Column: Tips for dealing with being angry at yourselfPublished 12:00am Saturday, February 23, 2008
By David A. Larson, Power of Living
Irritated. Aggravated. Frustrated. Angry. Huffy. Indignant. Mad. Incensed. Furious. Irate. Livid. Hostile. Pissed. Enraged. These are some of the terms that refer to this challenging and often misunderstood emotion in our society.
In Western cultures, particularly in America, we tend to channel our anger into one of two extremes on a spectrum. One way is to deny it in ourselves, stuff it down and keep it inside, sit on it and make ourselves sick with it, often turning it into depression. The alternative often experienced is to express it destructively in violence. In short, we either implode or explode.
Learning to manage anger occurs more easily when we can allow ourselves to admit to and express these feelings more frequently with strategies that represent the middle of the spectrum rather than the extremes.
Our anger, our fury, even our rage is an emotion that has a lot of power for us, which can be used in helpful or unhelpful ways.
When anger is used to stop abuse, confront someone who is hurting another, help the environment, assist the welfare of people or animals, or right a wrong caused by an injustice, we have channeled anger energy for a constructive purpose.
When anger is used to hurt others, manipulate, get our own way, to destroy, or to scare someone into conformity, we have misused the power of anger.
Feeling anger infrequently is preferred, because few of us feel good when we&8217;re angry. On the other hand, it&8217;s good to know anger can be motivating and energizing as well. In fact, my clients and I have identified more than 100 ways to express anger in positive ways. Here are some first steps for negotiating your way through this often-uncomfortable emotion
1. First, learn to recognize your clues to know when you are getting angry. We cannot manage our anger unless we know when it is happening. You may get thought cues, like wanting to punch someone, behavioral cues such as pounding on a table, body sensations such as tightness in the stomach, fists, arms, or jaw. Sometimes certain situations stimulate anger such as discussions about politics or religion. Knowing when we are becoming angry is the first step to managing it.
2. After identifying that you are getting mad, ask yourself what purpose this anger may have in your life. Is there something I&8217;m supposed to do to help someone? Is there a need or want of mine that is going unexpressed, which needs airing? Am I resisting something that needs to be accepted? Often our anger points to a place in our lives where we need personal growth to learn a lesson.
3. Release this emotion safely. We will do damage to our bodies and our psyche if we hold anger energy in. Expression of anger does not have to be violent (destructive), but can be spoken in words, expressed through body movement (such as running), written out (as in a journal), or drained away through meditation. Be sure and get some help if you are having difficulty here. Someone trained in working with anger can provide safety and guidance in processing it.
4. Channel the anger energy for a positive purpose. This might mean going to a public meeting to take a stand, writing a letter to a congressperson, picking up litter in the streets or even cleaning up the house. Because anger energy is often highly charged, a lot can be accomplished with this energy! One of the many helpful ways to channel anger may be to talk to the person with whom you are angry, with the intention of solving the problem and healing the relationship.
5. Let go and let yourself have peace. After allowing yourself to have the anger, and then expressing it productively or releasing it, it will transform like a hot ember turning into smoke and disappear. If you truly let the anger go, your body will experience relief, and the agitation and discomfort of experiencing this emotion will dissipate.
Good news, eh?
David A. Larson is a psychologist and personal coach. He can be reached at the Institute For Wellness in Albert Lea, (507) 373-7913, or at his Web site,