The Most Important Step in Dealing with Anger
It’s amazing to think about how many different ways one emotion can manifest itself. Anger can show up in so many ways in our lives. For some, dealing with anger looks like screaming and ranting, while for others anger is a quiet seething that they keep hidden beneath the surface.
No matter how It appears, anger is an emotion that many of us feel. Often, we see the symptoms or the consequences of our anger without ever dealing with the problem that exists in our hearts. If we take some time to look at and address the anger in our lives, we can begin managing our feelings and have more freedom from the anger we experience.
Dealing with anger: how we feel.
It is not uncommon to feel things without fully understanding the feelings that cause us to struggle. It is easier and more socially acceptable to blame our feelings on stress or busyness than it is to truly think about the emotion connected to our actions. After all, if you are short-tempered with someone, it is more acceptable to say you’ve been running around all day or the kids kept you up than it is to say, “I am angry.”
Often, anger feels more serious and has a more aggressive connotation than feelings such as sadness, loneliness, or worry. This results in people misidentifying or denying how they truly feel in favor of a more palatable emotion.
When we do this, however, we miss the opportunity to be honest with others, and even more important to be honest with ourselves.
What anger can look like.
Just as with any emotion, the possibilities for what anger can look like and how it manifests are endlessly unique. We all have different ways of handling things, processing things, and displaying our emotions in the world around us. For the sake of understanding, here are a few examples of what anger can look like in everyday life:
- After a busy day at work, you find yourself arriving home 30 minutes later than you expected because of traffic on the highway. When you rush inside and drop your things by the door, you are immediately bombarded by questions from your family about dinner, homework, and watching TV. As you rush to answer everyone and get dinner going, you are momentarily distracted and your quick and easy dinner is burned. That’s when things get loud and have you tossing dishes in the sink and pleading for everyone to leave you alone for five minutes.
- Standing in the middle of the living room, you and your spouse start arguing about the same thing that’s been at the center of your arguments a hundred times. You find yourselves going around in circles so you give up, stomp away and go into your room, slamming the door behind you.
- As you pull up to the school drop-off line, you hope that you are not so late that they’ve already locked the doors. You look back and realize your first grader doesn’t have his left shoe on and the cereal you brought in a baggie as you rushed out the door has spilled all over the floor. You snap at your child, sighing heavily and ranting about how this always happens.
While these three scenarios have different circumstances, they all represent ways we handle our anger. From loud banging and yelling to stomping away and ranting, each of these illustrations shows someone dealing with anger.
The interesting thing is most people won’t say they are angry. Instead of identifying anger, they will say they are rushed or frustrated or simply sick of it. All of those things may be true, but the emotion they are feeling in the moment, whether warranted or not, is anger.
Finding your way out.
If you want to begin to find your way out of the tangle of feelings you experience in moments like this, the best thing is to start by recognizing that you feel something. Even if you are not yet able to name what your emotion is, taking the time to recognize how you feel is an important step toward managing emotions such as anger.
In the examples above, you can begin by saying you feel rushed, exhausted, or frustrated. Maybe it’s something else like tired, overwhelmed, or sad. Those feelings are real and valid.
Tips for dealing with anger.
The way we respond in situations often stems from a feeling. Identifying those feelings is the first step toward looking at why you feel that way and how it is manifesting in your life. Understanding this and making small changes is an effective way to manage how you react.
Name your anger.
After you’ve taken some time to identify some of your feelings, you can ask yourself an important question:
Is this all I feel?
If you say you’re feeling rushed, is that really all you are feeling? If it is, you can think of ways to deal with feeling rushed. But if you look at it on a deeper level and think, “I’m rushed all the time and I’m tired of feeling this way,” there may be more to it. As you take it apart and look at how you feel, think about what role anger plays in the scenario.
If you think about it and get to a point where you say, “I am angry,” you can do so without shame. Feeling anger is a completely natural response. When we don’t identify our anger, however, we often end up expressing it in ways we do not like. Naming our anger and truly identifying it gives us the clarity to address the real issue with which we are struggling instead of only treating the symptoms we see on the surface.
Identify what is behind it.
When you recognize that you feel angry, you can begin to address why. You can think about what is causing your anger instead of only focusing on how you react. This takes time and requires you to ask thoughtful questions with the willingness to respond honestly.From the examples above, you could ask yourself questions like this:
- Am I really angry about burning dinner, or am I angry because I always feel rushed and get home late, feeling like I don’t get to enjoy time with my family?
- Why am I angry with my spouse right now? Is it because of this single disagreement or is it from something else?
- Am I angry because of the cereal on the floor, or am I angry because we are always running late?
These are just a few examples of questions you can ask as you consider the source of your anger. Each scenario is very different and requires unique thoughtful questions specific to your situation, your personality, and your experiences. But the common thread is the value in identifying why you can say, “I am angry.” Doing this work is important and will help you manage those feelings of anger.
Start processing those issues.
When you ask these questions and issues start to come to the surface, that’s when you start working on them. That’s when you take the time to think, pray, process, and make changes so you can handle your anger in easier and healthier ways for yourself and those around you.
Often, we need help dealing with anger and processing it effectively. We need help getting to the root cause of our anger and figuring out how to sort through it so we can manage the stresses of everyday life without anger overtaking us.
If you want help identifying why you feel angry and how to move forward, reach out to me or one of the other counselors in our online directory today. We can help you find ways for dealing with anger effectively so you can live with more freedom.
“Mother-Daughter Clash”, Courtesy of RODNAE Productions, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Argument”, Courtesy of Keira Burton, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Fight”, Courtesy of Karolina Grabowska, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Argument”, Courtesy of Liza Summer, Pexels.com, CC0 License