How To Make Friends With Your Anger

Few of us want to admit that we get bitchy, shout, or lose our temper—we much prefer to see ourselves as being wonderfully tolerant and serene. But anger is something that we all experience at different times, whether toward our parent, partner, friend, or even ourselves. Many times anger is justified and limited to the matter in hand, but it can also be very destructive and go beyond the immediate situation, like a single match that can burn an entire forest.

Trying to eradicate anger is like trying to box with our own shadow: it doesn’t work. Getting rid of it implies either expressing it, and possibly causing emotional damage; denying and avoiding it, which is a way of lying to ourselves and can cause depression or bitterness; or repressing it, which just suppresses it until it erupts at a later time when it can cause even more harm.

“Ducks don’t do anger,” says psychotherapist Deepesh Faucheux in our recent book, Be The Change. “Ducks fight over a piece of bread and then they just swim away. But people keep processing everything that happens to them. That processing of the story—what so and so did to me, she wronged me, why doesn’t he respect me—keeps the energy identified as anger and resentment, instead of seeing it as simply energy.”

There are often layers of conflicting feelings hidden beneath anger trying to make themselves heard, such as hurt, insecurity, sadness or fear. The power of rage is such that it can overshadow these other emotions, causing us to lose touch with ourselves and struggle to articulate what we are really feeling. Having lost our connectedness with each other, anger may really be a cry for attention or for contact; it may be expressing feelings of rejection, grief, loneliness, or a longing to love and be loved. Often it is really saying “I love you,” or “I need you,” yet we are hurling abuse at each other instead.

As Rabbi Zalman Schachter says, also in our book Be The Change, “We get to see that underneath anger, there is fear, pain, and sorrow, and we cannot deal with anger unless we also deal with what sustains the anger. We forget how we are hardwired. The reptilian system within us makes sure we are secure and safe. If we do not feel secure, then the dinosaur will rear its head and roar. So under anger is always the question of how safe does the reptilian feel.”

If we repress or pretend anger is not there, then all these other feelings become repressed and denied as well. Only by recognizing what the real emotion is behind the expression can there be more honest communication.

Next: Cooling Anger Meditation

Meditation is very important here because it not only invites us to witness anger, but also to get to know and make friends with ourselves. It gives us a midpoint between expressing anger and repressing it, a place where we can voice our feelings with awareness and acceptance. It also gives us the ability to see our feelings and not be swept away by them, even to see anger before it affects us.

Meditation is not a cure-all; it is not going to make all our difficulties go away or suddenly transform our weaknesses into strengths, but it does enable us to rest in an inclusive acceptance of who we are. This does not make us perfect, simply more fully human.

Don’t Even Pick It Up

In our relationship we have added a few more ways to work with anger. We are all familiar with the phrase, Let it go, but this can be difficult when it comes to anger, even though holding on just causes further pain and grief. Through awareness we have learned to let go as it arises. Once something has been expressed and fully acknowledged, we immediately move on.

But our favorite is not to even pick it up in the first place! Thank goodness for meditation!

Cooling Anger Meditation

Before you start this practice and the heat of anger is still with you, breathe into your anger: breathe in deeply and with each out breath release and blow out your feelings. Then, to calm and resolve your feelings do the following:

Sit comfortably, take a deep breath and let it go. Focus your attention on your breathing and, more specifically, on where you are breathing. During heated exchanges we usually breathe very shallow and rapid breaths, high in the upper part of the chest. By calming your breathing, you will also calm your nerves, blood pressure, and emotions.

Now bring your breathing down into your mid-chest area, which means breathing more deeply and slowly. Do this for a few minutes, then try to move your breathing even further down, so that you are taking even deeper and longer breaths into your belly. Stay here for a few minutes, as your whole being cools down.

When you are fully chilled, bring your breathing back up to the chest area, and see if you can breathe naturally there, without having to go higher into your upper chest.

How do you deal with your anger? Do comment below.

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109 comments

Emma S.
Emma S.4 years ago

I'm rubbish at dealing with anger - my own and other people's. I distinctly remember, as a child, being told that I didn't look 'very pretty' when I was angry. It really took the wind out of my sails, and since then I've found it impossible to really inhabit my anger - I have a sort of 'bird's eye view' of myself hopping about in rage, and then I sort of embarrass myself and skulk off! A lot is said about boys being denied tears, but I hear very little about girls being denied anger in this way.

jane richmond
jane richmond4 years ago

thanks

heather g.
heather g.4 years ago

I think too much. If someone does something that seems illogical and they can't explain themselves rationally, I tend to spend time wondering how they think 2+2 makes 7... ponder until I stop myself. Admittedly, bad service is annoying. people being blind or deaf to something very wrong/illegal/hurtful right in front of them - the worst annoyance being noise/air pollution.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone invented a device that one could point like a wand and the wrongdoer would go "Poof" and disappear out of one's sight for a good while .....

Direct Sales
Direct Sales4 years ago

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Robin Turner
Robin Turner4 years ago

Antoinette and the Stoics have a good point: anger, like other negative emotions, results primarily from incorrect judgments. To be more precise, what we call "anger" is really two things. The first is an instinctive physical response (what the Stoics called propathos) to a situation where we may be required to fight. What keeps that going, however, is the cognitive component, and in particular the idea that a person has wronged us in some way, and that therefore they are bad and should be made to suffer. That's what makes us different from ducks.

Arthur G.
Arthur Goh4 years ago

I'm passionate about my golf. When I hit a bad shot, I get angry with myself in silent. I then quickly think of redeeming myself with my next shot. Ninety per cent of the time it works for me. In short, don't get angry, get even.

I believe anger is a psychological projection of one's attitude. Some are able to contained this energy, managed it and even reversed it for positive results. While others may not. It all depends on how one was nurtured.

During my 35 years of social golfing, I've seen all the varied extremes of characters on the golf course. But anger is the most common downfall for 90% of bad golfers.

Anna Borsey
Anna Borsey4 years ago

Surely, anger is sometimes justified! If another person is blatantly manipulative and is trying to steamroller one into agreeing to something that I do not want to agree to - a voice inside me is screaming NO! - I feel really angry.

There are other situations, quite a few scenarios I can remember from my own past, when I have felt very angry indeed because of the way someone else has treated me and/or spoken to me.

Anger is a perfectly normal human emotion! We SHOULD feel angry at injustices, abuse, maltreatment and so on.

NICKY MELVILLE
NICKY MELVILLE4 years ago

Good comments and article. Anger can be a very useful emotion and perfectly natural, but is usually counterproductive,if it doesn't invoke some sort of action. Anger at animal abuse keeps us tapping away on our computers writing dirty letters to those in power and signing petitions. Anger that is warmly expressed can SOMETIMES be very healing for a relationship, more so than hiding it. Just as long as the anger is the 'I feel angry WHEN' thing, rather than slinging abuse or giving someone a darned good punch!That way you are being REAL! As you get older, it often gets easier, because you learn more and more about what makes people tick and you are not so likely to see the other person being nasty to us as being necessarily ABOUT US and it is THEIR problem. When you think yourself into somene else's shoes, you don't keep on thinking that everythng is about YOU, you learn to see where the other person is coming from and that gives you a different perspective on the situation. By all means meditate through your anger if it helps, but is is lovely when you get to the point of being able to calmly explain to someone why you are feeling angry. The knack is to get in touch with when you begin to feel angry, so that you can do something about it before it gets to the steam coming out of the ears stage, when all you want to do is really start destroying the place! Awareness of the fact you are angry and expressing it in a non-threatening way, often makes the anger go away!

Parvez Z.
Parvez Zuberi4 years ago

Thanks for sharing i am a very cool person i do not get angary

Alexandra Rodda
Alexandra Rodda4 years ago

I don't deal with anger because I cannot remember the last time that I got angry. i can't even remember whether I've ever been angry. There have been times when I have felt sad, especially when something bad happens to people or animals that I love.
It seems to me that what I do instead of anger is to be aware of thoughts and feelings as they begin to form and at that moment decide what is best to be done in the situation - to observe or to say or do something about it.