We have all experienced anger at some point in our life. As a matter of fact, we experience anger on a daily basis.
Anger is a healthy emotion that our body creates as a type of defense mechanism. Sometimes it's just a quick burst, like when someone cuts you off in traffic. And other times it can turn into full-blown rage, to the point we don't recognize ourselves and even say a few things we regret. If you pay attention to your body, you can easily recognize the emotion of anger. Our heart starts raising, and for some, it feels as if their face gets hot and turns red. And here's an interesting fact, anger causes blood to flow to our hands, which might make it easier to feel like striking something or someone.
But why, you might ask?
Anger has been instilled into our brain to protect us. There is physical protection, as well as emotional protection. Physiologically we respond the same way. When it comes to emotional protection, to really understand anger, think of anger like an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg represents anger, and what's hidden below the surface of the water represents the hidden emotions attached to your anger.
Photo credit: Gottman Institute.
These emotions can be linked to embarrassment, loneliness, depression, or fear. Other times, it’s a combination of diverse feelings. What matters the most is understanding what emotion(s) is causing the anger.
Once the emotion is recognized and validated, it can lead to healing conversations that allow couples, as well as other family members and friends, to understand each other better.
WHY SHOULD YOU EXPRESS YOUR ANGER?
As mentioned before, validating your anger and recognizing the emotions linked to it can lead to healing conversations with your loved ones. And if that is not enough, if anger is not expressed in time, things can get aggressive, and even violent in the future. At this point, when the reason for the anger comes out, it may come out in a way that it’s too harsh to be understood as a need for love and connection.
In other cases, some struggle to express feelings of anger and decide to keep it in. This may result in deep resentments, which deteriorate feelings of closeness and love. If you do not disclose the things that bother you, you will easily become bitter towards your partner. Resentments need to be worked out in relationships as this is a relationship killer.
A mistake a lot of couples make is not unveiling their anger thinking that the other person will feel bad about the situation. But this "self-sacrificing" does more harm than good. Suppressed anger leads to annoyance and annoyance leads to hostility. And more importantly, it stops any chance of finding a solution. The release of anger is a positive process for your body and relationship. In fact, holding on to anger can cause heart-related problems, digestive issues, headaches, and even skin related diseases.
HEALTHY WAYS TO EXPRESS ANGER
1. The first step is recognizing what key emotion your anger is linked to. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment is hard to stop and recognize the key emotion. If that is your case, kindly excuse yourself and do something to calm down enough to have a civilized conversation.
Here are a few ways to calm down when feeling angry:
Go out for a walk or running
Write out your feelings and emotions on paper
Scream into a pillow or in your car
Talk it out with a supportive friend (and one that is supportive of your relationship)
2. Once you have calmed down, the next step is to identify the “key emotion” linked to your anger. Take the time you need to truly identify where exactly your anger is coming from.
3. After identifying your emotion linked to your anger, it’s time to express the reason behind your anger to your partner. My favorite way to express emotions in a productive way is by using "I statements". "I Statements" is a style of communication that focuses on the feelings of the speaker rather than ideas of who’s at fault or wrong resulting in the vicious cycle of “the blame game.” For example, a person might say to his or her partner, “I feel unimportant and worried when you consistently arrive late to our dates without calling” instead of demanding, “Why are you never on time?”
I feel… (Insert Key Emotion or emotions)
When…. (be clear on what specifically caused you to be angry)
I would like … (offer a solution and be open to discussing different solutions if necessary)
4. Be Patient. Once you have expressed yourself, give your partner space to process what you have just said.
There is no such thing as avoiding anger, it’s what you do with that anger that matters. The promise is that with practice, it gets easier to do this, and it will create space to find solutions with your partner.
Your Therapy Friend,
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