anger

When was the last time you got angry? How did it make you feel inside? Where you scared of the energy of angeror overwhelmed by it? Are you in control of it, or is it in control of you? Would it have been obvious to others that you were angry, or do you tend to hide away your anger, maybe you reveal it in other ways by being critical, aloof, resentful, impatient, tense or sarcastic?

 

Getting real about the way you use anger and learning how to harness its energy is a liberating experience and an important part of moving towards your emotional well-being potential. By transforming the way you relate to anger and understanding why it is you feel the way you do, can have a positive influence on pretty much every aspect of your health and life. Managing anger in a healthy way is a challenge for most people.

 

What is Anger?

 

Anger is a completely normal, healthy emotion that is intimately connected to self-preservation, your need to protect yourself physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. When someone invades or abuses these boundaries, anger firstly lets you know that this has happened and secondly it provides you with the energy, focus and motivation to doing something about it. So while anger is commonly thought of as being a negative emotion, its not, what determines whether anger is healthy or not is the way that you deal with it. If you use the energy of anger to empower you to make decisions, assert yourself in a respectful way, protect your boundaries and take positive constructive action then that’s a healthy use and expression of anger. However if anger is suppressed or used to control, manipulate or hurt others and/or yourself then that’s an unhealthy expression of anger.

 

What is your Anger Style?

 

In addition to anger repression and suppression there are two main ways of expressing anger. As you read through the characteristics of each see which of the following most accurately describes how you relate to anger.

 

Openly-Aggressive – this is what most people think of as anger; it’s the overt display of anger. Openly-aggressive behaviours might include: making threats, physical and/or intellectual bullying, shouting, physical/sexual abuse, making derogatory remarks, hitting, raging, criticizing, sarcasm, bickering, answering back, needing to be right, being excessively self-centred and selfish, destroying things (objects, killing/hurting animals), manic behaviour (walking, speaking, working or driving too fast)

 

Passive-Aggressive – as the name suggests, someone who uses a passive-aggressive style, is aware of feeling angry, but because of fear they resort to covert, rather than directly overt ways of showing that anger. Someone who uses a passive-aggressive approach often finds it very hard to admit to others and sometimes to themselves that they are angry. Passive-aggressive behaviours might include: turning up late, keeping quiet, letting people down, ‘forgetting’ to do something, sulking, lying, provoking the other in order to trigger their anger, playing the victim, communicating in mixed messages, procrastinating, doing things slowly or doing things to a low standard, doing something half-heartedly, complaining about someone behind their back (but not talking to them directly), agrees to do things, but then doesn’t do them.

 

How to Manage Your Anger

 

One of the keys to managing anger is to learn how to deal with anger in the moment, but even more importantly to explore and address any underlying causes or contributors to your anger. Here are some suggestions to help you with that.

 

1. Check for trauma. If the intensity of anger that you are feeling is disproportionate to what the situation warrants, for example your partner says a harmless comment and you fly off the handle, it suggests either you have been repressing/suppressing resentments and frustrations in relationship to them and/or you are transferring anger that belongs to someone else (for example mum or dad) onto them.

 

2. Check for underlying physical imbalances. This is definitely not one to leave out especially if your anger tends to be explosive. If you haven’t already I would encourage you to fill in the questionnaires in section five to identify whether any of the following are contributing to your anger: neurotransmitter imbalances, nutritional imbalances, allergies (especially food intolerances), hormonal imbalances and heavy metal toxicity.

 

3. Calm Yourself. It takes quite a bit of practice and time to start getting good at catching the anger as it arises, but as you start to become aware of potential triggers and early warning signs you’ll become much better at it. Here are a couple of suggestions as to how you can keep yourself relatively calm:

 

  • Breathe deeply – this is by far the most important and simplest approach – turn your attention to your belly, breath into the count of 4 and out to the count of 7. Continue until you feel calmer. See the psychological stress section for more suggestions
  • Count – combine this with the deep breathing, count slowly from 10 down to 1, and if you can, visualise yourself walking down a spiral staircase, with each number representing a step. As you go down experience yourself getting more calm
  • Visualise – breathe deeply and see your anger/frustration as a red liquid draining out of your body, through your feet into the ground below
  • Learn meditation – learning to witness your anger and calm your mind can help to reduce the intensity of anger and limit its ability to influence your thinking and behaviour.
  • Safely discharge your anger – try twisting a towel, screaming, throw rocks / eggs, punch a pillow, scream into a pillow. The key when doing any of these is to allow the energy of anger to be discharged but to do so as a mature adult. You do this by standing with an upright posture and not losing yourself in your anger, but allowing your anger to come out, whilst being aware of it doing so. You will not do any of these in front of someone (the exception being a therapist).
  • Use Breathwork
  • See the other person’s point of view. This can be difficult, but essentially when you are upset with someone imagine yourself in their shoes, looking at things from their perspective. Whilst this isn’t always appropriate, it can help to decrease anger levels especially in intimate relationships.
  • Change the image. One way in which you can deactivate the triggers for your anger is to change the image or picture that you hold of that trigger. Rate each trigger in terms of the power it has to upset you 1 = no power, 10 = gets me every time. Do the following exercise for each of the triggers in turn, you should get it down to 1 or 2 and then see how you respond differently next time you are exposed to the situation.

 

  • Select a trigger of your anger and close your eyes, what image comes up for you – what do you see?
  • Now change the image – if it is in colour, drain the colour and make it black and white; if it is moving, making it still; if it is near, make it far away, if there is sound, turn off the sound, if the picture is bright, make it dull. Breathe deeply and continue with the above until you have felt that its power of you has reduced considerably
  • Now create a new image to replace the old one. For example if one of your triggers is your boss nagging you, imagine them as a baby, wearing a big nappy and sucking their thumb. Make the image clear, colourful, moving and near. Give it some sound – sucking or baby noises. Animate it and give it life. Breathe deeply and fix it in yourself.
  • Now think about something else for a couple of seconds and return your attention to the trigger – how do you feel now, score yourself out of 10. 1 or 2 is great, if its higher just repeat the exercise and take a bit longer with it
  • Repeat for each trigger in turn.

 

1.       Learn how to be assertive. Using the energy of anger in a way that allows you to communicate respectfully, clearly and maturely is a learned skill that can have such a positive impact on your self-confidence and relationships. Let’s face it when we get angry with someone, say be shouting at them we rarely get the result we want or if we do it doesn’t usually feel clean and healthy. The good news is that there is an alternative, it’s assertiveness and by learning how to be assertive you can communicate your truth in a constructive, rather than destructive way.

 

Assertiveness is a give and take process it involves:

 

  • Presenting yourself authentically and being genuine and real
  • Honouring and affirming your own truth, speaking your truth and being present enough to receive another persons truth
  • Clearly, precisely and directly asking for what you want and need and then letting go of the need to control the outcome
  • Saying no when you mean no, and saying yes when you mean yes.
  • Letting people know when they have hurt you or offended you if it is appropriate to do so and in a way that is respectful
  • Being accountable for what you say and how you behave.

 

 Here are some suggestions as to how you can increase your skills of assertiveness.

 

  • Set boundaries. Boundaries are limits that you establish in order to let you know when you are being physically, emotionally, sexually, intellectually or spiritually abused or intruded upon in some way or if you are being abusive or intrusive towards someone else. For more information see module eight

 

  • Take a Risk & Speak Your Truth. This can be hard to do, but potentially incredibly liberating once done. The key is to be clear about what your thoughts, feelings, needs and wants are and then to express them without needing to control the outcome and despite the fear you might be feeling. Once spoken try to listen to what is being said from the perspective of the person who is speaking to you. Stay connected to your own truth and respond once more. See honest self-expression

 

  • Harness the power of visualization. Close your eyes, and allow an image of a confident and assertive you to appear. If you struggle to see an image, get a sense of what a confident you would look like. See yourself engaging in the types of situations that would normally make you angry. Watch yourself keep calm, but acting firm and appropriately. Once you’ve got the hang of it, become one with this new you, imagine yourself as an assertive, confident person. Get a real experience for how it feels to be this way. What things would you be saying that are new? If you looked in a mirror how would you look? What would your friends and family say? Allow yourself as much time as you need to experience and make real this new you. Muster as much energy as you can to really allow yourself to feel alive and confident. Experience yourself managing situations effortlessly and enjoy the experience! Repeat this exercise as often as you want – I suggest at least once a day for 14 days.

 

  • Try role playing. With a trusted friend or even a practitioner, recreate a typical scenario that would lead to you becoming angry. Practise different ways of asserting yourself. Remember to breathe deeply. Tell your friend what it is you want. Practise changing your voice, your posture and your body language. Work out between you what works and rehearse it until this becomes your new way of relating

 

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