Most of us don’t like feeling anger.
It’s one of those emotions we think of as purely negative, something to be avoided whenever we can. But we can’t actually avoid any of our emotions, no matter how much we want to. And we aren’t actually better off avoiding them, even if in the moment it does feel better to circumvent something that makes us feel uncomfortable, which anger so often does.
There can also be a deep feeling of shame that comes with experiencing anger for many people. Whether it’s because you grew up in a home where it wasn’t expressed safely, or where you weren’t allowed to safely express your feelings, or because it makes you feel out of control, it can be hard to unlink that immediate feeling of guilt or shame that can piggyback off of your anger.
But there’s nothing wrong with feeling angry. And, when done in a healthy way, there’s nothing wrong with expressing that feeling.
Your anger exists for a reason–just like all of your other feelings, it’s trying to tell you something! And often, anger is like a protective big brother–it shows up when you’re being mistreated in some way because it knows that’s not okay. That could be in instances where you feel:
- threatened or powerless
- frustrated or ignored
- as though your feelings or experiences are being invalidated
- that you been treated unfairly or disrespected
What this means is that your anger is actually a secondary emotion. It’s more like a symptom. Some dust got in your nose and your anger is the sneeze that comes with it. When you notice it coming up, instead of pushing it away out of fear or shame, can you sit with it for a moment? It’s trying to communicate something to you, and if you can listen to what it’s saying you can address the root of it.
How can you listen to what your anger is telling you?
Whenever you feel that anger bubbling up, take it as a sign to take a moment to slow down. You might be worked up and want to react immediately, but if you can take a few deep breaths to recenter and ground yourself, you can listen to what you’re feeling without being controlled by it.
Try to identify your triggers.
When you start to figure out what it is that triggers those feelings of anger, and what it means, you can make plans for how to cope with those situations for when they come up. When you get angry, ask yourself questions like:
- What was happening before I started feeling angry?
- What happened to trigger this feeling?
- How did I notice my anger?
- Did my anger manifest in my body via headaches, stomach aches, upset stomach, etc.?
If you can, try to get ahead of it when you can too. Stop and ask yourself these questions even when you’re just getting agitated. If you can stop an explosion before it happens, you can cultivate a much healthier relationship with your anger.