comfortable but boy are they necessary. Second step,¬†decide what you want to do with the anger, express it, let it go, write it down. If it feels like a an intense feeling especially if you have felt this in this situation before, do some kind of processing, call a friend , write it out, go running, biking, dancing as an outlet but it needs to come out in some way. We are like boilers we need to let our steam out a little at a time or eventually we will blow up. When we allow ourselves to get to the point of explosion this is when we say things that are hurtful to the people that we love.

When you choose to express anger to another person then make some rules for yourself about what is OK for you such as; I won’t curse at someone, call them a name. So many people when relaying the fights they have gotten into with their loved ones say things such as ‘ We said all these things to each other that we just do not mean’ or ‘I just lost it’, or ‘I get really nasty’. This is a part of your life that you do have control over. You are raising kids, running companies, working difficult jobs and juggling many things in your life. If you can do that you most certainly have the strength to make sure you adhere to these rules when you are expressing your anger to another person.

So finally anger is a powerful emotion. The emotion that we are so often scared of on some level. Here is the thing when we tell someone else we are angry we are letting them know us better. None of us are perfect. We all feel anger and it is how we let someone else know that we don’t like something that is happening. When it is with someone we love we give them the opportunity to show us that they care by listening to us, apologizing, or changing the very thing that has upset us. And in the end we both know each other better. Isn’t that what we want, to be closer to the people around us. Anger, the very feeling that we thought would push others away in the end actually brings us closer together.

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Psychobabble4u signing off:)

(c) Cori Grachek,: May, 2009

**This is not and can never be a replacement for therapy