What better way to start the new year and maybe some new ways of being than talking about anger? And not only talking about, but expressing anger too!
When did you last express your anger? Or didn’t express it, even though you felt it? How was that for you?
What do you notice in your body right now while thinking about expressing anger?
Many people ask us about how they can get over their anger. I judge it’s a really important question. Many of us have not witnessed in our childhood homes any good way of people expressing their anger and getting over it. Instead we have seen people leaving in anger, banging doors, giving the silent treatment, blaming, making nasty jokes, changing the topic, playing a victim or acting in other passive-aggressive ways.
I hear workshop participants say that they express resentment to the other party (as we do in Radical Honesty) yet tend to get stuck – expressing their anger for hours even – and are still unable to get over it.
I judge this to be a very important topic. In my opinion (and in my experience), getting over anger and fully forgiving is possible. Possible even when the topic is “big” like violence, lying, cheating, emotional, physical or sexual abuse.
And recognizing, expressing and getting over anger is helped with practice, practice, practice. Little by little, expressing – and getting over – anger can become easier.
For me, anger exists to protect us, to tell us “danger, be careful,” to express “I didn’t like that.” I might not like what my son, my mother or my husband does or says – and that is no one’s fault. Anger isn’t about right and wrong. “Wow, how liberating!” you might think. And I agree; it really is! Right and wrong aren’t really that important. What’s important is how I feel and how you feel and us sharing that aloud and staying present with each other, going through those (loud, intense) moments together until we get to a better place of forgiveness and even love.
Here are some tips for how to express your anger in order to get over it and feel more connection and love as a result:
1. Learn to recognize your anger.
We need to first learn to recognize that we’re angry before we’re able to express it. We have been told by parents, grandparents, teachers and other adults around us to be less angry, to be less demanding, to be quieter, to be less expressive, to be less irrational. As children, we were thoroughly conditioned to believe anger is bad and that we are wrong for expressing it. And we believed that bullshit (just as our parents did before us) so much that often we have difficulty even recognizing when we’re angry.
So, notice what physical sensations arise in your body. Tightness in your jaw, chest or stomach? Trembling hands? Increased heartbeat? Notice your thoughts. Are you trying to suppress any thoughts? Are you telling yourself things like: “Just let it go. It’s not a big deal. I shouldn’t be angry about this.” Sounds like anger!
2. Befriend your anger.
Actively recognize and accept that your anger is there for a reason. It’s an emotion like any other and there aren’t any “bad” emotions. Anger is a normal mammal and human response to things your system judges (rightly or wrongly) as some kind of a threat. Anger helps you notice what’s OK for you and what’s not. Anger is your friend. It’s there to support you to take care of yourself (and sometimes others).
3. Express your anger.
When you notice that you’re angry, tell the other person what you’re angry about – facts about what they said or did that you didn’t like. Don’t wait until you are raging. Express it immediately when you notice “a little irritation” or “discomfort” arising in you. Allow yourself to be petty and unreasonable. We all get angry about petty and unreasonable shit, whether or not we admit it.
4. Stay present.
When you express your anger, try to stay present to your physical sensations, to your thoughts and to your emotions. Look the other person in the eye. Notice how your sensations shift. Stay present and keep eye contact longer than you normally do. Remaining present with the other person and allowing all the (maybe unpleasant) sensations to come and go are keys to getting over anger.
5. Separate fact from fiction.
Arguing about who correctly interpreted what has happened isn’t beneficial. How you make yourself feel about what happened is far more relevant.
6. Free yourself from the right/wrong game.
Often, one or both parties don’t want to get over their anger. They want to blame the other. They want to be right. They want to be the one who’d been wronged. In each of these cases, the person isn’t taking responsibility for their own emotion, the anger that they themselves created. Our anger is always about us. Therefore, I highly recommend bringing awareness to any desire you have to be righteous or to blame the other party or to play the victim.
7. Your anger isn’t that big of a deal.
Sometimes, I see couples where both parties make anger very serious and important. Ultimately, I judge, it’s not! Feeling anger is a core part of you being human and a core part of your survival mechanism. It’s there to serve you. At the same time, it’s not very serious. Oftentimes, it’s just some sensations in your body.
I regard anger as a close friend to love. The opposite of love isn’t anger; it’s not caring. Expressing anger is caring, it’s also expressing trust, closeness—even love. “I care for you so much that I don’t want to withhold my anger from you even if I’m risking you becoming angry at me or liking me less. I could easily bullshit you yet instead I choose to be honest with you and express my anger directly to you.”
Watch this video about anger and getting over it:
Who you are angry at and haven’t got over it yet?
Will you express it to them?
Do you believe that anger is your friend?
Tuulia (and Pete)