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Anger is often a misunderstood emotion. It’s seen as bad or negative, but the truth is there are no “bad” feelings. There are feelings that make us uncomfortable–anger perhaps being one of them–but all feelings are just data. They aren’t good or bad, they just provide us with some information about ourselves.
And anger is often uncomfortable to feel. It signals to us some sort of discontentment–perhaps even mistreatment–so we don’t like to feel it, which is why it feels like a “bad” emotion. Because of this, many people don’t like to deal with their anger. They ignore it instead of engaging with that uncomfortable feeling, and perhaps also out of fear of it. But like all other emotions, you can find healthy ways of exploring and coping with your anger.
Learning to shift your attitude toward anger is a good first step:
Instead of seeing anger as something bad, or an emotion to be avoided or feel shame about, can you see anger as a messenger? Imagine it as a protective friend who is letting you know (emphatically!) that the way you are being treated is not acceptable.
For example: when someone says something cruel to you, and you feel anger, the anger isn’t the problem there. The problem was the cruel thing said to you. Imagine your anger as a friend standing by, calling out this behavior, letting you know that it wasn’t okay.
In that way anger is actually very healthy to feel–it signals a certain degree of self love and self respect. If you are angry at being treated this way, then you know you deserve more.
What are signs of unexpressed anger?
We know holding in our emotions can do more harm than good, and the same is true of anger. Signs you have unexpressed anger include:
- Chronic pains (jaw ache, back tension, headaches, muscle tension, etc.)
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty sleeping (falling or staying asleep)
- Digestive issues
- Stomach ulcers
- Addictive/compulsive behaviors
People are also afraid of their anger because expressions of it can be scary if not done in a healthy way. So how can you express it in a healthy way?
Give yourself space to feel it
Instead of shying away from your anger, give it room to breathe. Take time and space for yourself to just feel it; whether that’s talking it over to yourself or a friend, going for a walk to give yourself some space to think about what you’re feeling, etc. Just give yourself space to think about why you’re feeling what you’re feeling before you react.
Find a physical release
This can both release the feeling, reducing its intensity so it’s manageable instead of overwhelming, as well as reduce your overall stress levels, since that’s one of the main benefits of physical exercise!
This can be things like:
- going for a walk or run,
- turning loud music on and dancing/screaming along
- going to the gym
- hitting a punching bag
- finding something (disposable) that you can break/smash
- Pottery–working the clay, smashing it, sculpting it can be a good workout + release
Find an emotional/verbal release:
This can help you figure out what you’re feeling, just like getting space will. It also can lessen the intensity of what you’re feeling since you won’t be keeping it all bottled up. When you release it, you lessen the weight of it. Methods of doing this can be things like:
- talking to a therapist
- venting to a friend
- writing a letter you won’t send
- drawing/painting/some sort of art to express yourself
Tapping into what our anger is telling us will bring us a better understanding of ourselves, and care for ourselves better. If you need support managing your anger in a healthy way we can help. Contact us about individual counseling today.