Yesterday, a client told me, “I’m so angry about how my boss treated me”. I asked him, “So, what did you do with your anger?” He said, “I yelled at some people I work with. Tomorrow, I need to apologize to them.”
We all get angry. We’re supposed to. Anger tells us that someone or something has violated our boundaries, our sense of right and wrong. Luckily, when we get angry, we have many choices as far as what we want to do about it.
We are not victims of difficult emotions – like anger; we can work with them in ways that help us and don’t hurt us. For example, sometimes it’s best to contain your anger and not express it in the moment. Sounds logical, right? But, how do you pull this off?
As children, we got to have temper tantrums; we yelled and screamed (didn’t we?) and were taught by our parents that we need to be responsible for our anger.
Unfortunately, some of us didn’t have parents who taught us that; some of us had parents who raged at and terrorized us. As a result, we may be afraid of anger, both our own and other people’s. Some of us were raised in an environment where everyone yelled and screamed as the “normal” way of communicating. Then, as we grew up, we were surprised when other people don’t appreciate our anger.
Regardless of how we were brought up, as adults, we are responsible for our feelings of anger. It’s ours to own and to use.
One client told me, “I want to get rid of my anger as fast as possible. I don’t like it. It makes me feel out of control.” In our work together, I’ve helped her to simply identify her anger and say: “I am angry right now.” This labeling helps her to observe it – not drown in it or pretend it isn’t there – and to own it.
Last week, I went to a professional development workshop for somatic (body-based) psychotherapists in Wyebridge, Canada. I learned a lot there about how to use the mind-body connection when working with difficult emotions, like anger. I’d like to share some of those techniques so that you too can constructively express and work with your anger:
Take a few minutes and write down everything that you can think of that you are angry about. Don’t hold back anything – no one will see this but you. Get it out!
Call a friend and ask them to listen to you vent your anger. Say everything you need to say, as if you were saying it to the person who really pisses you off. Don’t hold back.
Have an “adult temper tantrum”: lie down on a bed and kick your legs as if you were a little kid having a tantrum. Then add your arms, hitting the bed with them. Once you get the rhythm of that, move your head from side to side and say, “I won’t” or “You can’t make me”. Don’t worry about how it looks: the goal is to get all that anger out of your body.
Standing with your legs about hips’ width apart, feet parallel and knees bent, shout loudly about what you are angry about. Move your arms as if you’re flinging the anger off of you, out through your fingers.
Hit the bed: stand in front of a bed (with your legs in the same position as described above), hold a tennis racket with both hands and hit the bed with it, as hard as you can. Keep your knees bent and swing from over your head. Jut out your lower jaw and make a sound – yell, grunt, scream or say words (“no” is usually good to start with) as you hit. Do this for a minute or two until you’re exhausted.
These techniques will help get the anger “out” of your body in a constructive way that will leave you feeling better and calmer. Then, if you like, you can rationally consider if you want to talk with the person(s) you’re angry with.
Don’t be angry with your anger! It’s there to tell you something useful. Find ways to work with it so that you’re in charge of the anger (and not vice-versa).