, Gloucester, MA

November 15, 2012

Personal Matters: Dealing with our feelings of anger

Personal Matters
Susan Britt

---- — “What should I do with all this anger I feel?”

Whether they are angry with themselves, their spouse, the boss, their children, in-laws or neighbors, many of my coaching clients often feel overwhelmed by their anger. It is interesting that, in contrast, I seldom hear anyone say they do not know what to do with all the joy or love they feel.

In a culture like ours — where anger is usually considered a “bad” or negative emotion — it is easy to think that being angry is not only unpleasant and unattractive but also unacceptable.

The truth is that anger is a basic, primal emotion that is part of our human emotional constitution. Just like our other emotions, it is available for your well-being, protection and appropriate expression. It is appropriate to be angry if someone threatens your or a loved one’s well being. It is appropriate to be angry at injustice whether personal or societal. Anger is a friend when it stimulates us to take action to protect others and ourselves.

Since anger is not an emotion that is easily accepted in social situations, you may, in the process of avoiding the expression of it, learn to numb yourself and therefore not even feel it. You may, and this is common, allow your natural, angry responses to build up inside of you until you finally explode. Some small incident may become a huge issue because your stored up anger is simply too big and inappropriate to the incident.

Suppressed, hidden anger may affect your physical health producing symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, high blood pressure. Unexpressed anger may also lower your concentration levels or you may experience a general sense of edginess or dissatisfaction with your life.

For some, built up anger may result in eating binges or over consumption of alcohol. In these instances your unexpressed anger has become a foe that is working against your best interests.

Anger also works against you if you allow yourself to funnel all your feelings into angry raging. It is not healthy to constantly redirect your envy, fear, pain, or discouragement into huge explosions of angry emotion. If not dealt with appropriately this type of raging can destroy trust and damage communication. It can, also, of course lead to physical violence.

Sometimes the fear of going out of control or spinning into a rage that might result in hurting someone will work against you if you allow this fear to stifle your anger completely. By stockpiling your anger you may actually increase the chances of a destructive explosion.

So what is the healthiest way to deal with your angry feelings?

First, be willing to acknowledge your anger. Admitting to yourself that anger is acceptable in general and that it is also acceptable for you to feel and express your anger allows you to be healthy and emotionally honest.

Second, express your anger appropriately. Avoid raging or uncontrollable outbursts. Instead, in a respectful manner, tell others that you are angry.

Present your side of the story; then, try to listen to their responses. If the enormity of your anger makes it too difficult for you to talk or listen, find a mediator. And remember that you can always call a time out so you can collect yourself or address the issue at another time.

Think of your anger as a friend and teacher. It can tell you a lot about yourself and what is important to you. It is a red alert signal telling you that something important needs to be addressed. Are you listening?

Based in Rockport, life coach and psychotherapist Susan Britt, M.Ed., a former university director of career and counseling services, teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life and career goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at and by telephone 978 546-9431.