Anger gets a bad rap, and I don’t quite understand why. We’ve all heard that anger really only hurts us in the end, and that the first person to get angry loses the argument, and that we have two wolves inside us and we can’t feed the angry one.
Yeah, yeah. Sure. Those things are all probably true on some level.
But, humans have had anger as an emotion for thousands of years. We haven’t evolved out of it, and chances are, we’re not going to. Is something so completely natural really...toxic?
I don’t think so. Just like all of our emotions, it’s here to tell us something. It has information for us, and we need to know whatever it is that our anger is trying to tell us.
When did you last get angry? Like reeeeally white hot, blaze-of-glory angry? Who were you talking to? What were you doing? Were you feeling threatened? Devalued? Or maybe you were fighting for something or someone you really love. Maybe, underneath that anger, you were very hurt, and you didn’t feel comfortable expressing your pain.
Maybe, because you live in Austin, Texas, you were in traffic on 35, and let me just take a minute to normalize that anger, friend!
Anger is like our emotional body guard. Times when we aren’t emotionally safe to be vulnerable, or when we think we won’t be heard, are times when anger comes out to protect us. Remember that cute Pixar movie, Inside Out? When Joy and Sadness went AWOL, Anger stepped up to the plate, because Anger can take control. Anger is strong, anger is passionate. Anger protects us. We need it when, for whatever reason, we can’t give room to our joy and our sadness.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me; stewing in your anger or letting it jump in the driver's seat whenever it wants to, is not going to get you where you want to go. Unless where you want to go is a very isolated, lonely place full of health problems. But, funnily enough, ignoring it, denying it exists, will take you to that same place. Recently, a client shared with me that she views her anger like a monster that lives under her bed, and she’s trying to starve it so it dies. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a pet that you’ve forgotten to feed for a few hours, but I have definitely done that, and let me tell you how loudly angry my cat can get. And rightly so; she was pissed with me! It’s a great example of how her anger helped her get her needs met.
If you starve your anger, all that will happen is that it will start screaming at you.
Like my cat.
Just like our other emotions, anger can be explored, understood, and expressed effectively and safely. Scream in your car, punch some pillows, write a nasty letter and burn it (safely!). Expressing anger, as long as you aren't hurting anyone (including yourself!) is incredibly healthy.
But listen to your anger, learn from it. Maybe you're angry with someone for crossing a boundary, and maybe your anger can help you know where that boundary actually lies. Maybe anger can give you clues to discover your values, and maybe it can help you assert your feelings when someone has treated you poorly. Maybe it shows you what you’re truly passionate about. If there’s no anger, there’s no passion. The funny thing about anger is, the more we give it our mindful, intentional attention, the less intensely we experience it.
So, my dears, would you like to have a better relationship with your anger? We’ve all got monsters under our bed, but if we invite them to come out and play in safe ways from time to time, maybe they don’t have to be monsters that haunt us.
We love your angry side. We love that healthy voice inside you that says “I do not deserve mistreatment.” We even love the anger that's gotten away from you a little, and we love helping you meet it on different terms. We welcome your anger with open arms. Bring your little monster in, and we’ll teach you how to talk to it, and how to love it. We've got you.
Head on over to our Get Started page, and let’s get angry friends.