Wednesday, December 7, 2011
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. 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. Not peace, as in the absence of conflict, but peace and quiet.
The deep irony to me is that 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. Yup! We are comfortable keeping these, and other feel-good emotions. Poor old Anger gets pushed so far to the margins, its off the page. And the function of Anger gets overlooked. Anger is energy. Energy to change things that are harming us. Without Anger, we have no powerhouse of energy to repel things that harm and damage.
Anger is not the issue. Being angry is not the issue. Feeling angry is not the issue. Acknowledging our Anger is not the issue.
Acting out in Anger. Now that's the issue. Doing angry things in an out of control manner. That is the real issue.
An "I-Statement" is an oldie, but a goodie, in times of anger. It can provide guidance and structure at a time when we feel ourselves about to blow. It goes like this, "When you don't really listen to me, I feel angry." The key bits are,"When you...." and "I feel....". Instead of a huge tirade towards the offending party that may become personal and critical, limit comments to a specific event. If we address issues as they arise, and empty the emotional trash as it accumulates, we can limit the backlog of hurt that can sometimes spill out when the extra something tips us over the edge. If there is a backlog, it's still best to try really really hard to limit ourselves to one issue. 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...." bit.
If this is a new approach for us, it's quite normal to feel vulnerable and uncomfortable when speaking about our feelings. Especially anger. Be reassured, it will get easier with practice. Having the structure and guidance of the I-statement will be like a parent holding our hand through a difficult time. It will make it easier.
And please reassure yourself after a messy session of conflict resolution, just as we would our growing and developing children. 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.
Please know, it is a messy business. Conflict isn't easy or comfortable. It is a messy business. Let's cut ourselves some slack and stick with it. The end result is so worth it. I truly believe that 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. It's part of really being human and fully rounded and developed.
Utilising our anger is the only way to land at the sought after destination of Peace.
It is a messy business.
But I think it's got to be done.
What is your spin on anger? How do my suggestions sit with you?