Anger is something we all deal with from time to time. Anger itself is not a problem it is very natural, what we do with our anger is where some of us get in to trouble. It’s not the anger itself that has the consequences it’s when we act on it or try to stuff it. No matter if you consider yourself a fly off the handle type person or not we can all use some steps to help us move through anger.
It may come as a surprise to some of you but our emotions like anger physically only last 90 seconds. A lot of you may be saying that is not true it last hours, days, weeks, even years. The truth is it can last that long but the original feeling of anger only last 90 seconds what keeps the anger around is your thinking. When we ruminate on the event that we are upset about, then we continue to stoke the fire of the anger and that is why it stays around. If we can be practice these 3 steps we can feel the anger and move through it.
Step 1 Breathe into the anger.
When an event happens and you can feel the anger starting to bubble up inside your pulse quickens, your body tenses and your eyes focus, take a deep breath, let it come and wait 90 seconds. It’s important we do no try push the anger aside, if we do not let our bodies naturally return to a balanced state we risk further strain on our bodies and this energy being trapped in our bodies. It may sound simple but let your biology do what it is supposed to do, breath into the anger and let it pass naturally!
For example you get cut off in traffic, the initial reaction is “Oh shit!”, your knuckles tighten on the steering wheel, you become hyper focused on your environment most likely your body is tensed up and you may feel a pit in your stomach. It is at this point that you need to take a couple deep breaths, let the 90 seconds pass. When your adrenal is pumping like this it is pointless to try and make sense of anything your body knows what it needs to do trust it!
Once this initial physical anger reaction has passed then you have a choice. Do you want to keep fueling the fire or do you want to let it go.
Step 2 Practice awareness.
Now that the anger has passed you need to watch your thoughts. It is at this point that we either choose to fuel the anger or we choose to steer our thinking towards creating calm.
To understand the is next step we need to be clear on what anger is. Anger is often compared to an iceberg the 10% shown above the water is actual anger, the 90% below the water is actually what is going on. Put simply our anger is the result of us feeling uncomfortable feelings, they make us feel vulnerable so we mask these vulnerable uncomfortable feelings with anger, because when we are angry we feel like we have power and control. Therefore, if we can identify and deal with the underlying emotions it makes it so much easier for you to let go and let the anger pass.
In the example of being cut off, now that our initial anger physical response has passed and we can direct our thoughts towards what is really going on. A great question to ask yourself is:
What are the feelings underneath the anger?
When we get cut off our underlying feelings could be fear for our safety and/or disrespected by the other person. If we can identify these underlying feeling then we can deal with them, rather than ruminating on them.
If you have identified that you are feeling fearful and disrespected, then you can simply say to yourself “wow that was scary, you are safe now” or “that person disrespected me but probably not on purpose”. When we direct our thoughts towards resolving the underlying emotions then we have no need to ruminate. If on the other hand we get cut off and for the rest of the drive our thoughts are that “person is such a jerk”, “didn’t they see me”, “how can they be so rude”, “I could have gotten seriously hurt”, “I could have hit another person” and so on. Reading those you can probably see these are fueling the anger. When we continue our thinking in this direction we are in effect reliving the initial event and we are keeping our bodies in a stressed state. Yuck!
Step 3 Forgiveness.
This step may be one of the hardest steps. Although if you have gone through the first 2 steps it will be a lot easier. When we have let our bodies return to a calm state, and we have identified and dealt with the underlying feelings then it is time to forgive and move on. In the example of being cut off this may be a simple step, I forgive the other driver as he was not trying to hurt me and probably didn’t see me, easy! Forgiveness gets more difficult when we are looking at more serious events. There is way too much information to cover on forgiveness for more serious events than I have time in this blog, that’s a topic for another day. What I can say here is that forgiveness is about your health and really has nothing to do with the other person! When we forgive it does not mean that we condone the others’ actions what it does mean is that you are no longer willing to hold the negative energy anymore and you are ready to let it go; for yourself. If this is something you struggle with it may help to remind yourself that we all make mistakes, no one is perfect.
These 3 simple steps can help you move through anger so that it doesn’t consume you. Next time you feel yourself getting angry try them, it may seem weird at first but just like with anything the more you practice the easier it gets.
We all deserve a happy, healthy life, holding on to our anger stories works directly against this.