Anger is a challenging emotion. It’s also a very human emotion. Take a moment, right now, and think about the last time you felt angry about something.
What did it feel like to you, on the inside? Did your body respond to the feeling? If so, how?
Did you share your feeling with anyone or did you keep it inside?
And how did that feel, as time passed?
You see, we all experience anger – and we all share the challenge of learning to manage it and express it constructively.
It’s not a new issue. Here’s what William Blake had to say back in 1794 about communicating anger. This passage is from the beginning of his famous poem “A Poison Tree”:
“I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.”
Simple and to the point, Blake captures the importance (and the impact) of communicating anger. When we don’t speak it, we hold onto it and it gets bigger. Speaking it is a species of letting go.
But let’s take another step back.
The very first thing we need to do is speak it to ourselves! Quite often, we have difficulty admitting that we feel angry – even to ourselves. And as long as we are in denial about our anger, we are acting off of it unconsciously. It leaks into our daily world and drains our energy and our time – all without our being consciously aware of it.
Other people may react to the anger we are unconsciously and indirectly expressing. And we may then feel even angrier, because of the way they are behaving. But this is all happening more or less ‘underground.’ And that’s how the anger grows – and how it devours and destroys our moments!
When you express your anger constructively (i.e. with I messages and a respectful tone), you give the other person a chance to address whatever it is that is bothering you.
You also provide him or her with information about you. You are opening a door to that person, and right away, this action softens the hard shell of the anger that you were feeling just a second ago.
Speaking your anger gives messages both to you and to the person you are angry with. The messages basically indicate that this is a workable situation, and one that you’ll get through. Opening up a conversation brings the problem down to size and invites a give-and-take, rather than a blaming power struggle.
And, on the deepest level, as you can begin to see in Blake’s poem, speaking your anger respectfully has the power to change how you see the person you are speaking it to, transforming him or her from enemy to friend.
Now THAT’S real power!
© Copyright 2013 Paula Eder, Ph.D.