What's Your Anger Trying to Tell You?

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Anger comes in many flavors. There’s irritation, annoyance, frustration,  resentment, fury  – and many more.  Most of us feel one of more of these emotions on a daily basis.

Anger has been given a bad rap in our society.  A common view is that there are “good” and “bad” emotions.  Anger is generally considered “bad” (unless it’s in response to a perceived injustice).

We’re told that anger is to be avoided. We’re told that we shouldn’t feel that way, that we shouldn’t express anger.  It’s not nice to feel angry. And so on.

To add to the confusion, anger is often equated with violence.  They’re not the same. Anger is an emotion or feeling experienced internally, inside the body.  Violence is an action taken with intent to harm or control that violates another person’s stated or natural boundaries.

Anger has a purpose.
Anger is a natural response to a real or perceived threat or danger.
The intention of anger is to protect you.

When your body perceives a threat, anger and fear are mobilized as part of the fight or flight response. If you life is truly in danger, your body will automatically cue you to run or fight.

In most “normal” situations, anger comes forward to restore your inner strength and sense of self. The questions of anger are: “What must be protected? What must be restored?”

In my previous article, "What's the Gift in Sadness?", I described how emotions are designed to flow through us.  (E-motion = Energy in motion.)  The chemicals of emotion are created in your body in response to a perception or thought, you feel them in your body, and then they flush out. This is the process of healthy emotional response.

Most people in our culture are not skilled at channeling anger energy freely through their bodies. The tendency is either to repress, push down, or bottle up your anger (because the anger feels too intense to handle, or you believe that you shouldn’t be angry), or to lash out or blow up like a volcano.

If you’re afraid to fully feel you anger, or if the intensity of your anger is high, I recommend using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). This will calm your nervous system down and discharge some of the anger.  When you don’t feel so angry (i.e., you’re not “seeing red” any more), you’ll be able to think more clearly and express your anger in a healthy way.

Anger lets you know that you have a boundary
to be set or restored and expressed.

The internal message that accompanies anger is something like: “I’m upset. I don’t like something right now. I don’t want something right now. I want something different right now.” These are the messages that start the boundary-making process in motion.

After using EFT to settle down the emotional reaction, answer these questions:

-          What don’t I like about this situation?
-         
Why is this so important to me?
-         
What do I want instead? (This is your boundary.)
-         
Who do I want to tell this to?  Is there someone to whom I want to express my boundary?

Now you’re ready to restore and express your boundary in a strong, calm and neutral way. (At this point, you may also want to use EFT to settle down any fear or guilt that may hold you back from expressing your boundary.)

Anger and Boundaries in Action

In my primary relationship. Like most people in close relationships, I sometimes get angry with my partner, and he sometimes gets angry with me. Early in our relationship, just after we had started living together, some of his friends came over to visit.  This was the first time I’d met them.  He proceeded to take them on a tour of our entire house – and I became very upset.  It was pretty obvious to me that I had a boundary about this.

Not wanting to make a scene in front of these people, I held back from expressing my feelings.  After they left, I calmed myself down a bit and then talked about it with my partner.  I said: “I’m feeling upset that these visitors were given the grand tour. Privacy is very important to me, and I consider certain parts of my home to be “private.” I don’t want visitors to be given a house tour unless I’m comfortable with them seeing the whole house (such as very close friends and family members).” This was my boundary.

We had a discussion about this, and it turned out that my partner had no idea that this type of privacy was important to me until I told him. (That’s why it’s so important to express boundaries. Others don’t know what our boundaries are until we tell them.) Privacy is not that important to him, and he wanted to give house tours to almost everyone who visited.  Even though his boundary was different from mine, he agreed to respect my boundary, and he checked with me before visitors arrived about my comfort level around a house tour. (If he hadn’t agreed, we would have talked more, and I would have considered appropriate consequences to support myself in my boundary – without punishing or seeking revenge.)

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I invite you to become more willing to feel your anger – in whatever “flavor” it arrives – and allow it to move through you, using EFT to assist you in this process. Then respectfully express your boundary.

When you do this, you’ll be congruent - aligned with your authentic self – and your energy will flow more freely.

© Monica Milas, April 2012, December 2014