nothing like kicking off an advice column with a question about anger, is there?
My boss put me in a situation that is really ticking me off but it would be unwise to vent - so I just have to swallow the anger. Is swallowing anger healthy? And how do I get my thoughts off this treadmill of – “you jerk boss!!!!” – and onto “okay that happened, moving on, lesson learned?” - disgruntled employee
“holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” – by someone, at some point, but probably not Buddha
swallowing anger is never healthy! stop immediately! what are you, a Puritan?
anger is not a welcome emotion, but if used correctly it can be profoundly useful. in my (anecdotal, medically untrained, and hyper-personal) experience, there are two important steps to dealing constructively with anger:
- experience it
- figure out its message
do whatever feels right (within reason) to move it through your system. why would you want to feel angry? because it’s the only healthy way to go. when you suppress it, anger becomes lodged in your subconscious mind only to reappear in some other way down the line.
essentially, anger is not the emotion to half-ass. handle it with awareness, feel it completely in the moment, acknowledge how you feel, let it run its course, then marvel how something so manageable, so resolvable, so finite, frustrated you. sometimes it’s hard to even remember the original issue.
some venting techniques:
- be a kid again. let the anger consume you completely, as children do. they become rage personified, throwing toys, ripping paper, yelling, stomping their feet, crying. you lived it, you know the deal.
- announce to yourself, silently or out loud, how angry you are, curse about it and every irritating aspect of the situation.
- sometimes i write down what’s annoying me and usually end up calming myself down or finding a solution. sometimes both.
- similarly, write a letter to whomever you’re annoyed with, but obviously don’t send it. if you go this route, i’d definitely write it longhand, leave it at home, and destroy it once you feel better.
- i also find carrie-mathison-esque sighs helpful. if you watch ‘homeland,’ you already understand. if you don’t, guess what you’re doing this weekend?
by now, i hope you’re feeling better. once you’re ready to get observant and thoughtful, move to the next step.
after burning through the superficial part of the rage, you’ll probably realize it was just energy moving through you. how about that.
the following quote, from the artist’s way by julia cameron—which you should all read and do and learn from—tidily sums up anger’s lessons:
“anger is a map. anger shows us what our boundaries are...where we want to go. it lets us see where we’ve been and lets us know when we haven’t liked it. anger points the way, not just the finger.
anger is our friend…a very, very loyal friend. it will always tell us when we have been betrayed. it will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves. it will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interests. anger is not the action itself. it is action’s invitation.”
these ideas should also help with shifting your thoughts from “you are the worst” to “onward and upward.”
look, i know how hokey it sounds and how reluctant you might be. but you already know what doesn’t work, so why not give this a shot?
i hope this was helpful! feedback? other topics i should address? email@example.com