We tend to think of anger as a stressful emotion, a kind of emotional tornado, but have you ever thought of it as a form of energy that can be used to achieve good results rather than as a destructive force?
Women, in particular, grow up thinking of anger as a negative emotion that must be avoided, and as a consequence have a tendency to suppress it. As a result, they often experience depression, hopelessness, and helplessness – the emotional states that have been demonstrated to be critical factors in the main diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
At the same time, venting your anger can be very stressful for your body by increasing blood pressure, causing your heart to beat more rapidly, and generally inflicting wear and tear on your body. And women often experience guilt and shame after they have exploded in anger.
There is another option – what I call “goal-directed anger:” a process to solve the problem that caused the anger in the first place.
The difference between venting and goal-directed anger? The ways in which you perceive the reasons for your anger, and the manner in which you deal with the anger-arousing situation.
Nine Steps to Using Anger Effectively:
Recognize the emotion of anger when it occurs
Depression, fatigue, or defeat can be a form of anger about which you have made the decision, “There’s nothing I can do. I’m helpless.” Admit you’re miffed. Then let that anger become the motivation to achieve positive outcomes!
Be clear on what you are angry about
Do you think the guy just behind you at a stoplight who honks at you is infuriated because of the loss of the fraction of a second of time it takes for you to get your foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator?
Many times, people get angry at trivial things in their environment because they are genuinely angry about something or someone else.
Understand the message of anger
Anger often signals a sense of loss of power. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling powerless in this situation? Why?” or “How have I given my power away?”
Control the immediate effects of anger
Pause and take a deep breath. If possible, exercise: go for a walk, run, bicycle, paint a wall, clean the garage, etc.
Focus on your original goal
What was it you wanted to accomplish when you became angry? Don’t let the physical and mental discomfort of anger deflect you from your original goal, causing you to act hastily.
For example, if what you want is more respect for your skills, neither silence nor blowing up will lead to that outcome.
Ask questions and check before you respond
If you are angry because sometime has labeled you thoughtless, for example, you might ask, “What do you mean by thoughtless?” You may be surprised to learn that your definition is very different from that of your critic.
You could then ask, “Do you believe that is always true of me, or just sometimes?” Once again, the other person may admit to relying on one occasion to label you so negatively.
Craft your response
Practice what you want to say in response: talk to an imaginary person or write a letter. Do not send this letter! It is for clarification of your thoughts, not for sharing.
Pretend you are on the receiving end of this communication: would you be willing to make the concessions asked for, or would you be too busy defending yourself? Continue to practice your communication until it says what you want to say clearly and without a lot of emotional intensity.
Deliver your communication
After having crafted, rehearsed, and critiqued it, you can then deliver your communication in person or in writing.
If you feel anxious before you speak or send the letter, take a deep breath and reflect on how you will feel if you have to deal with the suppressed anger long term. This will help you find the strength to continue.
Assess the outcome
Were there any positive changes in the situation after you delivered your message? Do you think the other person “got it” or not? Was your anger reduced?
Were the changes short-term (the other person did what you wanted on one occasion, but is unlikely to do so again without more communication)?
Did you reach a mutual agreement to make long-term changes based on new understanding?
If there were no variations in the situation, how did you feel? Many people report a sense of relief, pride and an increased sense of power just because they have taken the risk to speak up.
Anger can be constructive when it is used as a motivator to produce positive change. Effectively used, anger can reduce depression and lift spirits, as you recognize you have the power to change frustrating situations for the better!
Anger is a form of energy! Use it!