Anger sometimes becomes our response when we don’t understand something. Christian Lyons provides guidance on how to change this emotional habit.
We all know someone who seems to face the world with an angry demeanor. There’s the stereotype of the angry older man who shakes his fists and yells, “Hey you hoodlums! Get off my lawn!” or something similar. They always seem angry. And the smallest things set them off. For men – and especially aging men – anger becomes a go-to response when we don’t understand something and don’t want to appear somehow stupid because of it. We might have given up years ago on trying to figure the world out, or decided that we were “too old” to learn how to operate the latest piece of technology. We may have shut down any attempts to understand younger generations because some of the things they say, think, and do make no sense to us.
When we feel like we don’t fit in or perceive that our age has put us at a disadvantage in some way, anger can easily become our go-to emotion.
Sometimes when we feel anger, it is coming from a deep place that demands acknowledgment and expression. At these times, it is important that we find healthy ways to honor our anger, remembering how dangerous it is to repress it. However, anger can also become a habit, our go-to emotion whenever things go wrong. Often this is because, for whatever reason, we feel more comfortable expressing anger than we do other emotions, like sadness. It can also be that getting angry gives us the impression that we’ve done something about our problem. In these cases, our habitual anger is inhibiting both our ability to express our other emotions and to take action in our lives.
If it’s true that anger is functioning this way in your life, the first thing you might want to try is to notice when you get angry. You might begin to see a pattern of some kind. For example, you could notice that it is always your first response or that it comes up a lot in one particular situation. If the pattern doesn’t become clear right away, you could try keeping a journal about when you get angry and see if you can find an underlying meaning. The good thing about keeping a journal is that you can explore your anger more deeply in it—from examining who in your family of origin expressed a lot of anger to how you feel when you encounter anger in others. This kind of awareness can be a formidable agent of transformation.
Anger can be a powerful ally, since it is filled with energy that we can harness and use to create change in the world. It is one of the most cathartic emotions, and it can also be a very effective cleanser of the emotional system. However, when it becomes a habit, it actually loses its power to transform and becomes an obstacle to growth. Identifying the role anger plays in your life and restoring it to its proper function can bring new energy and expansiveness to your emotional life.
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