(see part one for a quick technique to start managing anger differently).
Anger, like all emotions, is natural and normal, and can be very useful, depending on the context…
Our culture doesn’t help. I was thinking about this the other day in the shops, where the names of the men’s deodorants struck me: Brut, Cool Kick, Arm & Hammer, Swagger, Bulldog, Force, Man Up, and many more… what the? Next time you’re in the toiletry aisle have a look, you’ll see what I mean. The women’s deodorants had the usual powdery-sensual-flowery type names…
Women too, learn unhelpful things about anger from a young age, but going the other way – that it’s unacceptable to be angry. This has resulted in many women becoming afraid of their (and others’) anger, leading them to bottle up anger, stay safe by being passive-aggressive (or overly polite and “nice”, people-pleasing), storm eating their anger down, numbing anger in some way.
Anger is different from aggression
Anger is energy in motion, felt on the inside, under our skin. It can keep us feeling armoured, super-focused and driven (there is an expression that says “anger makes you stupid”!) It’s an emotion that tells us “something’s wrong, it must be fixed, NOW”.
It consists of three parts, which are swung into action by the fight/flight part of the brain:
- physical sensations
- urges or impulses to take action
These three work together to push us to take action quickly. If we let the urges propel us then this becomes anger acted out, or aggression. So aggression isn’t an emotion, it’s a behaviour where we use force to create change, with our words and voice, arms, legs.
… and in some contexts, this is useful. It certainly helped save our ancestors from invading tribes and sabre toothed tigers who threatened our young, and it can be helpful if we are being mugged. Sometimes too we might need to “act in” our anger, and bottle it up – if for example you are angry with a toddler, and you need to be the adult. It all depends.
Learning to control anger means that you will still feel the anger, but that you will be able to CHOOSE what to do with it, in line with your values and the person you want to be. You will be in charge of your life, rather than being pushed around by anger.
I hope that part three of this series will help you to do this.
And a reminder, if you’re struggling with anger (words and image put together by Chris Winson, #365daysofcompassion creator and curator) ~