'control' or 'manage' your anger

an everyday moment

There have been countless moments in my life where I have felt so intensely angry. For me, anger is a fiery, pulsing feeling that whether small or large, can feel inescapable in the moment. Whether the anger stems from feelings of injustice, frustration or irritation - anger is a feeling that inevitably comes up in life.

My most recent encounter with anger was a type of indignation, a small action that set me off the edge a little. It happened when someone asked me to do something, I told them I would do it and I asked them not to do it but they proceeded to do it because I hadn’t done it by their expected timeline (the something is literally so small, it was like moving my bags). But anyway, I ended up feeling so infuriated and hurt by the situation, like ‘how dare you?’. And it’s moments like these where my reaction to something is so out of proportion that I realise that the anger, frustration or whatever comes up may actually be useful to inspect.

a reflection:

Have you ever been told to ‘control your anger’ or judged others as unable to manage their anger? I think most of us have been taught to ignore our anger or always see it as a useless emotion that ends up in conflict, resentment. What’s more - if you do express it then you’ll be seen as explosive, dangerous and categorised as unlikeable or someone to ‘stay away from’. Growing up, when I expressed that I felt angry or grumpy I used to be get the response ‘oooh better stay away from you, you feel like eating people up’. AKA people would perceive me as this emoji 👹

There’s no denying that feeling angry is unpleasant. But the way anger is framed in society implies that the inability to control feelings of anger (a feeling that is inherently impulsive, uncontrollable) makes us defective. Hence, it becomes normal to suppress or pretend it’s not there.

But suppressing and ignoring anger is just as unhealthy as expressing anger with aggression and explosiveness. And usually the first suppression leads to explosion at a later stage. So if we all feel anger, it must be have a purpose to it.

It’s always the most helpful to view the purpose of emotions based on how they served us when we were caveman. Let’s say, you’re in a forest just peacefully scouting for future food and then a predator (bear) starts lumbering towards you, intent on attacking you. You feel threatened and then ta-da anger starts pumping through your veins. Anger helps you guard yourself, it spurs you and gives you the energy to fight and defend yourself when you’re about to be attacked. We’ve all heard the phrase that ‘anger is blinding’ and in this situation, it is blinding. You can’t be thinking about berries or how to solve a maths equation when you are about to be CHOMPED up by this bear. Instead, anger provokes an immediate impulsive action (if interested in psych it’s called a specific thought-action tendency) so that you can act in a life-or-death situation without other thoughts getting in the way. Basically, anger helped us survive.

In modern times, anger still serves the same purpose but alas, the predator is imaginary and we are not in life-or-death situations. Anger comes up when we feel we need to protect ourselves because we won’t get protection elsewhere. Anger comes up in places we’ve been hurt before and we need to be vigilant to ensure it doesn’t happen again. When we feel anger, it’s an indicator - pointing to the areas where we’ve been hurt (rejected, criticised, disliked) and where we feel we need to attack others before they attack us as, a way of defending ourselves.

So what does expressing anger in a healthy way mean, what does it even look like? I don’t have the perfect recipe and sometimes you’ve just got to be be the tantrum throwing child for 5-10 minutes before realising it’s not that deep. A healthy expression of anger can look like this:

  1. Start with acknowledging that you feel angry - it helps to spotlight where the anger is physiologically (increased heart rate, constricted throat etc.)
  2. Immediately the next step and the most crucial one - make it okay for yourself to see your anger and not villainise yourself for it. AKA not seeing yourself as a monster or someone that poses a danger to people just because you feel angry.
  3. Third, express how you feel to others even if that feels uncomfortable or you would rather run away and isolate yourself. Actually, by running away and isolating yourself, that affirms the belief that angry people shouldn’t be seen, they shouldn’t exist, should be hidden and they should hide their anger to be acceptable. By expressing how you feel, you do the opposite - it affirms that it is okay to feel angry, that you will be metaphorically held and it starts to soften the hard shell that often forms when we feel anger. Ironically, expressing that we feel angry already starts to dissipate the anger.
  4. Now if you want you can talk it out with someone, or you can have some alone time whatever suits. If the anger feels really out of proportion compared to the situation, take the time to be curious and question what exactly is the root cause of the anger. Is there somewhere you can take responsibility, to respond differently?

magic in the mundane:

Step 4 in action. In my scenario I felt intensely angry because someone asked me to do something when I already felt overwhelmed with other responsibilities and what’s more I felt betrayed that my request was ignored.

When asked to clean up my bags, I felt I had to comply even with other priorities like uni and other commitments. Where does the anger come from? It felt like I was being accused of not being organised, not managing my time well enough and not being ‘on top of it’ enough. It felt as if I wasn’t allowed to get a break, e.g. by the time I had time to organise my bags - it would not be fast enough. At the most basic level, I felt that I was constantly expected to be on top of everything and therefore I was never allowed a break.

It was like an inner voice of ‘Victoria is never allowed to take a break’. According to this inner critic, taking a break would mean I’m not hardworking enough. The irony comes in where I realise that the hurt doesn’t come from the situation but instead it comes from how I’ve been treating myself. Unconsciously, I was the one telling myself all of this, in terms of balancing uni work and other commitments - I was the one who wasn’t giving myself a break, the one who was shaming and criticising myself for, at times, feeling all over the place, disorganised and pushing myself to work harder and faster in order to be ‘fixed’. I wasn’t angry at the person who I thought was expecting too much of me, I was angry at myself for not meeting my own impossibly high standards.

So now I can take responsibility for that, since I’m the one creating those standards. It’s not about not aiming for excellence anymore, it’s about confronting the lie that success or achieving excellence requires burnout, that it requires impossibly high standards that I need to sacrifice the joys of life to reach my goals. Yes, working towards a goal is hard, but not the type of hard where I repeat the same behaivours/thoughts over again and again - feeling constantly defeated. Rather, it’s a type of hard that requires microchanges where I’m out of my comfort zone and where I’m challenged to show up differently in thoughts, actions or interactions - in a way that’s aligned with the person I intend on becoming, where those goals are natural outcomes in my life. And of course it’s going to feel unnatural at first.

It’s like pressuring yourself to run with poor form for longer or for more distance (but then becoming injured) VS focusing on running a short distance with marginally improved form (even if you don’t have the ability to boast about how long or how many km you can run) so that running for longer and over longer distances becomes natural.

In some ways, it’s comforting to cling to the belief that success requires an endless grind that drains you because then you can say you tried. It reinforces the idea that achieving the goal or ‘dream’ is impossible, one that is placed forever be on a pedestal - reserved for others but not allowed (or it just doesn't happen) for people like us.

Mentally, it’s harder to conceive of our goals and dreams as possible because it requires us to show up in our life differently. It requires us to act in a way where achieving those goals are not something of dream-like, impossible material but to recognise them as real possibilities within our reach. And why is this hard? Because if you have always seen those goals as not possible or out of reach, it means you are living in an environment (internal environment of thoughts and feelings and social environment) that currently accommodates a version of you where those dreams are not a reality. And once you start seeing and showing up in a way where those goals can become a reality, you start to get questioned, you start to think you’re delulu, your actions and thoughts become unexpected or not pre-empted by others. This opens up possibilities of rejection which tempts you to go back to the familiarity of being the person that they ‘recognise’, a version of ourselves where we think we are not capable of achieving those dreams. But being transparent and trusting that others can conceive of you changing will invite the people who are willing to support you into your community. Those who feel triggered or who treat your change with scorn will be the ones that quietly leave. Since the environment is what makes change hard - by changing the environment, you encounter increasingly less friction every time you show up differently and in arguably a more aligned way.

fromtheheart mantras:

  • Let me use this moment to refine me rather than define me.
    • If I had used anger to define myself as unlovable, monstrous, incapable of controlling myself I would have missed all the above realisations


  • Anger typically masks hurt.
    • Any time I have been able to express anger in a safe space, I always end up crying - because anger is like my false, constructed tough exterior hiding a deeper sense of injustice or feeling like I’ve been wronged.


that’s all for now!

from, the heart <3

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