What To Do With Your Anger

"Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him." ―Epictetus

Anger is a powerful emotion. When I get really angry it comes on like a raging fire and there is nowhere for the energy to go but out. It's as if someone struck a match to my big toe and I become consumed in flames. When that happens I usually say or do things that I later regret, things I quickly forget about but loved ones remember for a long, long, time. 

The reason it comes on me so quickly is because I have a tendency to ignore little hurts and irritants and they build up over time until something equally small can set off a chain reaction in me. Once expressed, I feel much better but I have left a wake of pain for others to deal with. Then I feel awful.

Now that I know that about myself, I try to pay attention to the little frustrations and irritations as they happen, so as not to allow an accumulation of unmet needs to build up within me.

Others swallow their anger, or deny that it's even there. After all, it's "wrong" to be angry so they repress it, which can lead to depression and a feeling of hopelessness. Sometimes they repress it so well that they don't even know that they are angry. They think no one else knows that they're angry either, but everything about them communicates it loud and clear. 

Still others enjoy being angry. They like the feeling of power that comes with being angry and wear it around all the time like a suit of armor. The message they send is, "Stay away from me. I'm powerful and will hurt you if you get too close." Underneath that anger is often a fear of being hurt if they allow others to get too close, either physically or emotionally, or both.

Any of these ways of dealing with anger is allowing it to control you. So how to get control of your anger without denying it or repressing it or expressing it in hurtful ways?

Recognize that anger in itself is not a bad thing; it is simply an emotion that wants you to know that a deep need of yours is not being met. What is that deep need? Words like safety, security, respect, appreciation, consideration, recognition, belonging, love... do any of these come to mind? Do your ways of responding when angry bring you any closer to having these needs met? If not, spend some time on your own with your anger until you have put the fire out. Then choose ways to get your needs met peacefully.

"Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." ―Unknown 
"But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." St. Paul