Most of us have never learned how to recognize or express our anger in a healthy way so we overact to trivial situations or respond with inappropriate behaviors to show -- or hide -- our anger. We develop a dysfunctional style of expressing and responding to anger that we learned during childhood. As we grow older, we are likely to develop an adult version of one of the early inappropriate styles listed below. Look Familiar?
1. The Silent One - Withdraw when angry, leaving others wondering what went wrong. She may mope and not speak for days.
2. The Suffering One - She says she feels no anger, yet seethes underneath, accepts things in a martyr-like way.
3. The Shooter - She's quick to express anger and quick to forge it. She is impulsive, volatile, and does not realize the impact this behavior has on others.
4. The Sarcastic - She hides her hurt and anger by sarcastic and intellectual criticism.
5. The Guilty One - She hides her anger at others by telling herself she is responsible for everything that goes wrong. She often puts herself down and feels unworthy.
Anger is a normal human emotion. It tells us that something is wrong. It exists to deliver a message and to let others know how we feel. If we learn to recognize our anger, we will express it directly and openly at the time the feelings occur, or as close to the time as possible. There is resolution in the very act of expressing our feelings, even though we cannot change the circumstance or the person involved.
Anger that is not felt, expressed and managed gets suppressed and affects our health and our relationships. Unmanaged and suppressed anger contributes to depression, rebellious behavior and insomnia. We can get headaches, stomachaches, and want to go to the refrigerator every hour even though we are not hungry. We walk around stuffing it, misdirecting it, or escalating it, everything but expressing it appropriately and letting it go.
Try these steps to help you connect with and manage your anger in a healthy way:
1. Mop up old, unresolved anger from past circumstances and from those we feel have wronged us. Write a letter to everyone you are angry with. Give yourself permission to say anything and let your feelings out, but do not mail the letter. Your child can do this too through writing or drawing.
2. Learn to recognize physical or behavioral "cues" that signal you are angry. Where do you feel tight, tense or num? What do you do when anger occurs? How did the situation make you feel besides angry? As you learn about your behavior, you will be able to help your child identify hers or his.
3. Identify what you are angry about. Are you angry at others, angry at yourself or is it residual anger from the past? Ask yourself what about this situation, interaction or circumstances angers you the most? Replace any self-recrimination with self-acceptance.
4. Validate your feelings. Allow feelings to be there. Identify, accept and validate your feelings to manage your anger. Sometimes that is all we need to do. Validate your child's anger too. When she/he knows their feelings are being understood, they can let it go.
Once you have recognized that you are angry, deal with it constructively:
1. List the possible solutions. You may have decided to deal with it by talking to a friend, writing out your feelings, taking a walk and giving yourself a "time out." You may decide to express your feelings directly to the person who made you angry or not.
2. Think before you speak and always use "I" messages. This is not about winning an argument: it is about letting someone know how you feel and working out a resolution. Instead of "you never pay attention to me," state your feelings and follow it by a request: "I feel very left out when you don't pay attention to me. Would you be willing to set some time aside for us to connect? Learn this and model this way of communication for your children. Praise yourself for your efforts. Teach yourself and your children to identify, manage and ultimately let go of anger. Letting go of anger will help you to develop a more forgiving nature. As we forgive others we are more likely to forgive ourselves. It is here where we begin to connect with our spiritual essence and awaken our soul.
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