What you need to know about anger that will change your life
by Jennifer Bailey, Guest Blogger
I used to be angry all the time. If you asked me, I would’ve said I wasn’t angry, just annoyed with how stupid and disrespectful people could be. But I was losing relationships because I was far angrier than I knew—angry to the point it turned off those closest to me, and I had no idea until it was too late.
So what is anger? And why is it so hard for us to tell how much damage it’s doing to us?
Anger is a defense mechanism. It’s your protector, acting as a shield between you and a deep pain and hurt that you’re trying to avoid having to feel.
The sad thing about anger is, even though it’s there to protect you, it’s just another source of pain. It may be less than the pain you’re avoiding, but it still hurts you and those around you. It alienates you from the people you care about. It can even go so far as to shut you down from being able to experience joy and connection with others.
But what’s good about anger is that it’s a signal something is wrong. It’s an opportunity to look deeper into yourself to figure out what hurts so bad and needs healing.
Once you’re aware of your anger, you can turn it on its head and use it to your advantage. Remember the dowsing or divining rods people used to use to find water in the ground? You can use anger in the same way to point you to what’s really bothering you.
Here are some ways to do that:
1. Start noticing when you get angry.
When something—or someone—sets you off, especially when you think you might be overreacting, you’ll know that’s a sign that something’s bothering you below the surface. Start noticing when those things happen. Write them down, then look for common threads between them.
2. Run head first toward whomever you’re avoiding.
You know how people say that everyone is a mirror for you, or an opportunity to see what you’re really like? It’s true. Maybe painful, but true. When someone drives you absolutely crazy, that’s a perfect opportunity to learn something more about yourself.
Think about all the people in your life that you can’t stand, then ask yourself a series of questions.
• What behavior irritates you so much?
• Why does it bother you?
• Why that person might be doing it—what’s the underlying reason for the behavior?
• Do you do that same thing, even if you do it in a different way?
• Do you have that same need or desire that other person has?
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re at a party and you notice that you’re being driven absolutely crazy by two people, one who doesn’t seem to know when to stop talking and one you know who always has to tell people how great she is or what her latest accomplishment is. Those look like two different behaviors you find annoying. But the reason for these two people’s behavior is the same—they’re seeking attention.
Now you would ask yourself—do you do that, too? Do you behave in ways that get you attention from others? Do you feel like you need attention? This is another clue to what’s under the surface causing you pain.
When you figure out what’s really bothering you, you can start to understand what it is that you’re not getting. Where in your life are you not getting enough attention? From whom? When did that start?
The deeper you can go in asking yourself these questions, the more you’ll know about the pain you’re trying to cover up with anger. And when you can finally face it, you can heal it. That’s when anger goes away, life opens up, and joy fills the spaces where that pain used to live.
I can never thank Belanie enough for helping me go through this process and create a brand new life for myself. My pain and anger were hidden from me so well that I needed help seeing what I couldn’t. Now, I am finally able to feel the love in my life instead of feeling alone, disconnected from everyone and everything. If you’re struggling with this like I did, remember help is always available if you need it.
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After crying every day for over a year when my marriage abruptly came to an end after 20 years, I had a very hard time expressing anger.
It was a real turning point forward for me when the tears finally came to a halt and I began to fully embrace the massive storm of anger that I stuffed deep inside for years.
Years and years of unexpressed frustrations and anger from verbal and emotional abuse I had endured began to rise up to the surface. My therapist encouraged me to embrace the energy it gave me to take back control of my life and put together a plan of action.