One of the reasons why anger is so feared by many people is that it appears to have such immense physical power. Sometimes this power is so great that it can overrule both our hearts and our heads. Maybe we harbour the fear that if we let this emotion get a physical hold on us; we could get out of control. You often hear people pleading in court that “they were so angry that they did not know what they were doing” or “I was blinded with rage.” Yes, anger does have the potential for great physical power and this can be directed negatively or positively.
Anger does not go away by avoiding it. We can bury it for a while but it never stays buried. It is only a matter of time before it shows up in a violent rage, a major illness, depression or suicide. When anger is buried it always has a victim. Compulsive and addictive behaviours can also develop. Keeping feelings inside does not feel good. It hurts. Drug and alcohol addiction often results from self-medicating the pain, which is caused by suppressed emotions.
Fear of anger
Most people are afraid of their own anger. Here are some of the common negative beliefs about anger.
* If I start showing my anger, no one will like me.
* Every time I have been angry in the past, someone has been hurt.
* If I let this out, I’m afraid that I might hurt someone.
* I would not want my children to learn that from me
* Why can’t we just solve these problems rationally?
* Every time I get angry, I start crying. I hate that.
º There’s something really bad, even evil inside me. If I let my anger out, there’s no telling what would happen
* I hate anger. When my father got angry, my mother got beaten.
You may be saying to yourself, well there is nothing that I can do about my anger or I am not an angry person. However, there is a lot that you can do and the first step is to think positively about anger in that anger is energy and this energy can be managed assertively and sensitively. Many people suffer from being “too nice” and say they don’t like to hurt others so they have learned to turn the other cheek and have become so adept at doing this that they have negated all feelings of irritation, crossness and anger. When we do this we block the potential for personal growth for others and ourselves.
Being ‘too nice’
If we are seen to be too “nice” a person, we are not likely to receive open and honest feedback from other people, which could be valuable information for improving ourselves. If we let others get away with blue murder they will never have the opportunity of learning from their mistakes either. An obvious example is parents with their children. This is such an important area that I will be writing about this in some detail later on. Other examples are the “nice” bosses who are hopeless at “telling people off” so their staff never improve, or the “nice” doctors who don’t want to upset their patients so they never tell their patients about the self-destructive behaviours which they are doing to themselves.
When we are “too nice” we limit our chances of intimacy; we curtail our passion and inhibit our sexuality. How can we be relaxed, spontaneous, intimate and sexual with someone if we are keeping part of ourselves behind a screen? Self-disclosure is an essential requirement of close relationships. If we are “too nice” we can be used and abused and often spend a lifetime masking our anger only to feel let down by a hostile world that has not appreciated our efforts. The price of being “too nice” can be low self-esteem, worry, unassertive and manipulative behaviour, over-eating as well as feeling used and having boring and sexually unsatisfying relationships. At work you may feel stuck in a rut, not pushing yourself forward and being taken for granted.
Anger is positive
The positive function of anger is for our self-protection and the protection of others where our bodies are aroused into a state where they can function with maximum physical energy to aid our defence in response to potential hurt. This is commonly referred to as our natural “fight” response. Another positive function is decompression where our bodies are given a chance to release pent-up physical tension caused by over-exposure to frustration. The ventilation of anger is an effective way of helping the autonomic nervous system to switch back into its normal relaxed functioning state.
So remember that expressing anger is good for your physical and mental health. Your relationships have an opportunity for improvement if you are honest about your feelings of irritation and anger and you will have more energy for work and your life in general. The next step is learning how to express anger in a positive way.