Anger. We’ve all felt it. We've all wanted to punch someone's face in (or our version of that). Some more than others. Many have felt a lot of it recently. Anger’s a strange emotion. Strange in that it’s generally a more acceptable “negative” emotion, especially amongst males; however, we’re often told not to feel it, that whatever we’re angry about isn’t a big deal. So we learn to repress it. Until we explode over something that wasn’t a big deal. Or bottle it up until it literally eats us in physical disease.
But anger’s actually quite a useful emotion and the emotion itself is more often than not justified. Anger signals to us that something isn’t right. Someone or something is blocking an important goal, violating our boundaries, or bringing up more pain than we can handle, none of which are cool. Sometimes, though, we perceive this to be what’s happening when it isn’t and then the anger isn’t justified. Either way, once we feel angry most of us don’t handle it very well. We either repress it or lash out. And since we’ve already covered what happens when we repress, I’ll just say lashing out is rarely-if ever-a good idea either. Sure it might feel good in that moment to punch someone in the face. But it usually makes situations worse, leads to us getting into trouble, being physically harmed, losing our life, or damaging important relationships, none of which are really a good time. So here’s what to do instead:
Don’t ignore it. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening. Feeling it doesn’t mean acting on it, though. It means simply noticing physically how your body feels while you’re angry. Are your muscles tense? Are you breathing? Do you feel warm or cold? This buys us some time, allows us to accept it, and ensures that we don’t bottle it up.
Take a Time Out
Grownups need time outs too. Walk away. Breathe. Meditate. Exercise. Read. Drink some tea. Take a bath. Handle some chores. Do whatever it is that calms you down. We rarely make our best decisions when we’re overly emotional.
This doesn’t mean to overthink the situation. That will often get us fired right back up. Take a step back, look at all of the facts of the situation (not simply the ones that support our viewpoint) and decide if your anger is actually justified. This will be important later on.
Whether it’s justified or not be kind. To yourself. To the situation. To anyone else involved. Try to see it from other points of view. This may seem impossible in certain situations, especially instances in which human rights are being violated; however, hurt people hurt people and when we can at least recognize that we are more apt to transform anger into useful action.
Anger is an amazing catalyst. There’s a lot of energy in anger. And energy mobilizes. So if your anger is justified, brainstorm possible actions to take. Then choose one and do it. Be assertive instead of aggressive. Set boundaries. Stand up for yourself and others. Advocate. Create art, writing, music, some form of expression to share with others. Start a campaign. Work with others who may feel similarly. Ask for help from trusted loved ones or a professional if you can’t think of anything.
Let It Go
If your anger is unjustified or you can’t think of a helpful action at this time let it go. Letting it go can also involve action. Expressing it creatively or running it into the ground until you feel some peace can be extremely helpful. Don’t let it eat you alive or destroy important relationships.
These suggestions aren't only important to keep us safe but also to empower ourselves and those around us. No one truly listens to anger. Sure people have been bullied into submission but that doesn't equal respect. These suggestions will empower you to transform not only your anger but your entire life-and dare I say the world.