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  • Writer's pictureDavid Stamation

HOW TO USE YOUR ANGER

Most of us tap the brakes or come to a complete stop when our anger gets activated. Put another way, we practice anger management. The fundamental point of anger management is to not hurt people and we’re taught to control it. The judgement is: being angry is bad.


Played out this way, anger offers little in return only to be socked away in an anger savings account that periodically bursts with rage episodes or flashes of anger we feel shameful about later. Advanced anger management is about keeping that savings account empty and cleared out.


Repressed anger or resentment can lead to health problems, feeling bad about ourselves, beating ourselves up, and pushing people away. The result: disconnected relationships.


Needs

An advanced use of anger is about moving past classic anger management that helps us to know ourselves and what we need. Anger comes up when we feel we need to act but can’t or won’t. It specifically comes up as something we need. When you uncover the need, the anger will dissipate. You’ve gone to the root source of the anger itself. Try this maxim:


Anger is the expression of an unmet need.


The next time you are in a hot anger loop recite the above maxim. Ask, what do I need? Keep asking until clarity starts to emerge.

Imagine your new job is to play your favorite TV detective whose job is to uncover that need. By identifying the need, the anger goes away rapidly. Imagine no longer being trapped in ruminating or righteousness loops that leave you irritated and emotionally tired. Uncovering a need can be straightforward while others require working through some layers to identify them.


Anger: A Recent Story

I was walking in the neighborhood and was charged by an off-leash dog, I yelled at the owner (I was taking action with my anger) about the leash law and public responsibility, etc. It escalated quickly from there and we were both yelling and were indignant with each other. What’s under the anger? The law? Responsibility?

No, none of these. It’s fear. Fear is what was under my anger and the faster I reached that conclusion, the more quickly the situation settled down. Instead of hurtling insults with raised voices, getting in touch with the fear of being bitten by a dog can drive a whole different conversation. I wish I could report to you the reader that I got a grip. I didn’t and stormed off very upset.

I can share that I examined this episode and learned from it using my anger to get vulnerable with my fear. If it happens again, I stand a better chance of getting it right in the future. Doing this helped relieve the ruminating I was doing and managed to mend it with myself (I was ashamed of my behavior).


What did I need? I needed to feel safe walking down the street.


The Stretch

The next time you are activated and feel irritated, check in with yourself either in real-time or after the experience and ask, what do I need?

Understanding our anger helps us understand ourselves and aids us in speaking up for what we need.

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