February focus: anger

This week I’m going to take a deeper look at some of the primary emotions and how they serve us.

Anger – helping us deal with obstacles

Anger is a primary emotion that arises when we perceive that someone or something is in our way and preventing us from achieving our goals. We may also experience anger when we believe something is unfair, when someone threatens us or a loved one, or when we believe someone has broken a rule.

Anger ranges from annoyance and frustration to argumentativeness and fury, covering everything from mild dissatisfaction to vengefulness. Fear or disgust might travel with anger, depending on if you are concerned about becoming violent towards yourself or others, or annoyed with a person who you believe to be blocking or wronging you. You may also feel shame or embarrassment for having felt angry, and you might experience sadness once the anger has subsided.

A sign something’s in our way

Anger often surfaces as a culmination of a series of events. On thing after another, until things bubble over. Individually each of the issues might have been easy to deal with, but compounded they lead to a feeling of anger. Anger also spreads easily to others. Their distress sparks your distress.

Anger and the intensity of how it’s felt is highly dependant on each person’s personality and assessment of the threat / situation. Two people might experience the same event and perceive it completely differently. For example, someone being cut off at a junction might feel outraged: “the offender almost caused an accident, they don’t care about anyone else but themselves, they could have killed me and my family.” Another person might feel this less intensely: “that was a close one, he nearly hit me, thank goodness we both had quick reactions.” These responses will depend on variables such as how tired someone is, or anxious, or overstimulated/stressed at the time of the event. It can also depend on character traits such as competitiveness and narcissism.

There are several triggers for anger, including rule-breaking, interference, betrayal, injustice, rejection, a threat of harm to us or a loved one, and the influence of someone else’s anger.

Anger can serve us by helping signal that something is in our way and fuelling creative ways to overcome these obstacles and achieve our goals. In this way it can be energising and motivating. However, anger is precarious when we are not able to use it to safely and appropriately overcome our obstacles, and instead veer towards violence or hurtful words. The key is to aim for constructive, rather than destructive anger.

When someone experiences the emotion of anger, their eyebrows typically come together, their eyes glare and the lips pinch or narrow at the edges. The voice might have an edge to it, and when uncontrolled, they might yell or roar. Anger is often described as ‘seeing red’ and the person may feel hot or sweaty, with tensed muscles and a clenched jaw or firsts. They may puff out their chest and lean forward to appear larger and more intimidating.

Anger can be used positively

Anger is often perceived as a negative emotion, yet it can be used to increase creativity and perform more effectively, and as part of our toolkit to navigate relationships and social interactions successfully. The key is to use it selectively and appropriately – and not let it control your reactions.

The first step is to notice your feeling of anger and what’s triggering it, knowing that it may well be the end of a series of events that’s got you here. Next it’s useful to share that this is how you are feeling – that you’re uncomfortable or that this interaction is difficult. This makes the person you are dealing with more likely to regard you with empathy. After this, you can slow things down and try not to rush your responses. Deep breaths can help here. This gives you the chance to think more clearly and choose your next move.

Anger can be constructive in helping focus your attention, stimulate creative thinking and move efficiently to an effective outcome – as long as you can create some distance between the overwhelm and distress that triggers it.

🧡 Daily Practice : Self care

Treat yourself.

Give yourself a little boost to both your mood and your self-esteem by treating yourself to something special and even frivolous.

Buy a book, savour a special bar of chocolate, have an afternoon nap, change your bed, watch a movie, pop the champagne, go get an ice cream, go for a walk, cook a favourite dish, or even sit and do nothing for 5 minutes…

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