Getting angry is part of being human. For some, anger quickly erupts inside of us like a volcano—shooting emotional debris onto everyone around us. We yell, rant, rave and sometimes, physically lash out—sending those close to us running for cover. There is no secret as to what has made us angry.
For others, anger is like a slow-moving sheet of ice—creeping towards us, as we shut down emotionally, freezing out those who have made us angry. Those on the receiving end of this cold behavior are left wondering what happened.
Anger as a Teacher
Whether we are quick to anger, or slow to rage, anger in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an emotion, and like all emotions, what we do with them is what matters. In fact, anger is one of the best teachers we have if we can pay attention to what it is trying to tell us. Anger is often a sign that one of our boundaries has been crossed, or one of our values ignored.
An example; a new friend is always late when you arrange to get together…not just a little late, but a lot late. The first few times this happens, you are willing to make excuses for the behavior. However, each time it happens you find yourself becoming increasingly annoyed. Punctuality is important to you—it’s a sign of respect to show up on time. After a while, annoyance shifts to anger, and when your friend finally appears, she is greeted by either icy silence or a blast of fury. Your values of respect and punctuality have been crossed, and you are reacting.
Treating anger (as well as any emotion) as a teacher involves exploring it with curiosity. When does it happen? What does it feel like? Can we tell when it’s coming, or is your first clue the sound of someone crying? To complicate things, anger is often a cover for deeper emotions such as fear, guilt, boredom or sadness—to name a few. We’re acting angry, but really feeling something else.
Sometimes, we feel angry all the time, and it’s negatively affecting our relationships with others: family members, friends, co-workers. We may not even know why we feel angry. We just do…and it hurts.
If anger is a challenge in your life, counseling can help you to discover what your anger is trying to teach you. Counseling provides a place to safely look beneath your anger to some of the difficult emotions that you may not want to encounter on your own. In counseling you can learn tools to manage your anger so that you can have the best of both worlds…a great teacher that doesn’t come at the cost of your relationships, and the ability to experience your anger with awareness.