Managing Anger

I had so many responses to the IG story I did about anger over the weekend and with this Mars week ahead potentially being a strong trigger, here’s a deeper dive into anger, what’s underneath it anger and how we can find healing to turn this beast into something beautiful and useful.

Anger is natural and normal

We all feel anger. It’s a normal human emotion that signals to us something is wrong; a boundary crossed, our rights violated, a threat to our wellbeing. Anger is linked into our adrenaline system, that primary fight/flight that helps us either fight or flee a threat. Anger emboldens, gives us courage, helps us protect ourselves. And interestingly, Aries rule the adrenals in medical astrology, right where Mars is right now. So there is nothing wrong with anger itself, the problems lie in what you choose to do with it.
Anger also helps us shape our sense of self, as we assert ourselves and push back against forces that try to overcome or destroy us. It encourages us to say no, to draw boundaries and exert our own will into the world. It is an important part of developing a strong sense of self – just look at any 2 year in the stage of developing autonomy to see how anger supports this.

So why is anger seen as a problem?

The strong message from society for most of us is anger is BAD. You shouldn’t get cross, to raise our voice or lose your temper. Who can relate to being told as a child “you have a bad temper” or “don’t say anything if you can’t be nice” or “calm down” (who ever calmed down from being told to calm down?). And so we hid that emotion, quietened that voice or drowned those urges, to the point where we no longer hear it. Our power to defend ourselves was taken away, and we weren’t allowed to even get angry over. Our ability to know ourselves decreased. And so a toxic cycle begins and goes on. And on. And on.

Learning to manage and communicate anger
The destructive influence of anger can be hard to handle, and many of us fear it. Yet we all have it, so it’s important we know how to wield it. As Mars rules sharp things, a sword is a good analogy and you to use a sword well you need to know how to handle it. Which way to grip it and how to swing. To not only to fight with it but also how to sheath it and store it safely when not in use so it doesn’t accidentally harm you or someone else. Our anger is the same. It’s like we’ve all got swords hanging by our sides, unsheathed, and none of us are trained in how to use them. When an attack comes, we either ignore its protection or we swing wildly and blindly with it, often harming ourselves as much as others.

So how can you work with your anger?
Using the current Mars retrograde as a great time to get in touch with and embrace your anger for the gifts it’s can offer. The first place to start is asking yourself if anger is an issue for you. And it may not be the “blow up in a rage every 5 minutes” kind of anger. Actually, it can be the total opposite, where you don’t allow yourself to get angry at all. Or it could be low-grade irritability all the time, or resentment and frustration leading to situations where you lose control of your reactions.
Try asking yourself questions like:
– can I easily assert myself, without shame or guilt?
– am I scared of getting angry?
– do I struggle with frustration, resentment or irritability?
– do I prefer to be seen as nice than asking for what I want?
– do I bottle up my anger until it comes out in an uncontrollable rush?
– do I equate anger with destruction?
– am I fearful that I’ll lose friends or family if I express my anger?

If you realise anger is an issue, here are some ways to work with it:
1. Embrace it, and begin to listen
When you embrace anger as a friend and bring it out of the shadows, you can begin to retune to its voice. Try listening out for the quiet whisperings right at the beginning, tapping you on the shoulder to say “hey, they shouldn’t do that to you” or “I’m really not ok with this” or “why is my power being taken away”. When you respond to these first stages, it’s easier to communicate our needs clearly without the emotional overwhelm. With clients, I use the analogy of a watching a boiling pot and learning to turn down the heat before it overflows.

2. Use anger as a guide to understanding yourself
As you listen to your anger, you may find it helping you to define yourself. It’s messages show what’s important to you and where your boundaries lie. If you feel anger coming up and you choose to express it to another, or even write about it, try using “I” statements and telling a story. For example “I feel angry when I say no and others do not listen to me”.

3. Get underneath it
Anger is usually a secondary emotion, driven by either fear or sadness. One way to manage or diffuse anger is discover and come to terms with what lies underneath it. Think about your personal anger triggers, what gets you most riled? Is it feeling powerless? Then perhaps your fear is not having control, and work needs to be done in this space. Do you swallow your anger so others won’t be hurt? Then you may be worried about losing relationships or being alone. Or perhaps you fear the destruction your anger could bring, or the changes that may come if you assert yourself. Exploring these through journaling or therapy can be a powerful process that unlocks you from a cage of fear.

4. Look at family history and anger patterns
It’s often the case that anger was a problem in childhood, either passive unexpressed or the violent side of it. Many of us today carry the scars of the legacy of angers darker side. And so we fear it’s destructive side and hold it back in ourselves at all costs. The truth is, this takes us right where we don’t want to go. Thinking and talking about anger stories of childhood can help you break the patterns you are unconsciously held within.

5. Process it through your body
Next time you sense anger in your body, try taking some time out on your own and sit quietly with it. Feel it in your body, the specific location and breathe into that. Come out it from the outside, observe it, try noticing if it has a texture, colour, temperature, shape. Feel it as a physical experience and each time your mind tries to get involved, just come back to your body and breathing, stay in the moment. If it rises up to a point where you can’t sit still or you feel overwhelmed by it, then take a cushion or pillow and hit the floor, couch or bed with it. Or try punching or kicking at a punching bag.

Learning to listen to our anger and effectively communicate in a cool, clear way is the key to making sure it doesn’t take over our lives. Beyond these tips, I always recommend working with a trusted counsellor or psychologist to explore your anger patterns and move beyond the toxic cycle it can trap us in.

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