The taboos against … feeling and expressing anger are so powerful that even knowing when we are angry is not a simple matter.” ~ Harriet Lerner
Feeling and expressing anger is part of being human. But when someone says, “You’re angry!” it’s as if they’ve said, “You have leprosy!” We get defensive. We feel dismissed. We believe we’re bad people.
For many reasons we’re conditioned to deny our anger, to pretend I’m fine, when we are not. This doesn’t make the anger go away. In fact, it often makes us feel worse.
If you’re like me, you probably experience a surge of many distressing feelings, including anger, during BIG Change. But when you believe that feeling angry is bad, you won’t let yourself own the feeling.
People who transition well choose to recognize all of their feelings. Only when recognized and named can feelings be addressed and processed in healthy ways.
Know that you are angry…
Positive Practice: Identify your Anger
- Explore each Anger Pie.
- Mark slices that describe what you do and how you feel.
- What parts did you identify with?
- Journal what thoughts you have about your anger, how you feel when you act out your anger.
- After journaling, share what you discover with a supportive person.
Sit with The Anger Pie of Feelings. Ask yourself if you can identify with more than one feeling. This is a positive thing, by the way! Because now you begin to realize the layers of anger that masquerade as other feelings.
Excerpts from The Small Guide to Life’s Big Changes
Journal Entry: Most of the time I feel _________ (choose one of those feelings from the pies). But if I look more closely, I can see that my underlying feeling is _____________. This feeling contributes to my actions such as _____________ (choose an action from that pie).
Once you identify your anger feelings and actions, determine what healthy boundaries you need to keep yourself and others safe: avoid places, people, activities that trigger angry actions. If you need accountability in this, get it. Be ruthlessly realistic.
As Barbara shared last week, our anger serves us as a messenger. In our next post we’ll share Positive Practices for processing anger so that it doesn’t keep us stuck on our Transition Journey.
*If you have difficulty identifying your own feelings of anger, give yourself a gift: work with a trained professional. Naming and understanding anger is challenging work, and you do not have to do this alone.