Does controlling anger work?
How To Encourage Self Growth Through Anger
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What’s your relationship to anger?
Do you see anger as a helpful source of wisdom, here to help you know there’s something you need to say, a way you need to stand up for yourself, say no or set a clear boundary?
Or, do you see anger as a frightening, uncomfortable emotion that needs to be avoided or denied and buried as soon as possible?
Or, maybe you see anger as an opportunity to EXPRESS YOUR ANGER: shout, curse, tell others what you think, blow off steam, throw a tantrum and stomp around?
Or, do you claim to rarely ever actually experience anger, say it’s an emotion you seldom feel, don’t have or refuse to have?
What’s YOUR relationship to anger?
I can tell you that my relationship to anger has been evolving rapidly in the last couple of years – from feeling fear and aversion when anger arose in me to appreciation.
Growing up, anger wasn’t allowed in our family.
Mom didn’t allow it, wouldn’t ever admit to feeling it (although she could be angry at me about something for days – giving me the cold shoulder, dirty looks and criticizing everything I did).
So I learned to distrust my anger, to fear it and repress it.
But . . . like shaking a can of soda, when opened, my anger would spew out uncontrolled – and often in unexpected and embarrassing ways.
That meant that I spent around five decades AVOIDING anger – remaining estranged, like two people forced to live together but who avoided seeing each other except by chance and unwelcome encounters.
Lately, through working with Mind-Body Coach, Lorraine Faehndrich, reading The Language of Emotions by Karla McClaren, along with hundreds of hours of Tapping and journalling, I’ve come to an evolving and enriching relationship with my anger.
Here are three tips I’ve learned, that can help you make friends with anger, one of our more helpful emotions. You can think of these as “controlling anger,” but in reality you’re learning how to use your anger in beneficial ways.
Tips for Making Anger Your Friend
When anger arises, first, be curious.
Whatever your first natural response (scared avoidance, self-righteous outburst), set that aside for some open exploration. You can ask the anger:
“What gift are you here to bring me?”
I’ve learned that anger is usually about boundaries – often about needing to set them. Or about the need to stand up for myself somehow in my life.
Once I was absolutely FURIOUS at a friend with whom I was staying. The anger arose uncomfortably and repeatedly for days.
Until I finally asked, while Tapping, “What message are you here to bring me?”
And I immediately heard back, “Move out! Get a place of your own!”
I THOUGHT my anger was about my friend, about what she’d done and said. But it turned out it was about me. About my reluctance to take action on my own behalf.
Once I realized what I was really angry about, my anger over that issue dissipated immediately and permanently.
2. Notice Your Body
Simply getting out of your head and tuning into your body instead is a great way to begin with any strong emotion.
Often, emotions don’t actually need ANY response. They arise, move about, and leave. They are like a wave crashing on the beach.
They come in, they go out.
Why? Our well-intentioned logical minds always want to be busy, explaining things. Telling the story of why something happened.
This is the natural inclination of our mind.
When we feel an emotion, the mind gets busy coming up with an explanation.
Let’s say your’re at work and someone looks at you, creases between their eyes, then quickly glances away. You feel a quick rush of fear. Your mind jumps into action, spinning a story:
See how she just looked at me? Looked right at me then turned away quickly? With that angry scowl on her face? She’s mad at me. I know she is. I did something wrong. What did I do? Was it because of the way I answered that last email? Or is she upset with the quality of the project I just turned in. I’ll be that’s it. I really should have spent more time on the last part. How can I fix that? What should I do?
Turns out the woman just got an email from HER BOSS asking her to come to a meeting today. When she looked at you, she didn’t actually see you at all, she was so caught up in her own story about why her boss wants to see her.
How to avoid all this unnecessary story-telling, spinning and worrying?
Simply tune into your body.
Give your mind a different job to do.
Notice what sensations you’re feeling. Is there heat? Pressure? Constriction? Vibration? Pain? Movement?
When your mind is occupied with observing and naming what you observe, there’s no time for spinning up a fantasy explanation.
I love to combine this noticing with simply tapping the EFT points. That moves the energy around the body and allows the sensations of the emotion to dissipate faster.
3. Dialogue with Your Anger
The third and very effective method in learning how to use your anger is to do a written dialogue with it. I recommend this method for strong anger, or anger that lingers for hours or days.
Here’s the process.
Sit where you won’t be disturbed or distracted and have 30 or so free minutes.
Begin by writing something like, “Anger, I’d like to understand you, learn more about what you’re here to tell me. Are you willing to talk to me?”
Then write “Anger:” and allow the words to come to you, words representing anger’s response. Go back and forth, asking anger questions and allowing anger to answer.
You may feel awkward at first, thinking you’re “making up” the answers. That’s ok. This type of process will get easier and feel more natural over time.
Keep writing this back and forth dialogue until you feel you have clarity, direction, and feel better. You may need to ask Anger, “What do you have to tell me that is nurturing, supportive and will help me feel better?”
Because anger, being what it is, may take on a critical tone that is not nurturing or supportive unless you specifically ask for that.
Want to learn more about how to use EFT Tapping for controlling anger? Get more info here.