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Wednesday, December 7, 2011



I'm angry.

Really angry.

I'm angry at the way we are all so uncomfortable with anger.

Our society is so uncomfortable with anger that it teaches us to suppress and repress our anger. We subdue this most messy of emotions until we trick ourselves into thinking we are calm and peaceful people whose feathers are never ruffled by anything Life throws up. Not ruffled, and certainly not, not never, ever angered. Peace is privileged. However, the peace that is achieved through avoiding conflict is not truly peace. It may bring calm in the short term, but in the long term, repressing emotions will damage us.

The deep irony to me is that while we are taught to repress our anger, our Society is overflowing with anger and violence wherever we turn. Anger towards children, towards partners, towards our animals, towards our environment. It seems pretty clear to me that suppressing and repressing anger isn't bearing fruit that's worth keeping.

I so wish we could lose our discomfort with anger enough to see that it's not anger that's the problem. Anger is a helpful and positive emotion, just like the ones we are comfortable with. Joy, Pleasure and Love. We are comfortable keeping these, and other feel-good emotions. Anger, however, gets pushed so far to the margins, that it's off the page. And the function of Anger gets overlooked.

Anger is energy. Anger is Energy to change things that are harming us. Without anger, we have no powerhouse of energy to repel things that harm and damage.

So, I say, anger is not the issue. Being angry is not the issue. Feeling angry is not the issue. Acknowledging our anger is not the issue.

But. Acting out in anger. Now that's the issue. Doing angry things in an out of control manner. That is the real issue.

So how can we allow anger to be present, yet manage it so it doesn't become a raging, terrifying inferno wreaking havoc? The familiar and well-known strategy of an "I-Statement" is simple, yet effective. It allows us to voice our anger, yet it's structured enough to assist us to keep our anger under control. This structured statement provides us with guidance and structure at a time when we can be vulnerable and stressed. It will help us manage our anger so we can have an outcome we can feel proud of.

An I-Statement goes like this: "When you don't listen to me, I feel angry." The key bits are,"When you...." and "I feel....". The "When you...." structure limits our comments to a specific event. Instead of a huge tirade towards the offending party that may become personal and critical, it is more appropriate to limit comments to a specific event. Then, once the offending behaviour is named, it is totally important for us to take responsibility for our feelings by naming them. This is the, "I feel...." part. Although it may seem simple, specifically naming our anger can be both uncomfortable and empowering.

If this is a new approach for us, it's quite normal to feel vulnerable and uncomfortable when speaking about our feelings. Especially anger. However, be reassured, it will get easier with practice. The structure and guidance of the I-statement will be like a parent holding our hand through a difficult time. The I-Statement will make it easier for us to navigate our way through anger if we are unfamiliar with it, and it will help us manage our anger so we can benefit from the energy it brings to keep us physically and emotionally safe.

Please reassure yourself after a messy session of conflict resolution, just as we would reassure  our growing and developing children if they were struggling with a new challenge: "It's OK. That might not have gone the way you'd hoped, but you're learning." New skills take time to become comfortable and effective. Learning how to be angry might take many, many, many efforts. Each time, we will be getting better at it. Let's give ourselves the space to learn how to do this important thing.

The end result is so worth it. It's only when we learn to allow our anger to fuel us towards the resolution of conflict that we can truly and honestly engage with others.

Utilising our anger is the only way to truly land at the sought after destination of Peace.

What is your spin on anger? How do you manage your anger? 

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  1. I've always viewed anger as a secondary emotion, something triggered by the initial cause ... pain, embarrassment, etc. I try to respect anger and give it space, safe space, to release itself. Once it's dissipated then there's time to talk about what caused it.

  2. Rachael: I like that phrase "secondary emotion". I think I see it the same way, but I haven't made it through to such a succinct expression. I see Anger as being there to help us deal with the issue that has hurt or damaged us. "Secondary". I like it. I love how new words and insights do release us inwardly to new ways of being fully who we can be.

  3. I agree that anger is a human emotion that should be respected as much as the other ones. That the real issue involves how we handle our anger.

    As a mom and woman that has been in a long term relationship for over eighteen years, I can certainly admit to having struggled with handling anger inappropriately at times. Thank you for the encouragement to keep trying new patterns of behavior, even when backsliding happens.

    A good "time out" period when the blood gets boiling works like a charm as well as vocalizing in a calm voice our need to be left alone until we can cool off .

  4. What a powerful post, Lorraine. I'm angry too. I totally agree with you. Anger is okay, it's what we do with it that can sometimes be not okay. We use the 'I' statement A LOT in our home. It really does re-train how we handle anger, blame and shame.

    1. Thank you for your feedback, Deb. Writer to writer, your comments mean a lot to me. I'm so glad to hear your family is growing. I that implementing the framework for our children in a loving way teaches and restructures me, probably more than it shapes them. Reshaping older vessels, like me, is harder work I think!

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