Someone betrays your trust. A jerk cuts you off on the road. Your child disobeys you and breaks your “house rules." A business partner cheats you. A friend says something behind your back that is hurtful. A co-worker takes credit for your work. A boss puts you down or takes away hard-earned benefits.
Obviously, the reasons why you might become angry are many. In fact, there are likely hundreds of reasons—big and small—why you might become hot under the collar during a single day. That said, the issue is not if you will become upset—but how you will deal with it when you do, and the impact it will have if you don't deal with it effectively.
In my work, I have a front row seat on the impact of long-held anger on a person’s emotional, mental, and physical state, and it isn't pretty.
Truthfully, when a person comes to me and finally admits—perhaps for the first time—that she has held on to anger for years and years—never dealing with it, never expressing it, and, in many cases, never even acknowledging it—I know that there's going to be physical manifestation of this unexpressed emotion. Whether it shows up as high blood pressure, pain in the shoulders, breast cancer, or some other ailment, built-up resentment, hurt, and rage is at the foundation.
Rather than allowing an illness to force you to deal with the anger you are feeling, a much better approach is to learn to manage difficult emotions at the time that you are feeling them and then to use these emotions to move you forward in life.
Do yourself a favor and try these three steps to creating a positive experience with anger (or any difficult emotions), and save yourself pain and irritation in the short and long run:
Step 1: Recognize the emotion.
Now, this may seem simple enough, but the truth is that most of us go through life in a state of denial that we are feeling anything deemed “negative” at all. Instead of denying it, choose instead to bring your awareness to how you are feeling throughout your day.
When you body begins to tell you that you are feeling any difficult emotion—anger or any other—take the time to acknowledge how you are feeling.
Step 2: Express the emotion in a positive way.
Most of us have been taught that some emotions are “good” and some are “bad.”
For instance, most people I work with feel that happiness, love, hope, and faith are good, while anger, jealousy, hate, sadness, and grief are bad. However, being taught that this is the case causes us to try to block, deny, hold in, or repress “negative” emotions, which makes us sick mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Emotions are just emotions—they aren’t good or bad, they are human. It is how we express them that can be good or bad.
So, once you recognize that you are experiencing anger—or any other difficult emotion—find a way to express it positively.
In other words, simply look for ways to release the anger without hurting anyone else. If you feel anger, a great way to get it out is to go to a kick-boxing class or to pound pillows in your bedroom until you feel worn out, or lock yourself in your car with your windows up and scream at the top of your lungs.
Whatever it is, just do it until you feel like you have released the emotion.
Step 3: Make a positive decision based on how you are feeling.
Now that you have released the frustration, you can deal with what to do next with a much clearer head.
Take a second and try to recognize the lesson within the issue. What are you meant to learn here? What might the anger be telling you in terms of changes that you need to make in your life?
For example, let’s say that you find yourself seething with anger over dealing with a serious bully of a boss. You’ve been putting up with it for a while, but for whatever reason, this time you are so beside yourself with fury that you leave the office in a huff.
As you sit and contemplate why this particular event—one of many similar ones—caused you to be so angry, you see that what your body is really trying to tell you is that this workplace is terribly unhealthy for you. Much like the old saying “the one that broke the camel’s back,” this is simply the final straw of load after load of dealing with a horrible boss who is reducing your quality of life and your sense of joy.
What this particular anger at this particular moment in time is also giving you a warning that if you don't make the decision to leave this job, it will end up taking a terrible toll on your health (lots of people have heart attacks and strokes caused by dealing with awful bosses or overly demanding workplaces).
As you sit and ponder all that this anger right now is telling you, you see that it's time to make an important change and put in your two week notice.
As you can see, THAT would be a positive thing to come out of the anger! Imagine how much happier you would be out of that awful work environment!
In your own life, the same will be true. Real anger is always a warning flag that something in your life is not right and you are ready to—or at the very least, seriously needing to—make a change.
Listen to its wisdom, and make a positive decision that will lead you to a happier life.
Have you ever changed your life by listening to anger? Or, have you been angry for a long time, and need some help figuring out the lesson in the emotion? Comment below!