We are conditioned to think of anger as a completely negative experience, when in reality it’s a natural reaction on the spectrum of emotions. When we shame it in such a way, we suppress it, feel guilt around it, or harbor it inside our bodies. This could let it morph and grow into something else entirely—something typically deeper, more stuck, more harmful, or harder to release.
Coming to terms with anger as a normal human emotion or reaction is the first step in how we manage it and release it. We aren’t advocating for huge angry displays or fits. Instead, we should embrace that anger as a feeling so that we can process it—digest it and pass it, properly. Here are a few ways to identify anger and find your way to cope.
When we find ourselves emotionally triggered, a natural reaction for many is to cry. This can be deceiving, making us feel as though sadness is the emotion at hand. We should first sit with the feeling and decide just how the trigger is affecting us. Frustration? Deceit? Violence? Where in the body do we feel it most? In the stomach? That’s usually anxiety. In the chest? That’s usually sadness. If it’s in the throat or head, that is an indicator of frustration or anger.
Instead of denying your feelings of anger—or worse, feeling shame for their authentic arrival—accept it. Say to yourself, either in your mind or aloud, “I’m angry.” Close your eyes and let yourself be angry for a bit. Sometimes it’s helpful to set a timer for five to 15 minutes, letting the emotion completely wash over you.
Now it’s time to ask yourself why you are angry. Was it something someone said or the way they said it? Maybe it was the intention behind something, or the lack thereof. It’s crucial to note that this is different from creating a narrative around an action. We don’t want to speculate why someone said or did something, because that can make our negative feelings grow, often unnecessarily. Strip away anything that isn’t a cold fact about what happened or how you feel about it.
Identify why that particular circumstance or occurrence made you angry. Where does the pain come from? Is it from a longstanding fear? Is it something more simple and straightforward? Once you know why it is triggering you so much—and whether the offending party or circumstance should be aware—you can figure out how to move forward.
Being physical can be an incredible way to release pent-up feelings of anger that lead to aggression. That could involve hitting the pavement for a long run or doing a HIIT workout. Maybe it’s hitting a punching bag or banging on a drum set.
More often than not, when a person has hurt or offended us in a way that makes us angry, drafting a letter or an email can be extremely cathartic—even (sometimes especially) if you don’t send it.
Draft an email when at the height of your feelings. Let all your anger pour into it. Save it in your drafts, and review it in a day or two. You may be surprised at how intense your feelings were and want to edit some of that anger out. You might find that with each passing day, the feelings of anger lessen, and you see that what you really want is to have an open discussion with this person and clear the air. It’s an excellent way to diffuse the rage.
Once you feel you’ve understood and dealt with your feelings, take some deep, cleansing breaths to rid your body of the remainder of that energy. This helps not only bring oxygen into your blood and brain for a boost of serotonin, but it also clears your passageways so you can move forward without harboring that sticky anger in your body.
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