A New Way to Handle Anger

How to your shift self-awareness and find greater compassion

Posted Apr 02, 2017

PeopleImages/iStock
Source: PeopleImages/iStock

I was on the bike path and suddenly heard someone screaming, “LEFT! LEFT! LEFT!”  In my view I was on the right letting other bikers pass on the left.  The angry biker sped ahead of me screaming. We both stopped at a light. She turned at started screaming at me again. I looked at her with curiosity and took out my phone and turned the camera on. No, not to make a video of her.  I turned the camera on her so she could see herself scowling and literally frothing at the mouth.  I said in a very even tone, “This is what you look like.” She stopped dumbfounded. Then the light changed and she rode off shaking her head. I don’t know what she thought of me. But when she saw herself something shifted in her.

Have your ever seen yourself really angry?

Anger can be a very unpleasant emotion.  Yet it is a human emotion – so if you’re human, you too have the capacity to feel angry. Research shows that increasing one’s self-awareness can shift our emotions and stop us from acting on them. And once you increase your self-awareness and trust yourself to not act on your emotions, you may naturally feel more compassion toward yourself and the other people involved in the situation.

4 Tips for Managing your Anger with Compassion

1. Accept all emotions, limit actions.

We have the capacity to experience a broad range of emotions. The key is to allow yourself to have all your emotions, but limit the actions that you take in response to those emotions. The process of putting feelings into words allows us to integrate our emotions and reduces the urge to act on them. One way to become more aware of your emotions is to journal about them. Research shows that regular journaling in which you writing about feelings (and don’t show your journal to anyone) has tremendous health benefits. Video journaling in which you talk about what you are feeling without censoring yourself (and without showing it to anyone) also seems to have the similar healing effects.

2. Release self-judgements.

We are conditioned to belief we are somehow bad or wrong when we feel unpleasant emotions.  Avoid over-identifying with your anger.  For instance, you’re not “a bad person,” or even “an angry person,” you’re simply feeling angry in the moment.  Allow yourself to be aware of your emotions and experience them without self-judgment and avoid stories about who you are as a person – or who other people are. If you try video journaling, watching it back and seeing yourself angry can trigger a lot of other emotions, such as shame, guilt, or even disgust. Your judgments about yourself and your emotions only increase your suffering. Try to watch yourself without judgement and see what happens.

3. Respect the signal.

Recognize that your anger is probably a sign of deeper emotions like fear, hurt, or sadness. By accepting your anger, you can go deeper to get to the underlying cause of it. Once you fully accept that you’re feeling angry, you can move on to understanding why you’re feeling angry and explore your needs and beliefs about the situation.  If you simply try to get rid of the anger, by suppressing or avoiding it, without looking at its cause, it’s likely to keep coming back until you do take a look. Instead, you can use your anger as an important signal that there’s something in you that needs your attention.

4. Stay connected.

When we' re feeling angry particularly with other people, we may isolate ourselves. We may need to distance ourselves a bit when feeling angry to avoid saying or doing something we regret. But we can still remember and feel our humanity – that is, we are all in this together – and feeling the human emotion of anger actually makes us more human, and vulnerable, not less. Your emotions don’t make you less connected to others, but more connected – because you care. Consider talking with a trusted friend, counselor, or therapist to help you move through your feelings with greater self-awareness and compassion.

Journaling Exercise

Next time you’re feeling angry make a video journal. Say whatever you want, limit your time to 5 or 10 minutes, don’t show the video to anyone, just record yourself feeling angry. Watch it back being aware of your body sensations and emotions as you watch yourself, then erase it when you feel you’re done.  You may discover something new about yourself. How do you look and feel when you’re expressing anger?  How does it feel to watch yourself?  Try to see yourself with compassion – anger is a sign that something is not quite right. You can never be wrong to feel an emotion. It’s only actions related to those emotions can get us into trouble.  Self- awareness and self-acceptance are the keys to transforming your anger with compassion.

Copyright Tara Well, 2017, all rights reserved.

You’re invited to join my Facebook Group to discuss this blog and read more on developing self-awareness and compassion for yourself and others.  Also, visit The Clear Mirror to learn about the mirror meditation that reduces stress and increases compassionate self-awareness, and take the FREE 7-day Mirror Meditation Challenge

References

Brown, Brené (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Avery.

Neff, Kristin (2011). Self-Compassion. Harper-Collins

Pennebaker, J. W. (2012). Opening up: The healing power of expressing emotions. New York: Guilford Press.

Well, T., et al. (2016). The Benefits of Mirror Meditation. Paper presented at the American Psychological Association Convention in Denver.

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