This is a piece that I wrote for Elephant Journal and my private newsletter list. You can see the full article by clicking here.
Somewhere at the edge of hurt and confusion lies anger.
Such a surface emotion.
An easy way to have a quick burst of relief, but the result is usually more frustration because now, your anger fell on deaf ears.
Let’s be honest, who really listens and tries to understand anger?
But even more frustrating is the fact that you haven’t even figured out the core of the issue yourself.
The person you are angry with can’t possibly comprehend why you are angry because it’s highly unlikely that you have even processed it yourself. That is why you’re still angry!
Sure, anger has it’s place.
For example, for many years, I had very few personal and professional boundaries. I allowed people to walk all over me, influence my direction and take advantage of me.
So, when I finally began setting boundaries, I set them with anger. Which was wholly unproductive, but I felt slightly better. Because at least I said something. At least I stood up for myself, right? At least I stood my ground. But there is so much more beneath the surface.
We need to learn to stand our ground.
But for many of us, there is shame that comes with anger.
I have always felt that l was a fairly well mannered, happy-go-lucky, positive, even-tempered person. And, I typically communicate really, really well. Most of the time.
But I’m also human. So, when our humanness comes out in not so attractive ways (anger), we feel shameful and guilty.
When something really affects us on a deeply personal level, that is when anger shows up.
That usually happens when we feel betrayed, deeply disrespected or embarrassed in a situation. Any tools we have to handle the situation in a more productive manner go out the window. And before you know it, in steps anger.
What triggers anger for you personally?
Here are some lessons I learned when I stopped being angry:
1. I have to go through anger to stop feeling it. Going through it is never comfortable, seldom peaceful and brings with it some shame. But it’s necessary to feel through it.
2. There are much better ways to communicate boundaries, feelings, emotions, hurt, betrayal, sadness, frustration, abandonment, disrespect and a whole slew of other emotions that sit beneath the surface and support anger.
3. In order to communicate effectively, I have to identify what the anger is really about. I have to dig deeper than I ever have to take responsibility for the anger and figure out what is fueling it below the surface. Then gently ask for what I want/need in that situation. Without pointing fingers.
4. Once I understand what the true pain really is, I can begin to move past it. Slowly and with deliberate effort.
5. Even when I come to understand what fuels my anger, there are layers upon layers that pile up before anger strikes (for most of us). This means going through steps 3 and 4 many times over.
I have zero expectation that I will never be angry again.
That would be silly. I’m still human. People still do things that hurt me. That piss me off. That disappoint me.
I’m just learning how to set boundaries earlier.
To understand that anger is just the first layer of a deeper scar.
To listen more deeply to what my emotions are really communicating to me. To stand up for myself when it’s time to do that. And to forgive others and release the hooks that have tied me to them when it’s time do that.
Here are 5 tips for better understanding what is underneath your anger:
1. Talk it out with an impartial friend, coach or therapist.
Allow yourself to be heard.
2. Sit down and write out the anger.
Give it a voice.
3. Take a kick boxing class, hip hop class or some other form of physical activity.
Embody/feel the anger.
4. Distill the feelings you have down to what is really at the root.
Are you hurt? Do you feel betrayed? Are you feeling stifled, silenced or disempowered? Did you feel used?
5. Craft what you want to say to the person(s) while asking for what you would really like from the situation.
Calmly and with grace.
If any of this resonates with you or if you’ve experienced anger in your life that is confusing and frustrating and recurring, I just ask you to patiently wade through it.
See it for what it really is. Be gentle with yourself. Speak your truth.
And, look for the lesson that anger is trying to teach you. It has a purpose. And I think I can say with reasonable certainty that purpose has nothing to do with spewing said anger all over another person.
It contains a lesson for you. Are you listening?
You may view the original publication of this article on Elephant Journal by clicking here.
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