Wrath- the intensified feeling of anger, the one which means we are beyond control of our emotions or actions, is included in the Bible’s 7 deadly sins. Whether you are of a Christian inclination or not, the avoidance of descending into full blown fury is something which is universally sought. Taking the higher ground, turning the other cheek and walking away are spouted as helpful advice in het up situations but for many of us it is just not that easy.
Often the first manifestation of anger we immediately think of is physical or verbal attack. Saying cruel or threatening things or being physically abusive, whether that is in a domestic setting or a bar brawl, can be upsetting and scary for everyone involved, whichever side of the altercation you are on. In fact, recognising anger in yourself can often bring up lots of feelings of shame- as we feel somehow that we should be above behaving like this and should be more in control of our emotions. Feeling as though maybe we are not completely in control of our actions can make us feel that we cant keep ourselves or those around us safe, which in itself can feel quite frightening.
Frequently, we find that we ignore the parts of ourselves which we do not like or feel comfortable with and so we shut these feelings out, burying them and hoping that if we don’t look too closely at them, they will rot away and cease to exist. If only it were that easy. In this instance, blocking out the feeling of being angry just serves to push it down deeper into your psyche where it festers until you can no longer ignore it. It may then seem that an angry outburst can arise at an unexpected time, totally disproportionate to the situation at hand and the cycle of feeling shocked and shameful continues.
Quite honestly, feeling angry is a very human emotion. It is also a wonderful defense mechanism which shields us from our ego from being damaged. There is a saying that ‘anger is sadness’s bodyguard’ and it is a feeling that goes hand in hand with other emotions such as jealousy, feeling threatened, being wronged, being humiliated, feeling ashamed. It is often the emotion that peeps its head above the parapet before we are really aware of what it actually is that has upset us. For example, when we are embarrassed in a public sphere we can have a tendency to direct our angry feelings towards the person who made us look silly or find fault outside of ourselves. This protects us from feeling like we are the ones who have played a part in this embarrassment, even though there is a chance that we actually have.
The first step to taming your anger is to recognise it, and if at all possible, in an uncritical way. Try to be curious about it and consider what has happened to trigger you to feel this way. Are you being brought back to a previous time where you felt threatened and you needed to protect yourself? What changes are happening in the body and what feelings are being bought up? When did you start to feel that feeling of anger or lack of control start to rise? Can you step away from the situation that is triggering you and try to cool off? Sometimes merely recognising our temperament changing can give us valuable time to distance ourselves from what is upsetting us, take a few deep breaths and try to get a different perspective.
One of the big things to remember is that feeling angry is ok. It’s an emotional response and one that we need to be careful how we act on, but there is no shame at all in feeling it. Finding a healthy outlet for it when things build up is another important stage. Moving our bodies, whether that’s going for a walk or doing a workout can help burn off the energetic feeling that accompanies feeling angry. Smaller actions like screaming into a pillow or tensing your whole body, holding for a count of twenty, then releasing are also more discrete ways of moving that angry energy through you. Writing can be a great outlet for feeling angry, journaling and letting the pages know just how irritated or hurt you are can help you empty out all the angst-filled thoughts swimming around in your head. Talking things through with a trusted friend or sitting with the feeling and gently asking yourself what else is going on can also be really useful.
If you are feeling as though you are not in control of your emotions, and are finding that anger, either directed outwards or towards yourself is becoming a problem then it is well worth speaking to a mental health professional about it. Being able to speak candidly, without any fear of judgment can be a really cathartic process whereby you can explore what your relationship with anger is like and how you can have a better handle on how to deal with your emotions when life gets difficult. To find out more get in touch with The Henry Centre today to find out more.