How to Process Anger – Part One: When You Feel Angry
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I read a great book called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I was so impressed with the information he offered and his style of writing, that I ended up reading a second book of his called Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way. This book was also filled with excellent tips and prompted the writing of a series of posts on this topic. This is the first post about what to do when you feel angry.
First of all, I feel learning to work with anger in a healthy way is something we all need, even if we don’t see ourselves as someone who gets angry. After reading this book, I realize many of us have just as much anger as those who express it easily, we have just buried it. Burying any emotion, especially anger, causes all types of problems and isn’t a healthy solution. Instead, I feel we need to let anger serve the role it is meant to in our experience. Just like all emotions, it comes to help us understand something going on within ourselves that is not in harmony. Anger is a warning system. It lets us know when we are feeling out of balance because something going on in our experience feels unjust. Rather than dismiss the feeling (which means it ends up buried since the cause hasn’t been addressed), I feel we are better off learning a healthy way to understand and heal what it is bringing to light.
Chapman offers five steps to take when we find ourselves feeling angry. They are…
“Consciously acknowledge that you are angry.” Chapman recommends that you say out loud, “I’m angry about this! Now what am I going to do?”
“Restrain your immediate response.” This refers to the two typical reactions we take when we are angry. We either attack or withdraw. Neither option is a healthy way to respond, so by restraining this response, we have the opportunity to work through our feelings and gain understanding.
“Locate the focus of your anger.” Get clear on what you are angry about. I’ve noticed that sometimes we transfer our anger. Take the time to get clear on where something feels unjust. Is there something deeper going on beyond the current situation? Chapman recommends that you also consider the seriousness of the offense, so that you are not overreacting. It is also a good idea to ask yourself if you have all the facts too.
“Analyze your options.” Chapman suggests you evaluate each option of what to do through the lens of “Does the action I’m considering have potential for dealing with the wrong and helping the relationship?” and “Is it best for the person I am angry with?” He also said that the best two options are to “confront the person in a healthy way or consciously overlook the situation.”
“Take constructive action.” When you choose the second option to let the matter go, you are deciding to no longer feel anger, resentment or disappointment about the situation. You are truly handing it over to the Divine and letting it go. I’ve found it is helpful to frame it that I am letting God defend me. If there is something further to be addressed, the Divine will do so in the way that is highest and best for all. If you decide to confront the person, do it gently and with kindness. I have been practicing this and find it helps to be really clear what it is you want the other person to do. Is there something they can do to make the situation better? Do you just need them to ask for forgiveness? Do you just want them to understand where you are coming from? I have found that having someone angry at you about something that you can’t do anything about leads to more anger. When there is some way to make amends or clear up misunderstanding, it is much easier to stay calm and respond from love.
Chapman also shares a method to address feelings of anger with the other person. He suggests saying something like, “I’m feeling angry right now, but don’t worry, I’m not going to attack you. But I do need your help. When would be a good time to talk?” By having an established way to discuss the feelings and bring resolution, we can avoid anger becoming explosive or implosive bringing an opportunity for true healing to occur.
Stay tuned for the next post on what to do when someone is angry at you! You can also purchase the book at this link if you are interested in learning more: Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way