7 Tips to Expressing Anger Healthily
If you are not a spiritually enlightened sage, then you are either suppressing or expressing anger in some fashion. Even the most spiritual people get angry—because they’re human. Anger is an instinctual response that will always occur. The difference in an overly-angry person and a calm person is how they’ve learned to express their anger.
Expressing anger not only heals the symptoms of this suppressed toxic energy but it makes us more self-aware. As we express our anger, we become honest. This honesty helps us to become more mindful of our emotions and reactions. Honesty helps us to take care of ourselves creatively rather than resentfully.
We agree with Carol Tavris that – It is time to put a bullet, once and for all, through the heart of the catharsis hypothesis. But after we pull the trigger, will we feel better—or worse—than before we fired the shot?
Self-love is critical for growing up. When we take such good care of ourselves that we have all we need, the overflow to generosity with others is possible. We also stop resenting people for our prior attempts to have nurturing relationships.
Nobody makes you angry, you decide to use anger as a response. ~ Brian Tracy (Tweet this)
The primary minimum requirement for happiness—without which there is no other hope—is the willingness to take care of ourselves. The trouble is people are usually more willing to take care of almost anyone or anything but himself or herself. They will take care of a car, mortgage, child, job, pet(s), boss, partner, and stranger before they take care of themselves.
What ends up happening is child-like resentment. We find out that no one is taking care of us. And worse, the people that are trying to take care of us, are just as clueless as how to care for themselves, which leaves us without much. If we can only give what we have, how can we give much at all to others when we can’t even give to ourselves?
Expressing our hidden angers opens the door to this collective experience. When we express our anger—correctly—it serves as the greatest opportunity to learn how to love ourselves, so we can give to others from true abundance.
Ways Of Expressing Anger
Anger is collective, but methods of expressing anger differ. We’ve so poorly handled anger that the means of expression have ranged anywhere from murder to complete suppression. However, this continuum can be divided up into two parts direct expression or indirect expression.
1. Indirect expression
Indirect expression is sneaky and unintelligent. A few forms of indirect expression of anger are showing up late, getting sick, and gossiping.
2. Direct expression
Direct expression is the only honest way to express anger. When anger is expressed in such a way that the anger eventually goes away and both parties will have a new understanding in their lives. Though indirect expression never works to resolve anger many forms of direct expression fail as well. This is because direct expression requires total transparency, which usually means things get worse before the get better.
As the saying goes, The truth will set you free, but first it will hurt like hell.
Many of us have given up on authentic expressions of anger and have turned to indirect expressions, because of the discomfort involved in it.
Tips For Expressing Anger
Expressing anger directly requires a great deal of consciousness, otherwise, it will just turn into a futile fight. Expressing anger is abnormal. First of all, one must be willing to grow beyond the norms of societies’ suppressive mannerisms and accept anger. Secondly, one must be okay with being uncomfortably honest.
If you’re willing to be abnormally honest and alert for the sake of being sane then learning to express anger effectively is of utmost importance. As a general guideline, we want to express anger to the point of no longer harboring resentments. When we let up on judgments there is a free space to let love and forgiveness to occur.
The following guidelines are not another set or moral rules to obey, but instead are general rules to use as a guideline.
1. Tell the truth
Above all else tell the truth. The only “wrong” way to communicate is to be dishonest. If you were courageous enough to communicate your anger to the person(s) involved you would find out that people love you for telling the truth. If you say to somebody, “Listen, I was acting like I was confident, but I don’t really know anything about this, and I am scared to death.” They will say, “Well, bless you, you delightful little thing. I appreciate your telling me.”
They will immediately find a way to nurture you because what is most secretive is most universal. They’ve been there. They’re scared too and know how wonderful it’d feel to be comforted. We all feel anger and we all deny that we do. Telling the truth opens up all doors, even the ones to the darkest rooms.
The intimacy we create then becomes the catalyst that makes discussing our fears, anger and resentments that much easier to do.
2. Communicate to anyone involved
Most of us are too scared to take a stand on telling the truth. It’s difficult to tell someone you’re mad at him or her when we think it’s wrong to be mad. But this is where we have to start; admit to people we’re mad. Or at least, admit that we’re too afraid to admit that we’re mad.
This first small step can be the biggest in transforming anger into appreciation. It takes humility and intimacy to heal broken communication, but sharing an affinity for each other is worth the pain of intimacy
3. Express your resentments fully
Until resentments are expressed fully they will reside somewhere within you. You can suppress them all you’d like but you will eventually be faced with them in new relationships. These suppressed resentments can become the same patterns that sabotage our relationships.
When we express anger fully we get a feeling of closure and the result is new space in our experience. This new space will welcome feelings of appreciation and love. You might even find that under all resentments is an even greater appreciation. So often we hate our parents for raising us particular ways.
We can resent our parents for feeding us junk food, but we might also find we appreciate them—for in that moment they were giving us what they thought would make us happy. Appreciation might not be accessible under the mound of resentments on top of them. This is why trying to be nice or grateful doesn’t work.
We can’t fake our way to appreciation; it too (like anger) must be experienced in order to be authentic. Love requires a transparent glass between you and others; resentments are like mud on the window. Expression then becomes the cleaner, making transparency possible.
4. Speak in present tense
It’s easy to talk about the past; however, it doesn’t help in healing wounds. Instead of speaking in past tense..“I resented you for . . .” and “I was mad at you when . . .” speak in present tense.
The truth is you’re still mad about the past right now. When we speak in past tense, resentments are only stories about what happened and how you were. Talking about stories doesn’t change the nature of your relationship or emotions of how you are now. The only way to change how you feel is to have a new experience. Speaking in present tense allows you to experience the feeling anew. The only reason we hold on to anger is because we avoid feeling it.
When we experience the feeling, it disappears. What you resist persists. If you avoid feeling anger then it will only persist in the form of rationalized thoughts. These thoughts only allow us to avoid facing the pain we previously avoided by being angry.
5. Be specific
Good words to avoid when expressing anger are, “always” and “never.” When we use these generalizations we dance around the specific event that made us angry. After all, it was a specific need that went unmet that created the anger in us. Being general also gives someone the permission to not understand what you’re trying to communicate. A generalization will also make a person feel like you’re trying to make them wrong.
Instead of “I am angry because you never listen.” Get specific; “I am angry that when I talk to you at dinner you are on your phone!” Remember, the point of expression is to get over our childish grudges, not prove another wrong. If you’re too mad to be specific, then start off general, but do it with as much feeling as possible. Also, eventually get specific.
6. Stay present
If your expression of anger is just a presentation you rehearsed in your head a million times it will have no authenticity. You probably won’t have much of an actual experience of anger or any real emotions; thus not learning about what you’ve kept covered up. The mind is powerful in this way (tricking us into believing that if we think about something enough that we’ve actually done it).
Expressing anger allows us to feel it experientially. The misery and sickness that comes with anger is only from the suppression, the denial of an experience. Emotions are tones or frequencies that work on a scale. Stay present with your interaction and you will find layers to your anger.
As I mentioned, most resentments are covered up appreciations. Anger is just suppressed joy (when an expectation wasn’t met and we weren’t able to experience joy). If you express yourself fully you may hopefully experience some withheld appreciations: love and joy. You’ll know if you’ve expressed yourself enough by how much lighter you feel afterwards. If you don’t feel better then you didn’t stay present and express new emotions as they came to you.
7. Eventually, take responsibility
Lousy as it may seem, we are the only ones responsible for our lives. When we resent someone for things they didn’t do for us—that is, not meeting our needs—see if you can find what the other person said/did to create that expectation.
Express your resentments then for how they created that expectation, and find out you are the one who fashioned that perception. Eventually, you’ll have to realize that you created your own misery by creating an expectation for someone.
The good news is that if we built the prison of poisonous resentment, we can also tear it down.
I’m not going to say expressing anger is an easy job but the above-mentioned tips and these anger management tips will help you in this journey. An emotional exchange as such can feel like dying—that’s because it is. False roles, egos, identities and facades die. We are really emotional when we lose our illusions. However, with practice you will find the freedom in transparency to be the bliss and connection you were in search of this whole time.
As a word of encouragement, know that what you put out there will relieve you, what you withhold will kill you.