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  • Jesse Williams, LPC-MHSP

When Anger Comes a Callin'

Broken windows. Holes in walls. Shattered possessions. Harmful words. Hurtful gestures. Hurricanes of emotion. Storm within. Seeing red. Hellish frustrations.

Fiery anger. Anger is one of those emotions that knows how to get some attention. Sometimes it's loud. Sometimes it's quiet and erosive. Sometimes it's harmful. Sometimes it hurts those around us. Sometimes it hurts ourselves. But what do you do when anger shows up on the scene? How do you appropriately deal with anger when it comes calling your name? How do you calm the storm without cramming the emotion? How do you honor the emotion and respect the process, yet not have broken possessions, relationships, or self-esteem in the aftermath?

Here are some suggestions to explore when anger comes a callin':

Ask yourself: "why am I angry?"

We're seeing red, yet we don't even know why we are angry. The emotion comes up blazing, yet we weren't even aware how it got there. Sometimes just stopping to engage the Medicine Wheel process is all that is needed in those moments. Engage that Mental East part of the medicine wheel and get yourself to explore the thoughts/events that are leading to the anger. What's the thought and/or circumstance that sparked the anger? Try speaking the narrative, either to yourself or to a tree or to a higher power. Tell the story. As you tell the story, look for the anger: is it still anger? Or is it disappointment now? Maybe it turned into sadness? Hurt? Jealousy? Loneliness? By giving word to the thoughts/story, it unlocks the emotion. Then explore the emotion.

Look under your umbrella-ella-ella.

Anger is often viewed as an "umbrella emotion," meaning that it's often hiding/covering some deeper emotions. It can hide a variety of emotions, sometimes all at the same time. This is especially true for people raised within a culture of not acknowledging emotion. Maybe you are a man who's been taught that it wasn't "masculine" to express emotion, and you might spend your life cramming all uncomfortable emotions away and only allowing anger out (as anger might have been seen as the only appropriate "masculine" emotion). Or maybe you are from a family where no emotion was ever acknowledged, because it detracts from the logical goals at hand (leaving your angry at yourself). These examples often result in crammed, unacknowledged emotions that ultimately turn into anger. But the reality is this: it might not actually be anger that you are feeling. Maybe there's jealousy or disappointment underneath the disguise of anger. Maybe you're hurt or sad. Maybe it's guilt. Try figuring out what the emotion underneath is.

Take a look in the mirror.

Anger often gets displaced. Figuring out who this anger (if it really is anger) is directed towards can be a helpful piece of the process. Sometimes, what we think is anger at a spouse, family member, or friend is ultimately stemming from our emotions surrounding ourselves. After looking under your umbrella of anger, you might find that you feel disappointed in yourself or ashamed of yourself. Is it actually about you? Or maybe you are seeing a piece of yourself within the person you are angry with. Maybe you are uncomfortable with seeing the person react to your own actions. Ask yourself some questions to explore this: "What have I done that has made me so angry?" "What do I see in the other person that is a reflection of myself?" "Am I angry about the piece of myself that I am seeing in the other person?"

Know when to take a breather.

Anger also has a tendency of getting a bit... out of hand. When it starts to escalate, know when to step away from the situation/stimuli. If the situation you are in is not getting resolved (and you feel like you are running on a hamster wheel), try walking away for a second. Take a walk outside. Speak your narrative by yourself. Engage the Medicine Wheel. Journal. Take a jog. Take a moment to connect with the divine/higher power. Do something to help ground yourself and process the emotion you are feeling. This isn't about cramming or ignoring the anger-- it's simply about removing the stimuli that is amping the emotion up more and more. Then shift into processing mode to deal with the anger at hand.

Empower yourself to deal with the anger.

Sometimes we won't even begin dealing with anger, because deep within, we've convinced ourselves that it is out of our control. That it's stronger than we are. That we're just not good at handling it. Take a moment to explore and consider an archetype that you feel knows how to healthily deal with anger. If you feel like your anger needs to be more directive and driven towards accomplishing a goal, maybe try focusing in on the archetype of the Knight. Or if you feel like your anger needs to be quietly explored with peace and tranquility and acceptance, try focusing on an archetype that embodies this idea. Try flipping through a pack of tarot cards and choose a card that you feel could help you deal with this anger in a healthy manner. Then allow yourself to process the emotion while breathing in and focusing on that archetype/card. Sometimes changing the way we view ourselves from a helpless cork on the waves of anger to an empowered individual capable of healing self is all we need to begin moving through that anger.

At the end of the day, anger is just another one of our wonderful emotions that move us through life challenges, helping us process and heal. Anger can bring with it a lot of energy and intensity, yet when we handle it in a healthy manner, that energy and intensity can be used to propel us torwards growth, enlightenment, and empowerment. As difficult as it can be, anger provides an emotional opportunity that we don't want to miss. Remember: anger is not the enemy here. The enemy is not knowing how to process and deal with emotions appropriately.

So honor it. Give it space. Allow it to exist.

Take some time to explore your own process of anger. Explore your triggers. Understand where your anger is being placed. Know your breaking point. Discover the best way for you to process out anger without clinging to it or cramming it. Breathe in your empowerment. Shift your perspective of self. Accurately view your emotion. Then process the feelings and move towards freedom, peace, forgiveness, and wholeness.


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