Continued from Part 1…
How to Manage Your Anger
Let’s look at the steps you can take to effectively get angry in a healthy way:
- Get to know your body’s experience of anger. Your body doesn’t necessarily know if your life is in danger, it just feels some sense of threat. Anger activates a sequence of events in your body including chemical responses to your emotion. Adrenaline and other stress hormones start flowing. Your heart rate also increases, pumping extra blood to your major muscles in order to give you strength and energy to fight (or flee). You may feel tension in your back, arms, fists, and legs. Your body heats up. You may clamp down your jaws, your eyes may narrow, or other physiological changes.
Takeaway: The next time you get angry, pay attention to how your body is reacting so that you can learn to recognize the signs of anger. For example, you may feel heat rising, your heart pounding or tension in your back and shoulders.
- Acknowledge your anger to yourself, and honor it. You have anger for a reason. Whether or not you fully understand it in the moment, respect it. It’s acting as a protector. While your impulse may be to repress your anger, or to react verbally, take a breath and do nothing at first. It can help to sense the energy of anger flowing through your body as you breathe down into your belly. This will help to reduce the charge of anger. Take whatever time you need to understand what your anger is really about. Is there really a threat? Or, does it just seem like there is?Takeaway: Next time you are angry, stop to breathe and assess the situation before reacting. See if you can determine if there is a value being violated. For example, is someone treating you disrespectfully or dismissing you?
- Stay present so you can make a conscious choice as to how to deal with your anger. Determine if it is essential that you communicate your anger in the moment, or is it something you need to spend some time with before deciding whether to express it or not. In some situations or with certain people, you will never have permission to express your anger, including parents, relatives, bosses, etc. That doesn’t mean you have to repress it. You do have to discern if expressing it at that moment is appropriate or not. What kind of relationship do you have with this person?
Takeaway: Don’t let anger control you. Be in charge of it. If possible, express yourself in a way that is acceptable according to the dynamic you have with the person who is making you angry. It is actually quite powerful to be angry, yet speak softly.
- Show respect when expressing anger. Everyone is more open when they feel respected. Whenever the time is right, typically in a relaxed, private setting, begin by saying, in as calm a voice as you can muster, “I want to let you know that I have some feelings about such-and-such (what happened) that I’d like to share with you. Is that OK?” This gives the person a choice, and when people have choices they feel much more in charge of a situation. If they say no, they do not want to discuss it, then that’s your answer. Accept it. Most of the time they will say yes, or “What’s it about?” You reply it’s about (one sentence description of what happened). Once they say yes, you can proceed with as simple and non-blaming language as possible. “I feel angry about . . .,” then explain exactly why. “I don’t feel respected.” “I felt judged.” “I asked you to do this and you didn’t and that has caused consequences to me of. . . ,” etc.
Takeaway: Be as specific as possible when expressing your anger. Do not allow emotions to affect your ability to have a calm discussion. If you feel your anger rising, take a deep breath and see if you can sense the flow of it’s energy moving through your body.
See Part Three