In a previous post I wrote about how we deal with anger, so for this post I wanted to talk about embracing our anger. Why is embracing our anger important to dealing with anger? When outlining the ways we typically react to anger, (releasing, containing, or running), I highlighted how these responses can have both negative and positive results. The underlying theme in the positive qualities of responses to anger is acceptance. An acceptance of our anger opens up space for us to sit with our anger and understand what is it telling us. Acceptance of our anger does excuse us from our actions, rather it allows us to take ownership of the mistakes we have made.

Why Is Listening to Anger Difficult?  

There are many reasons why we run and block out our anger. One of the key feelings that keeps us from embracing our anger is shame. We feel guilty after doing something wrong, but we feel shame when we believe something is wrong with us. Unfortunately, often times we make the mistake of correlating our shame with our anger. “There is something wrong with me for feeling anger.”  Even well meaning people tell us to put our anger aside or that being angry is bad. So, we do our best to control our anger so that we never have to feel it.

What Does Embracing My Anger Look Like?

In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), the goal of therapy is not the control of our thoughts or emotions. The goal is to accept the thoughts and feelings that we are experiencing and make committed efforts to be who we want to be. There is nothing wrong with your emotions. There is nothing wrong with feeling what you feel. Our emotions tell us vital information about what is going on in our lives and if we want to change, we have to listen to what they are telling us. This does not mean we do whatever we are feeling. We are the ones who make the decisions, and our thoughts and emotions can guide us to make a decision, but they do not determine what we do next. We determine what we do next. Our anger tells us something is wrong, but we do not have to act out in aggression. Acceptance means we embrace that anger and we are going to do something to engage it in a healthy and productive manner instead of kicking it to the side and avoiding it.

Practical Steps

Take a moment and reflect on a situation or memory that elicits anger for you. Instead of pointing out what made you angry, reflect on what is the message my anger is telling me. Anger is connected to many other feelings (alone, unloved, unworthy). Identify what the underlying pain is with your anger. Doing this can be painful, but this creates space for us to reflect on how we want to respond to the core pain of our anger. Having a better understanding of our pain, you can address the real anger rather than running away or blocking it.

Sitting with anger is not an easy thing. It is intense and uncomfortable, and trying to reflect on experiences can be painful. This is where the work comes in. This is the space where growth really happens. This is why we need close and safe people to walk through with us. People that will not tell us what to feel or think, but help us embrace the hurting self that wants to be heard. If you find yourself struggling to understand your anger, the first step is reaching out for help and finding a safe place to be with your anger.

 

Written by therapist Daniel Pak

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