… that emotion that more than any seems to get a bad rap. Why are we so emotional about anger anyway?
Anger is a very common feeling. I espouse that it is also a very healthy feeling. Anger can be evoked by a variety of circumstance and of course in a variety of places. It can be triggered by a friend, co-worker, family…. It can range from mild frustration to rage and last for a fleeting second to bubbling just below the surface for years. Anger.
Quite often when one has been sexually abused, they are angry. They feel manipulated, used, dirty. They feel the pain of injustice. And this is the thing, sometimes you don’t even recognize the feeling as anger.
If you are normally a peaceful or passive person, maybe this anger is manifesting as sabotage, suspicious behaviour or “bad mind”. You may feel no one cares, betrayed – so why should you?
After abuse, there can be a feeling of rejection on your part as well as on the part of your friends and wider society. You may be very angry that the abuser seemed to have gotten away with it. You may be angry that you family members failed to protect you or even to support you. Angry at the justice system. Angry a yourself for being there. Angry at yourself for not speaking out, for not fighting of not hard enough, for…. Angry at the memories, angry that you keep on re-living the memories.
The thing with anger is that it can push your friends away – especially those closest to you. It affects your relationships.
There are a couple ways of noticing anger in your environment. Here are four.
Examine your physical body. Is there tightness in the chest and shoulders? Do you have an increased heart rate or has your blood pressure gone up? Look for clenching of fists or teeth, sweating, shaking, pounding headaches, dizziness.
What about your thoughts? Do you feel a sense of righteousness or injustice? “They don’t know what they are talking about! Who are they to judge? It’s your fault. Leave me alone!” Swearing and name calling.
How does your voice sound? Is there a change of tone, are you getting short or raising your voice or do you become more personal – using sarcasm, threatening people – ‘if you don’t… or beginning a sentence with you….?
What about your behaviour? Are you pacing more, isolating yourself from others? Has your behaviour become more menacing?
Being angry is a signal that something is off. Use your anger as an advance warning signal. Once you are aware of your default anger behaviours, begin to look at the situations and conversations that trigger them. Does it happen when you are disrespected, discounted or ignored? Does it happen when you see signs of others being pressured or abused?
Here are a couple ways to manage your anger.
Take a time out. Remove yourself from the stressful situation. This is very important if the anger levels of others around you are also rising. Go for a run/walk. Go play tennis or golf. Listen to calming music or mediate. You get the idea. It is not about avoidance. It is about actively working to calm yourself down. You may want to talk to a trusted friend, watch television, read or have tea. The idea is to make sure that you are in a safe space where you will be heard and treated respectfully when you have that important conversation.
Let people know that you are taking a time out and will return to the conversation.
As simple as it sounds, remember to breathe. A lack of oxygen in your body may impair your ability to make rational decisions. Take a deep breath in through the mouth. Slowly exhale through the nose. Feel as your diaphragm expands as you take that deep lungful of the precious commodity. Focus on the breath.
And finally, remind yourself of what it is that is most important for you. What are your core values? How do you want to be seen? Is a blow up worth ruining your good image for? You might want to make a note on your phone/device or in your journal of how you would want to be treated and hence you really want to treat others.
Is this relationship one worth fighting to keep? Then keep your cool. The next time you get angry, take out your jottings, reflect on them and remember who you want to be.