Anger and Rage
Anger and Rage
Anger is one of the toughest emotions to deal with and unlike other emotions it is almost impossible to deal with with whilst you are experiencing it. Over time and with practice you may be able to control your response to anger and stop yourself from going into a full blown rage. Even when a person is experienced at understanding and working with their emotions it can be challenging to examine the emotion of anger in the moment. A good alternative to aim for would be to recognise that your angry emotion has been triggered, give yourself some time to calm the emotion down and then once you can think clearly examine the emotion and your response to it in a calm way without further inflaming the situation and increasing your emotive response.
“The way to change others minds is with affection, and not anger.”
His Holiness Dalai Lama
Often anger is the first emotional response we have to feeling let down, attacked, frustrated, scared or unfairly treated. Anger can be a mechanism we use so that we don’t have to experience the feelings that have been triggered. It is not a conscious decision. Something triggers us, it makes us feel bad and so anger and rage is our response.
Understanding your angry emotions can help you to gain more control of your actions and responses. It can also assist you in healing old wounds that are causing your anger to become triggered.
Think of anger as your own private gatekeeper to negative beliefs and feelings. Once you have been triggered the gatekeeper comes out fighting ready to defend your position. The gatekeeper has a whole bunch of reasons and justifications for your actions, which usually revolve around how it is not your own fault, how these things always just seem to happen to you or how other people have let you down.
If you are in a safe environment and you are not in a situation whereby you are likely to cause harm to yourself or others try asking your anger why it is so annoyed. Be prepared to hear about how it can’t rely on others, how they never listen or how it is all their fault.
Once your anger has exhausted itself explaining why you are not to blame try to look a bit deeper into how it feels. Note what triggered your angry response and ask yourself (beyond the initial emotion) how this made you feel. For example perhaps you were triggered because you felt threatened or attacked, did you feel vulnerable or scared, not respected or listened to. How does the emotion feel now, what is behind the anger, do you feel sad or hopeless are you scared of being abandoned or rejected, neglected or out of control? Listen to what your emotion is telling you about how it feels.
Don’t make any judgements or assumptions about how you feel it may sound childish or not be in line with your normal thinking and this is fine. Remember this emotion is part of you but it is not actually you. Keep examining your feelings for example if you feel sad, ask yourself why sadness is there, perhaps underneath the sadness is a fear such as being abandoned, beyond the feeling of being abandoned is a belief that people you love always leave you. Make sure you treat each feeling with love and kindness as you would a small child send your own love back to each feeling as it comes up and when you can feel the emotional charge diminishing imagine your feeling is dissolving into the colour white or violet and move onto the next one. Keep going until there are no more feelings coming up.
As well as feelings your anger may be hiding fears. The first thing to remember when dealing with fears is that they are never true. A fear is usually based on false beliefs or a small seed of something loosely based on the truth that is then distorted out of all proportion to become a fear. Try to reassure yourself that your fears are not true. You may also have some beliefs, these may be based on your past experiences or on things that others have told you.
If you notice that you have been triggered and you don’t want to become lost in an angry emotion then there are some techniques that you can try to defuse the situation, give yourself more thinking time and prevent you from behaving, saying or doing things, which you may regret later on.
Take deep breaths – Try counting to 10 backwards and then take in a deep breath, hold it for 5 seconds and then slowly let it out. Do this a few times until you can feel yourself becoming calmer.
Walk away – Give yourself some time to calm down on your own and refocus your thoughts by walking away from a challenging situation. If possible do it without inflaming the situation or making others feel bad about themselves.
Meditate – If you are in a situation whereby you can give yourself some physical space why not meditate to calm your emotions and get yourself into a clearer state of mind. You can use a guided meditation or self guided by listening to calming music or sounds, whilst clearing your mind (as thoughts come into your mind let them come in but don’t dwell on them simply push them to one side).
Physical activity – If you can why not use up some of your energy by brisk walking, running, cycling, dancing or going to the gym.
Don’t be self-destructive – Try to avoid turning to self destructive behaviours to help you to cope.
Come back later – Once you have calmed down why not write down what triggered you, how you felt and what you learned from the experience. You can then refer back to these notes later to help you to learn more about your emotions and feelings.
Notice when your anger is being triggered. You may feel one or some of the following:
- Becoming agitated and/or fidgety
- Feeling hot and bothered
- Talking back in an accusatory way
- Feeling weak or like you need to quickly walk away
- Feeling tense or feeling a tension headache coming on
- Suddenly going from feeling happy to feeling like you need to defend yourself
- Suddenly changing the way you think or feel about a person or a situation
- Raising your voice or swearing
- Purposefully antagonising someone or goading them
Everyone experiences different feelings when their anger is triggered and you may find that your feelings are different every time you are angry. Some common feelings are:
- Feeling threatened or attacked
- Feeling unable to defend yourself verbally
- Feeling frustrated
- Feeling small, powerless or vunerable
- Not feeling listened to or understood
- Feeling less important than others
- Feeling compared to others
- Feeling that you are being treated unfairly
- Feeling unworthy
- Feeling resentful
- Feeling indignant or stubborn
What is underneath
Take the time to thoroughly examine your feelings, going through each one and fully understanding it before focusing on another. Some common feelings that hide behind anger may include:
- Feeling powerless
- Not being able to rely on others
- Feeling unimportant
- Feeling scared
- Feeling confused
Fears & Beliefs
Sometimes our feelings are also mixed with fears or beliefs. They can be deep rooted and stem from childhood experiences, learned behaviours, cultural beliefs, life experiences or what we have been told by others. Try to break the cycle of negative fears and beliefs so that you don’t pass them on to others. Some common fears and beliefs may include:
- Bad things always happen to me
- I will be abandoned or neglected
- I am not strong, good, attractive, rich, worthy enough
- Everyone will die or I will die
- I am not important
- I am not a good person
- There is something wrong with me
- I will not be loved or I can’t love
- I will be in trouble
- I will not be in control