In my first coaching training program, 15 years ago, I had to answer what to me was one of the most powerful questions. “What is the hardest feeling for you to feel?” “Anger.” It fascinated me at the time, how quickly it poured out of me, because 800 clients later when I ask my clients that same question, it’s almost always gender-specific.
Men, hands down respond, “Sadness,” and women say, “Anger.”
While part of it may easily be biological, I do believe equal if not greater aspect is it being more societal related.
Men are given grief for their sadness and vulnerability, and women are often attacked for their anger, and being assertive, and usually going down the alphabet of disparaging terms from women who express their truth, lots of it through their anger.
A, B, C (Aggressive, Bitch, and you know what!). Society is uncomfortable with women’s anger, end of story. Especially when it’s delivered in a way that others deem “inappropriate,” or make them “uncomfortable.”
We didn’t do “anger” growing up. My parents were allergic to any expressions of anger. My Dad’s famous expression, “Hugs and Kisses, Hugs and Kisses, that’s all I like to see.” While clapping his hands! To see this grown, 6′ man clapping his hands and singing a silly denial ditty makes me laugh now, and given the trainwreck of a childhood he came from, I am very clear it was his way of really wanting a better life for us. But at the time it was infuriating.
I became terrified and sometimes addicted to my anger. It felt like this hot surge of fire, rifling through my body and would burn me up, and worst explode and decimate others. Yup, that’s how dramatic and scary a feeling it was for me! I ate over my anger, overshared, tried to deny it away, the last thing I ever was willing to do, ironic since it’s ultimately the most important thing to do, was to actually feel it.
Get Curious About Your Anger!
Several decades later I see anger as an extraordinary gift. It’s a message that something is deeply off, often a boundary is not being honored, a historical wound of not being seen appreciated, and regarded, that is getting activated in real-time, often by bad behavior, some deep injustice in the world that warrants change, and sometimes its just a trigger. There is a wealth of opportunity for us to learn about our anger; what’s important to us, how do we want to be treated, what are our core values?
I’m not talking about raging, being a loose cannon, and leaving a wake of bodies in our path. That’s just being irresponsible, and God, we know more than enough about the impact that has.
I’m talking about breathing and feeling those hot poker spikes of energy through our body. When we numb our anger, we numb our life force energy. Anger has been a wonderful (albeit incredibly uncomfortable, confronting, and painful in the moment) catalyst to move forward in my life, to be more politically involved, to speak up, to shift, to make different choices, personally and professionally.
At some point I will do a guided process on “Getting Curious About Anger,” but in the meantime, here is a four-step process that I use to deal with anger, that have worked for me, and many of my clients and friends and hope they are helpful for you.
1) Name it to Claim it and Feel it to Heal it- Simply acknowledge the feeling, stop and breathe, and let the feelings, the energy, move through your body. For some of us, like me, I need to move, dance, clean (not often as I like), do what my dear friend Elizabeth Browning taught me, an “imaginary monologue” to the person/institution, I’m angry at. I do my best not to rush it along, but not to hang out there either. I do my best NOT to react in terms of going to that person right away, when I’m really angry, because no good often comes from it, and often there’s damage control later to clean up. Just feel the feeling! While I’m in this process, I do my best to find ways to self-soothe versus self-numb myself.
2) Shift State- Once I’ve experienced the motherload of feelings (rage and anger in our bodies don’t usually take that long to move through us, as long as we don’t keep going over the details in our head) I actively shift my state of being. I call a friend, I take a walk, I journal, I go back to my day, it doesn’t matter.
3) Get Curious- As time passes, and the intensity of the feelings pass, I ask spirit, or my own inner guidance to teach me, what is this anger teaching me? What can I learn? How can I grow?
4) Take an Action- Not necessarily right away, but often within the next day or so or even a week later, I take an action to address this anger. Often under the anger is hurt, but if we’re not careful, anger not addressed can be directed in violent non-productive ways, or render us helpless. If we don’t address it, we become victimized by our anger. There’s always an action to take, even acceptance, in situations where no good will come of it, but doing or saying something externally can help. Acceptance is not resignation.
So the next time you or someone else you know Get’s Angry. I encourage you to Get Curious. Great changes can happen when we can access the brilliant message, anger carries with it.
What resonates for you about today’s topic?
How can you get Curious about your Anger!