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4 Things I wish I'd known about anger


I’m a newcomer to blogging but not to life. Over the years of marriage, parenting, leadership and a long career as a counsellor, I’ve gathered some wisdom and learnt a thing or two – things that I wish someone had told me years ago. So in the hope that what I’ve learnt might benefit you, I’m passing on a few tips to enrich your journey through life.

1. Anger is a choice

Ouch! It’s really popular today to blame somebody or something else for the things about ourselves and our lives which we don’t like. Carrying a bit too much weight? It’s because of stress, or the kids or the pace of life. Unhappy at work? It’s because of an unreasonable boss, challenging co-workers, unfair conditions. Now those things can absolutely have an impact on us and the choices we make, but at the end of the day, nobody else can choose our emotional responses for us.

When I first heard this, I was … ANGRY! It’s so much more comforting to think that I’m basically a really decent human being who occasionally falls down because other factors conspire against me. But the truth I’ve come to realise is that my emotions are a result of my choices. Full stop. The sooner I step up and take full responsibility for my emotions (and especially damaging ones such as anger), the healthier and more whole I become.

2. Anger has a purpose

It’s easy to mistakenly believe that all anger is bad, all the time, but this isn’t the case. Anger can be a great motivator. Tired of discrimination or prejudice or injustice? Harnessing the energy generated by anger can be exactly what we need to propel us forward towards change. Of course we then have to choose how to go about it. Throwing rocks through windows or trolling people on social media may result in change, but will also increase our anger rather than our positive influence.

3. Anger thrives under cover

I am constantly intrigued by the way in which most people wear “selective bifocals”. By that I mean we can clearly recognise inappropriate and unhealthy behaviour in others, but interpret the same signs in ourselves completely differently. As long as we describe ourselves as “having a passionate nature”, “not suffering fools gladly”, or “coming from a long line of people who proudly speak their minds”, we will never address the fact that we are angry.

Calling the issue by other names won’t minimise it or make it disappear, and we may be shocked or even offended when others persist in calling us out on our anger. (How dare they? I think they have a problem with being judgemental!) But hard as it may be to swallow, anger by any other name is still anger and just as with an addiction, until we are prepared to face it eyeball to eyeball in all its ugliness, it won’t go away.

4. Anger only goes in two directions

Outwards or inwards. The first direction is easy to spot; think road rage, people caught in wrong doing, or a child denied a treat in the supermarket. Nobody is left in any doubt as to how they are feeling. The tears, tantrums, threats and raised voices speak for themselves. But inwardly directed anger is much more subtle, but potentially just as dangerous. Withdrawing into silence, masking true feelings behind a false smile, insisting that everything is fine, are tactics often employed by people who can’t or won’t recognise that they are experiencing anger. But sadly that doesn’t mean that they aren’t.

Many years ago I had a friend who often told me how she and her husband never ever argued or disagreed on anything. I was astounded, especially as my own new marriage was undergoing some fairly spectacular “mutual adjustments”. I was somewhat in awe and wondered what sort of terrible failure I must be.

Having lost touch for some years, I unexpectedly met up with my friend. This time what amazed me was learning that she had been through a very bitter divorce, after realising that she had felt stifled and resentful for almost her entire marriage. Wow. What a revelation for her, and for me. Anger is a sneaky opponent which doesn’t fight fair. Ignore it at your peril. Science is now showing us that suppressed anger will find a way to express itself, frequently through illness such as depression and even cancer.

So I hope this gives a little food for thought and provokes some honest self-reflection. Call a spade a spade and acknowledge your anger for what it is. Then make some choices that will put you back in the driver’s seat.

Now, I'd love to know...

What's your most effective method of dealing with your own anger?

Please leave a comment below!

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The information on this website is intended for general information only. For help, diagnosis, or treatment of specific issues, please see a mental health professional.