Natalie Gutierrez explains how anger is a neutral emotion that communicates to your body when you are compromising yourself, when your needs are going unmet, or when your boundaries are being crossed.
Channel it and use it wisely.
People tend to see anger as unnatural, destructive, and dangerous. However, anger is actually a normal and healthy emotion that serves to communicate to your body when you’re compromising yourself, when needs are going unmet, or when your boundaries are being crossed. Anger is a neutral emotion that serves as a signal in your body, and if paid attention too, it can help you better understand your triggering situations and effectively advocate for yourself. You have a right to your anger; it is how you manage your anger that can be unhealthy, destructive, maladaptive, and self-sabotaging. Anger CAN be managed positively and people can learn self-regulation, compassion, and self-advocacy by learning to communicate with their anger.
Rigid societal gender roles often cause anger to be expressed differently among men and women. Men are usually taught to repress their vulnerable emotions and maintain a tough, angry guise while women are primarily taught to deny their anger. This dynamic can create difficulties being empathetic with the other gender, giving rise to resentment both intrinsically and toward others.
Here are some strategies for helping you manage your anger.
Identify your anger.
What color is it? Where do you feel anger in your body? Is it hot or cold? What is it trying to tell you? What does it ask of you? Can you take a moment to reflect on something you are/were angry about and attempt to figure out what about the situation triggered anger? It’s important to be curious about your anger—connect with your anger—since repression of anger will only exacerbate it because it entails compromising even more of Self. It can help to journal and write things down, like words or events that trigger anger to begin exploring deeper issues surrounding your anger so you can grow to understand yourself better. Articulating to yourself what is making you angry will allow you to work towards solutions to the problem and advocate for yourself.
Explore unresolved past childhood/relational/self-esteem issues.
If and when you are ready, seek a professional to help safely guide you into your inner world and explore the origins of anger. Have you experienced trauma or neglect as a child? How did you witness and experience conflict resolution in your family growing up? Were you able to show emotions as a child or usually taught to withhold emotions, crying, or shamed for being vulnerable, or forced to adhere to rigid gender roles?
If you allow resentment and other negative feelings to diminish your positive emotions, you may find yourself engulfed in your own resentments and self-fulfilling prophecies. When you are ready and willing, you might wish to begin the journey of forgiveness of others who have wronged you, and/or forgiveness of yourself. Forgiveness is breaking free from the chains that bind you and your betrayer together. It is an act of choosing freedom. It means that you will not allow yourself to be captive to your trauma, painful past, or to the people that have wronged you and will drop the burning coal of resentment that only burns the hands of the person that holds it.
Take Deep Cleansing Breaths.
When your temperature rises and you’re in need of burning some steam, practice deep-breathing exercises. Simply take deep cleansing breaths, drop into your awareness of the tension in your body and breathe it out. Take some time for yourself and focus on your breathing. Your breath is a tool you will always carry with you, and it is always available to you.
If you’re feeling yourself about to explode (or implode on yourself), press the pause button, stop everything you’re doing in that moment and bring it back to your breath. Count to 10 if you can. Give yourself a time when you agree to return to the room/discussion, ready for a levelheaded discussion. Think before you speak in the heat of the moment since it’s easier to say something you’ll regret. Take a time-out to gather your thoughts before saying anything and allow the other person involved in the dispute to take a time-out when needed.
Physical activity can help work through anger or rage, especially when you’re feeling like a volcano about to erupt. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a jog, or spend some time doing physical activities you find enjoyable. Physical activity stimulates various chemicals in your brain that stimulate muscle relaxation.
Whatever you do, don’t take yourself too, too seriously. After all, we all are small specks of dust within the entire universe. Practice humor that the other person would enjoy that is not at their expense.
Externalize anger in a healthy way.
Externalize some anger through free-writing/journaling about your anger, or rip blank pieces of paper. This can be helpful in the beginning stages of trying to deal with anger in a non-threatening way to immediately discharge some negative energy from your body. Avoid the escalation of aggressive expression that is threatening, such as punching walls/doors, throwing or damaging furniture, yelling/screaming, self-injurious behavior, or other physical, verbal, or emotional violence toward self or others. The ultimate goal is for you to eventually be mindful of your anger without needing to aggressively express it.
Utilize ‘I’ statements.
Actively practice non-violent communication in conflict. There are several communication styles, including passive, assertive, and aggressive. Extremes such as passive and aggressive are not healthy or conducive to meeting your needs during conflicts. Try your hardest not to criticize or blame the other person. This will only create a dynamic where the other person may feel attacked and will shut down, decreasing the chances your feelings and needs will even be heard. Use “I” statements to discuss emotionally charged issues. For example, I feel angry (feelings) when you leave your clothes thrown around the house instead of putting them in the closet (behavior), because I get the impression you expect me to clean-up after you and that is not my expectation of our marriage (why). State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to exert power and control over them.
Practice acceptance and surrender your control. After all, some things are really just out of your personal control. If acceptance is difficult for you, more work may be needed in exploring past unresolved issues related to discomfort or fear of vulnerability and loss control. Make good use of your anger and the message(s) it tries to convey about you or your environments so that you can make conscious, empowering choices for yourself!