Anger is a clear, clean emotion and we as human beings have been given anger as one of the useful emotions we can use to get through life. Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross used to say words to the effect that if we are angry for longer than 15 seconds – the time it takes to say, “No thank you”, we are dealing with unfinished business from the past. Most of us have anger festering in us from so many occasions in the past that we could barely remember them and yet they remain inside. Anger has a ‘best before’ date and it needs to be expressed at least to ourselves and then, if appropriate, to the one who has angered us.
If we own and accept our anger then it is something we can use to fuel our lives at times. You may notice that you clean particularly thoroughly when you are angry. Righteous anger at any injustices that we see and/or experience can enable us to do some amazing things. We have difficulty with anger when we deny that we are angry or that we ever feel angry. If we deny our anger, then it slips out unexpectedly and we are unconscious about it so we become like a snake hissing, dishing out snide remarks to our nearest and dearest and others or behaving in a passive aggressive way.
So what can we do?
First of all admit that we are angry, and then find healthy ways to express that anger. We don’t use it against other people or animals. We can draw it or paint it or write about it or use a bat to hit large catalogues or cushions and yell and scream. I often suggest that clients do that. First put on music in your home, so you won’t be heard by people nearby and then hit cushions or whatever. Sometimes just rolling up a towel and twisting it can help. If you are out walking or running, just voice to yourself how angry you are at this or that person or event. If you box, allow yourself in your mind to yell and scream at whoever has angered you whilst boxing and thereby releasing your anger.
If you are angry at another person, let yourself feel the anger and express it to yourself before you actually attempt to tell the other person of your anger. Once you have run your feelings of anger, then you can clearly and honestly tell the other person how their action made you feel. When I say, ‘run your feelings’, I mean really feel the anger, rage, disappointment, feeling of betrayal, grief, hurt and sadness that this person’s actions or words have evoked in you. This may take a few hours or a few days, but it is important to feel that range of feelings until they have run out. Most anger responses are not just about what is happening currently but are rooted in some past experiences about which we felt very angry but didn’t express it. Therefore the current anger brings with it, anger from the past.
Once you have exhausted those feelings and do not feel so charged about the event, you can then tell the person how you felt as a result of what they did or said. Use ‘I’ statements. When you said this or did that, ‘I’ felt angry, hurt and whatever mixture feelings you felt. This helps to avoid shaming and blaming which is not helpful and certainly will not help to mend the rift that you have experienced. Sometimes instead of admitting to our anger, we shut down, and that does immense damage to our relationships because then there is no way through until we actually open up and admit how we have felt.
Many of us feel ashamed of being angry, thinking that we shouldn’t feel anger at all.
We imagine that feeling angry makes us a bad person and it is not ‘natural’ to feel angry and certainly not if we think of ourselves as kind and good. Anger doesn’t fit into that fantasy. If we are human, we cannot avoid feeling angry and it is perfectly natural and just to feel it. Especially people who want to be ‘spiritual’ sometimes see anger as contrary to that and therefore not ‘spiritual’. However for people who believe in something greater than ourselves, the Divine in whatever form we see that, it is actually that Divine, which is greater than us, who has created this anger for us as a resource to be used appropriately in our lives and yet we feel it is wrong.
It is not a good idea to be nice to a person who is a tyrant or a traitor or a thief. Being kind to someone like that encourages him/her to become worse and does not awaken the culprit. The more you are kind to a liar, the more that person is likely to lie. Your kindness prevents you from confronting that liar who imagines you don’t see what they are doing. In this instance it is actually not kind to be kind! If it were not for anger, we would not recognise a person as a tyrant, liar, thief or bully. Somehow when we feel anger, we can see it as a signal that something is not right.
In terms of large events that occur in the world that are so numerous we couldn’t mention them all, it is when we feel angry that we attempt to right some of the wrongs that are happening in so many areas. If we did not feel that anger, how could we do anything to bring justice where it is needed? Please value your anger and learn to use it in a healthy way.