Claim it and Aim it
Avoiding anger is as self-damaging as constant fuming. People may totally suppress anger, express it in sneaky ways, or disown their hostility and see it in others. If you do not claim your anger, it will “own” you. When you embrace your anger, you can contain it and aim it in a direction that will serve you well. Each means of short-circuiting anger has costly payoffs:
EMBRACE ANGER TO CONTAIN IT
Anger is the least understood and most maligned of all the emotions. Whereas sadness and fear can be private affairs, anger connects us to others. Inappropriate expressions of anger are especially noticeable and the cause of much misinformation in society. This can lead to the internalization of thoughts that disarm us. Learning correct information and identifying beliefs that contradict incapacitating thoughts helps reclaim anger.
Directions: Mark any of the thoughts that you have that suppress anger. Then, mark the beliefs that would help you use your anger wisely.
Turn Thoughts That Avoid Anger into . . . Beliefs That Embrace Anger
Anger is bad, judgmental, or a weakness.
Anger is a natural reaction to a loss of power.
Anger is a sin.
Anger is neutral. Its use can be good or bad.
Ladies do not get angry.
Anger is a part of a woman’s passion.
Anger is dangerous.
Actions are dangerous, not anger.
Other people are vulnerable.
Others can learn from appropriate anger.
If I get angry, I’ll lose control.
If I release some anger, I’ll gain control.
If I start feeling angry, I’ll never stop.
If I release some anger, I’ll feel relief.
If I show anger, I’ll be punished.
I choose how I respond to others’ reactions.
If I show anger, others will leave me.
I can resolve differences with others.
If I show anger, I’ll hurt or damage others.
Others are responsible for their reactions.
DIALOGUE WITH DISPLEASURE
Once you accept your anger, you can hear what it is telling you. Every mad moment is a message that something is wrong. If you are a master conflict-avoider, you may not want to recognize that you are being used or betrayed. However, you can right a wrong with less turmoil in the early stages of mistreatment than when it becomes blatant abuse. Any of the following questions can begin a dialogue with your displeasure:
THE AIM OF ANGER
Anger needs direction. Without focus, it gets sidetracked into a laundry list of complaints, bitterness, and irritability. Anger avoiders often choose to be victimized, evasive, or guarded and do not take decisive action. They think of anger as a weapon rather than a problem-solving tool. Once you’ve reclaimed your anger and identified what is bothering you, practice using annoyance to express your feelings, wants, and limits:
For further information see Letting Go of Anger by Ron and Pat Potter-Efron (New Harbinger, 1995) and The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Learner (HarperCollins, 1997).