Anger fuels our dark side. We give into the impulse to strike out justifying our mean words and destructive actions by unspoken thoughts such "You hurt me and so I'm going to hurt you back." We escalate, tell ourselves "they deserve it" and erroneously think, "If I yell louder, they'll get my point, wake up, and admit they were wrong, say they are sorry, and tell me that I am right."
When we don't express our anger constructively, we either strike out, going negative, or we pull away, feeling resigned and apathetic. It feels almost impossible to get out of our fall-back reaction and even harder to be positive, loving, and compassionate.
Why? Because of our pride. When angry, instead of dealing with it like a child who spontaneously throws a tantrum and then moves back to being present, we go mental, get righteous and think that others or things "should" be the way we think they should be. We become stuck in our myopic way of interpreting events and escalate our tactics.
Maybe we resort to physical intimidation, especially if that is what was modeled by our caretakers. Again, we think the world should conform to the way we believe it should be and think we can bully others so they give in to what we want.
Putting expectations on others is a habit that keeps us feeling angry. The result is unmet expectations. Our "shoulds" fuel more anger in ourselves and the recipients. They create feelings of separation and magnify differences, thereby diminishing the amount of love we feel. Rather than continuing to stew in anger and then explode verbally, mentally, or physically, there is something simple we can do.
Anger is an Emotion, a Physiology in the Body
Anger in itself is not a bad thing. It is the natural emotional and physical response when we perceive injustices and violations, just as it's natural to cry when we experience hurts and losses.
Symptoms include the body temperature rising, muscle tension, teeth grinding, fist clenching, flushing, prickly sensations, and sweating. Anger is energy in our bodies; just as wind is energy.
It's Time to Step Through Your Pride and Do Something Different
I know it's hard but each time you check the impulse to clam up and pull away with the silent treatment, or lash out physically, mentally, verbally, or emotionally, and make a choice to take a higher road, you will reap copious rewards.
Identify when you're feeling that energy in your body - hot and aggressive - deal with the anger constructively. Own the anger sensation as arising within you and handle it responsibly. Follow the lead of a toddler and have that temper tantrum rather than pulling away or blasting it on others or destroying things of value, such has others' tender hearts.
Express Your Anger Energy Physically and Constructively
"Rage rooms" are sprouting up all over this country, in Japan, and I'm sure elsewhere around the world. Maybe you've heard of them. You get to smash items like old television sets with a bat. Here's an article from The Guardian describing such a space in Houston, owned by Tantrums LLC. While they give permission to let loose and destroy things, people go home temporarily exhausted but unfortunately the underlying bad attitudes and feelings still linger.
Side note: One of my upcoming projects is to send each of these businesses my guidelines for constructively moving out the anger energy physically so that people get more than a momentary thrill but can use the rooms to gain perspective and move beyond the anger to acceptance and positive action.
Steps to Deal with Your Anger in a Healthy Way
In order to deal with your anger in a healthy way and truly embrace a positive attitude, here are the steps:
1. Find a safe place where you can release your pent up anger physically and naturally in a non-damaging way. This could be your garage, bathroom, bedroom, or car (not when you're driving, of course).
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2. Express the anger energy hard, fast, and with abandon. You can punch a heavy bag, mattress, use a flexible plastic hose on some old telephone books, or grip the steering wheel and shake it. An easy way to do this is to lie on your back on a bed and flail your arms, legs, and head, while yelling and grunting. Pound clay or bread dough. Throw rocks. Yank out weeds with abandon. Stomp around. Push against a wall or doorjamb. Shout into a pillow.
Here's a link that shows Christy constructively moving the anger energy out of her body. She felt great when she was finished!
3. Persist and move the energy out of your body. Do it hard, fast, and with abandon, until you're exhausted. Catch your breath and do it again. Repeat until you can't anymore!
4. Make sounds and noises because emotions are beyond the realm of words. No blaming or swearing. If you use words, yell something like, "I feel so angry. I feel so mad. I feel so pissed!" Saying negative things while expressing anger physically, just stokes the fire and reinforces thinking that the outside world is the problem. (This is the downfall of the Rage Rooms.)
You'll only feel embarrassed until the satisfaction and benefits become obvious.
After You Dispel the Anger Energy, Rewire Your Thinking
End your healthy meltdown by reminding yourself, you must accept the reality -- what is, is.
The best way to do this is to tell yourself, over and over, that: "People and things are the way they are, not the way I want them to be," "This is the way it is," or "That's the way they are."
When these phrases are repeated with focus and enthusiasm, your anger turns into amused acceptance. After repeating these words for a while, it becomes a fact, instead of a big conflicting deal that sucks you back into your old anger pattern. Keep at it until you truly accept the person or situation, just the way you accept the color of their eyes or that the world is round.
Acceptance does not mean passivity. First you must truly accept what is. Let go of your fantasy of how it should be, even though in your perfect world it would be different.
Look Within to Determine what Action to Take
Now you can look within your heart to decide what you need to say and/or do in order to honor yourself and the situation. Ask yourself, "What would be the highest / most loving thing to do?" "What will bring me more joy, love, and peace?" Listen to your heart and find what really resonates for you.
Maybe it's to remove yourself from the situation temporarily or permanently. Maybe it's best to say nothing, or maybe you need to take a stand. Maybe at a neutral time you need to initiate a discussion. Only you know what will make you feel resolved. So you need to ask yourself, not rely on what others would suggest.
Make a Concrete Plan, Then Do It
When you are clear about what you need to say and do, focus on making a plan and getting very specific. Like painting a house, it's all the prep that takes the time but is essential to having an outcome you are pleased with.
When you know you need to speak up in order to feel like you can let the upset go, be sure you talk about what's true for you. This means your communication is not laced with finger-pointing and global generalizations. Stick with addressing one specific situation at a time, saying what you need, want, believe, etc and doing so, in a kind way.
Write it out and rehearse what you are going to say. Do it in front of a mirror or with a friend. This is a huge behavior change and it's bound to feel awkward at first so I can't stress enough the importance of preparation and practice.
Follow through with a strategy that aligns with what you need to do to honor yourself. Execute your plan, with a willingness to be flexible, depending on what unfolds.
Our thoughts and emotions are powerful and can be used to uplift us or bring us down. If you dwell on the negative it's as if we are walking around with a loaded gun that we can use to inflict harm, over and over. If we act from a place of true acceptance and positivity, we are able to generate kindness and love. We are able to genuinely give to others, both in words and deeds. It feels good to do, and has a positive effect on others.
So, I'm suggesting you recognize the power you have and choose to use it in a life-affirming way.
©2016 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.
Book by this Author
Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
About the Author
Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education. Word spread about the success of Attitude Reconstruction, and it wasn’t long before Jude became a sought-after workshop and seminar leader, teaching her approach to organizations and groups. Visit her website at AttitudeReconstruction.com/
* Watch an interview with Jude Bijou: How to Experience More Joy, Love and Peace
* Click here for a video demonstration of the Shiver and Shake Process.