Anger. We’ve all felt it: that burning fire inside. That feeling that makes the idea of getting through the day seemingly impossible. That need to kick, scream and lash out.
We often write off anger as a fixed negative emotion. Ideally, we don’t want to be angry or feel anything close to hatred in our hearts. However when channeled properly, Anger can teach us a lot about what we want and need in life. Anger can be a huge clue in directing us toward new discoveries and healthier paths. Think about it; someone hurt your feelings or betrayed your trust; you’re angry, furious even. You want to scream at them. But you don’t. You reflect on why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling. You ask yourself how this anger started, what made you react so passionately and what will make you feel better. You take some time and you talk to that person. You discuss why you were upset; maybe your relationship grows and gets stronger from that confrontation. Maybe it doesn’t and you realize that this isn’t the type of person you need in your life right now. Whatever it may be, anger, when acknowledged and directed, can be a gateway toward self-discovery. When it rears its ugly head, anger can feel erratic and uncontrollable, but in reality it is simply a step toward forgiveness, understanding, decision-making and even clarity.
How can we lighten the emotional weight of anger and re-route it into strength? Here are a few tips to move that anger into a lighter, more positive and productive mental space:
“Time is a healer.” When people say this, they aren’t lying! Taking time to reflect may seem like the last thing you want to do when you’re angry but it’s crucial. Time gives us the opportunity to contemplate why we are heated. The next time you’re mad about something (or at someone) go to a quiet space, close the door and let yourself think about where this anger is coming from. People often react to anger in two ways: inward or outward. Some people close themselves off to the world when they are angry; letting their anger ruminate and grow until, at the most inopportune moment, they explode. Others take that anger and lash out. They share it with the world and possibly hurt others in the process. Both of these immediate reactions to anger can be dangerous. A simple first step is to be quiet and breath, allowing yourself the mental space to see options for reactions. Time is the only way to prevent reacting to your anger in a dangerous or hurtful way. I’m sure it feels impossible to say to yourself, “Okay, breathe, take time and think about why you’re upset,” in the heat of the moment, but I promise a little bit of self-control and self-reflection can go a long way.
Anger is an incredible fitness motivator. How many times have you wanted to punch, throw or kick when you were angry about something? If you’re someone who tends to turn your anger inward, working out can be a great tactic to sweat out the anxiety, frustration and sadness that comes from being angry. Try to beat your fastest mile, kick butt in your spin class and put that punching bag to use. Sweating can also help with reflection. Make an effort to enjoy feeling sexy and fun in Zumba class, or appreciate how strong you are when you hold that plank for a full minute. Celebrate your physical goals and successes and let them inform how you deal with your anger. By focusing on your physical and mental strengths, you will guide your anger toward a more positive emotional state.
Often times Anger acts as a mask for other emotions. When you take the time to reflect on why you’re angry you other feelings may surface. One of the most common is sadness. Anger is often rooted in a place of desolation or insecurity. How many times have you seen a friend lash out as a method of self-defense? How many times have you done that yourself? Sometimes, it’s easier to get mad about something than to feel vulnerable. The next time you’re angry ask yourself if it could be a result of a larger problem or worry in your life? Did you lash out at a loved one because of something they said or because you just can’t get a break this week? Did someone say something that hit you hard because it was cruel or truthful? Don’t be afraid to dig into your anger and never be afraid to get emotional. Physicalize your emotions and let yourself cry if you need to. Tears represent our bodies’ way of cleansing and it can be liberating to spend some time acknowledging where you are in the moment. Grab that tissue, turn on that sad tune, watch “that” movie — let it out.
Anger doesn’t have to be a debilitating or negative emotion. If reflected upon and appreciated, anger can in fact lead you toward inner peace.
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