Anger bites and barks and tears away at anything it can sink its teeth into, whether it be your stomach, your heart, or any innocent bystander within a hundred mile radius. No one escapes feeling anger at times. Even revered Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn tells a story about his struggle to stay centered while angry, and this guy is the epitome of peace!
Anger is in everyone’s emotional constitution to one degree or another. It oozes out in big and little ways, no matter how valiant the attempt to disguise it. It shows up when you act meanspirited, inconsiderate or bossy, or when everything you say has a negative spin to it. Maybe you attempt to change other people, get huffy when things don’t go your way, or just find yourself frustrated about almost everything.
When you don’t express the anger constructively, you focus outward on people, things, and situations without accepting them. The result is always the same: you end up feeling disconnected, separate, alienated. Unkind looks, words, and actions follow.
It's Human to Feel Angry When Experiencing Injustice
It’s human to feel angry when experiencing an injustice or violation. For instance, if a coworker takes all the credit for a project you did, your hackles are going to rise. Anger hits everybody at one time or another, no matter how peachy the upbringing.
The first tool is dealing with the emotion itself by moving the hot, surging, wordless energy out of your body constructively. Think about a small child in the supermarket. When he’s denied the sugar cereal he saw on television — an injustice in his eyes — he flops on the floor and throws a tantrum. He doesn’t say, “Excuse me, mother dear, I’m feeling angry and need to do some exercise or regulated breathing.” He spontaneously moves that energy out of his body in whatever loud and outrageous way it comes. Mother is totally embarrassed (a feeling associated with fear), but the child is just taking care of himself.
If his mother takes him somewhere safe, like the car, and allows him to express the anger physically, the energy passes. At some point, it’s over. He cries, falls asleep, or gets absorbed in something else. He’s then back, fully present with no negative lingering after effects.
Transforming Your Anger: Get Physical
Transforming your anger takes surrendering your pride because adults too need a physical way to move anger energy. To expel this emotion, you need to do something where you can safely let go, such as yelling into a pillow, stomping around, or pushing against a doorjamb. What's important is you don’t destroy anything of value (including yourself) while getting rid of the physical sensations. Make hard and fast movements with total abandon until you experience a noticeable shift and feel the anger energy dissipate.
What you think and say to yourself while pounding is crucial. Blaming or cursing others will only perpetuate your anger. Other people and situations are just convenient targets. To move the energy constructively, you need to own it as yours, as residing within you. While pounding or pushing, make primal sounds, grunt or growl or say, “I feel angry. I feel so frustrated.”
Neutralizing Your Anger: Acceptance & Love
Your thoughts can neutralize your anger if you fully accept people, things, and situations. Refocus on what you can do to feel more love. Negative thoughts about external things are born from anger and only create more. To break the cycle, think the opposite of what you usually tell yourself. Instead of thinking “You shouldn’t act like that,” or “He should be more considerate of my feelings,” remind yourself, “People and things are the way they are, not the way I want them to be.”
This profound sentence contradicts the “shoulds” and me-me-me thinking that people with anger constitutions have likely repeated to themselves for a long, long time. Think your acceptance thoughts anytime, but especially when you realize you’re not thinking well of someone, when you feel like pulling away, or when you’re ranting. Then you can remind yourself, “My focus is myself.”
Use your intuition rather than blaming the world for the conditions you find yourself in. Turn your attention around one hundred and eighty degrees, and ask yourself: “What’s true for me about this situation? What do I need to do here to feel more love?” If you come back to yourself and listen to what your inner knowing tells you, rather than giving credence to your vindictive mind or self-centered ego, you’ll get clear about where you really stand and what you need to say or do.
Communicating What Is True for You (with kindness)
Find a way to communicate what is true for you, and do it in a kind way. Anger awards us a Ph.D. in telling other people about themselves, so it may seem nearly impossible. But focusing negatively on others doesn’t bring love, it only creates disconnection and accentuates differences.
Rather than fuming over how other people are, how they should be, or what they should do, refocus. Speak about yourself — that is, speak your “I.” It’s not, “What’s your problem?” It’s, “I was angry when I couldn’t catch you on the phone.” You don’t have to remove the word “you” from your vocabulary. You just have to keep your attention on talking about what’s true for you about you.
Another surefire way to move through anger and increase love with your speech is to give appreciations and praise to others, emphasizing the bright side, and voicing your gratitude. The more of this, the better.
Genuine Acts of Giving Melt Anger & Fuel Love
Action — as in genuine acts of giving — melts anger and fuels love. Frequently ask yourself, “What can I give? How can I help?” Then follow through. Give undivided attention by listening lovingly. When you become the devil’s advocate or offer unsolicited advice, you provoke anger. When you listen in order to understand, people feel respected, and you’ll feel more love.
There’s many ways you can give: a greeting card, money, time, or expertise. You can cooperate, compromise, or gracefully give up your preference and do something the other person’s way.
Love brings you back to your true centered self. You live in your heart and come from a space of openness and expansion. It’s impossible not to love and accept people and situations when you’re truly connected to all that is.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
©2011 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T. All Rights Reserved.
Publisher: Riviera Press, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
About the Author
Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education. Word spread about the success of Attitude Reconstruction, and it wasn’t long before Jude became a sought-after workshop and seminar leader, teaching her approach to organizations and groups. Visit her website at AttitudeReconstruction.com/
Watch an interview with Jude Bijou: How to Experience More Joy, Love and Peace