Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Is Anger?

How do we cope with angry feelings? Is anger important? What does it mean when we are angry? What tools do we use to respond rather than react to our anger?

There are countless sayings regarding anger. Some are worth repeating as they hold truths that contain wisdom.

"Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die" Malachy McCourt

Anger has value. It is an emotion that acts as a stop sign, indicating that our boundaries or values have been violated. If we learn to recognize anger as a useful tool and pay attention when it arises within us, we can avoid the unanswered anger hardening into bitterness and resentment.

"Anger is one letter short of danger." Unknown

How many times have we spoken in anger only to be unable to take back those angry words later? Angry words are like slicing a feather pillow open on the highway while driving and letting all the feathers fly out the window. Can you ever pick them all up?

"Do not teach your children never to be angry, teach them how to be angry." Lyman Abott

Being able to feel and respond appropriately to anger is an important skill in relationships. We must be able to find our voice when our boundaries have been breached. We must be able to speak up and defend ourselves without becoming disagreeable.

"Sometimes when I'm angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel." Unknown

Being angry allows us to express ourselves in a way that honors and respects the person with whom we are angry. We are permitted to voice our opinion and defend our boundaries and values so long as we do not violate the boundaries and values of the other person.

"I don't have to attend every argument I am invited to." Unknown

We have the capacity to choose... to respond... we do not have to react to every situation that presents itself. We can opt out. We can ask ourselves... Will this matter in five years? If the answer is no... the next question is does it really matter today?

''Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." Buddha

Anger, though it has value as a tool, loses it's value when it becomes a way of life. When we feel angry all the time, or our anger lurks just below the surface waiting to burst out at any provocation... we have lost it's usefulness and have become it's prisoner. We must respond to our anger when it appears and not try to sweep things under the rug. The truth is... there is no rug. We may think we can just let it go, but the hard truth is that we may be unable to let it go without solving the underlying issue. When anger surfaces again and again it is an indication that there is some underlying problem that is demanding to be addressed. Refusing to acknowledge this indication may lead to bitterness and resentment.

"The best remedy for a short temper is a long walk." Jacqueline Schiff

There is a great deal of research showing that taking a brisk walk helps to diffuse anger. Getting ourselves out of the situation, giving ourselves a chance to be alone, think, analyse and process our disagreement may give us the opportunity to reach consensus when we reunite. Additionally, the physical activity releases endorphins... the feel good chemical in the brain that helps alleviate pain and lifts spirits.

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