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There is no need to manage your anger


Angry yellow face

 

Often people talk about getting their emotions more under control, learning how to manage their anger but I actually propose a different approach. I’m also not going to drag things out, I’m going to reveal right here, right now why there’s no need to manage anger. Anger is not the problem. Whenever we get upset, raise our voice or express ourselves in a more heated manner, there are two reasons for it. Either a boundary has been crossed or the event is reminding us of a time we have been deeply hurt. Therefore, the solution isn’t to manage the anger but rather to find out what or who hurt us, understand what the event was that left such a profound mark in us, causing a significant reaction to this day.

 

Why boundaries were broken

Let’s go back to those boundaries I mentioned earlier and let’s go back to the very beginning.

We need to understand how it all started, and we need to find the perpetrator, the first person ever, who crossed our boundaries. For this part, you may want to sit securely, as I have a feeling you are not going to like the answer.

The first person to ever cross your boundaries was -you! But allow me to explain.


Sad child

Even as children we have a gut instinct and can feel when something isn’t quite right, we have a strong intuition to say no when something doesn’t feel right. So why don’t we speak up?

As children we depend on our parents, our guardians and adults around us in general, so when we hesitate to speak up, we do it because we fear a loss of connection, we fear disappointing others and ultimately, we fear rejection. This behaviour gets ingrained in us, it becomes who we are, and we carry it with us into our adulthood. I’m sure we’ve all heard the term people pleasing, but this goes far beyond that. Our actual survival on the planet depended on doing as we were told. Following the rules was crucial growing up, so we put the demands of our parents and guardians before our own wants and needs in order to survive.

The other important aspect to note is that our mind is hardwired to help us survive and not to thrive.

The mind will always pull you in the direction of safety and survival. It doesn’t care if you’re living your best life or not.

 

Who can take the pain away?

Often when we get upset with someone, they are merely a surrogate for the person who hurt us initially. Left unresolved, as time passes more and more frustration piles up and adds to the pyramid of pain. As uncomfortable as it may be, it’s extremely important to tackle these issues head on. It takes strength and courage and often, we may need to re-evaluate the relationship we have with someone.

No matter who hurt you, or who wronged you, finding the resolution and healing is always up to you. It is a complete waste of time to point fingers and wait for the hurter to apologise, to make it right or even just to acknowledge what they’ve done.

By expecting another person to step up and help resolve the situation, not only do we give our power away, but we relinquish responsibility as well. We are saying we cannot move on until that person apologises for what they’ve done, so we can’t be held accountable for our situation. Whereas our pain may be entirely valid and in an ideal situation we should be able to work through problems with the perpetrator, often it just won’t be possible.

So, ask yourself: “Am I waiting for anyone’s permission to move on?” “How have I been giving my power away?”


Girl's reflection in mirror

Apart from taking full ownership of the situation and as we are discussing the topic of anger, I’d like to encourage a milder approach. Often, we may feel that we need to employ a strong emotion to separate ourselves from a bad situation, a person who hurt us, but the reality is that you don’t have to hate someone to move on. If you do, you replace the anger with resentment.

Everyone has their own struggles, their own reasons for behaving in certain ways and let’s take this opportunity to remember that only hurt people, hurt other people. You could try to understand their pain, their point of view but keep in mind that not everyone may be ready to open up and to have difficult conversations. That’s why I mentioned earlier that sometimes it just won’t be possible to work out the issues with the person who hurt you, but that doesn’t mean that your healing should be put on hold.

 

Uncovering the unmet need that is still present and effecting you

Having had some anger issues in the past myself, I’m happy to give a glimpse of how I worked through it. For the longest time I just thought that being angry is what I do, it was almost like a weird badge of honour. Wanting to improve though and become a better version of myself, one day I sat down and started looking into why I behaved the way I did.

I enjoy cooking a lot, but I would get so irrationally angry when someone would ask me what I’m making. Weird right? I would become so defensive and ready to strike with the wooden spoon if anyone commented on what I was making. I soon realised that this cannot go on.

So, what was the reason for my meal prep meltdowns?

As you may have guessed it, of course it had nothing to do with cooking. It all came down to not feeling heard as a child, not feeling significant and living with a strong sense that I didn’t matter.


Someone suggesting that maybe I should add more salt or reduce the flame, felt like a complete attack on my character. Even the idea of being told to change something, add something felt like I’m incapable, I’m inadequate, the way I want to do it, is somehow wrong, what I want doesn’t matter, and that would infuriate me. Ridiculous? – perhaps, but it felt very real to me.


Obviously, the solution wasn’t put down the wooden spoon and to live off takeaways for the rest of my life, but to learn how to express myself. I needed to shift my thinking, accept that my needs matter as well, and to communicate them in a clear and respectful way. It was no longer important who made me feel insignificant or like I didn’t matter, I had to fix it.

Don’t get upset if someone doesn’t meet your needs. Make your life easier and say what you mean, ask for what you want and have healthy boundaries.

 

One of the most important things to keep in mind when working on any issue at all, is to make an identity shift. As I mentioned, I wore my anger like a badge of honour, and it was something I allowed myself to do for too long. I justified being angry with all the hurt I had endured.

When we want to heal, to make significant changes in our lives, we must be able to set our ego aside, let go of the past, the old version of ourselves. At first, it can feel unsafe and as if we are unanchored but true growth will only occur by becoming superior to our former self and taking complete ownership.  Regardless of what happened in the past, the future is ours to create.

 

The one thing you do need to manage

Anger is a very real emotion, and we all experience it every now and then for various reasons. The one aspect that does need to be managed though, is the time you take between the anger and your reaction. It’s hard to take back hurtful things that we may say in the heat of an argument, choices we make when upset, so giving ourselves breathing space is crucial.

Something I would recommend not only to help balance the nervous system but to increase the time you have between the anger and a reaction as well, is a technique called alternate nostril breathing. What this does is, it helps regulate your nerves when you start to feel angry and anxious but more importantly, it will help create a balance between the 2 hemispheres of the brain, which has amazing benefits.

The right side of our brain oversees present moment awareness, it’s in charge of creation, intuition, creative problem solving, and the left side of our brain oversees the past & future, language, critical thinking.  Usually, the 2 different hemispheres of the brain operate separately but with this technique we wake up both sides and they begin to operate at the same time. We are also strengthening something called the corpus callosum, the bridge that connects the right and left hemispheres. This is important because this will help create a gap between emotion and reaction.

By practicing this breathing technique, you will have 5 to 10 more seconds between feeling an emotion and acting on it.

Meditation on beach

Steps to do alternate nostril- breathing:

 

  • Sit quietly somewhere you don’t need to give any tasks your full attention.

  • Bring your right hand up to your nose and move your forefinger and middle finger out of the way. Place your thumb on your right nostril.

  • With this nostril covered, close your eyes and exhale fully and slowly through your left nostril.

  • Once you’ve exhaled completely, release your right nostril and put your ring finger on the left nostril.

  • Breathe in deeply and slowly from the right side. Make sure your breath is smooth and continuous.

  • Once you’ve inhaled completely, exhale through your right nostril.

  • Release your ring finger and close your right nostril with your thumb again. Breathe in fully and exhale fully from your left nostril.

  • Repeat the full process at least two or more times, alternating the nostrils.

This easy breathing technique can also improve overall brain function, including helping with memory and movement. It's worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.

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