For some of us anger can be seen as an information that there is something wrong with us, with others or with the whole situation. In some cultures there are different beliefs about anger or “angry people”. For example that “nice girls should not get angry” or that “being angry is childish”.
Such unconscious beliefs may lead us to suppression of that feeling, some kind of withdrawing from what is important for us as there is some fear and tension growing when we perceive it in us or others perceive it in our presence.
In some cases though we do express our anger in a way that hurts others and afterwards we are facing some shame or guilt.
Anger as a source of energy
In spite of our beliefs or habitual reactions to anger, the fact is that it exists and that anger is a source of energy. Think of yourself being angry and try to recall situations when, even though you were tired, just all of a sudden you were able to move furniture, empty the dishwasher, work the whole day in the garden or continue the discussion with your partner for hours. Or maybe you can recall all the creative sentences, metaphors combined with swear words you were able to invent just right in the moment you felt angry?
Here I would like to direct this energy into another place, into the real cause of our anger. My intention is not to suppress it but to regain our awareness and ownership and, who knows, maybe even creativity!
What’s the real cause of our anger
How to do it? How to use anger to enrich us and our relations?
Let’s see how it works with an example.
Imagine you are coming back from work on Friday evening after a difficult and tiring week with an idea to rest and chill-out alone or with your partner. You are entering your flat and you can hear some voices coming from the living room, you go there and you can see your partner and 4 of your friends laughing, talking and eating. And here it comes… anger!
Some of us may think that the cause of the anger is that your partner invited friends without asking you how that would be for you and that you are tired and you want to have some rest.
This is only the first layer.
There is something more here, between this situation and the feeling of anger there are our thoughts about that. The thoughts usually go around statements like „someone is not fair” or “this person never or always does something”, or “he/she is selfish” or „people never care about others” or anything that evaluates this situation. And I don’t want you to think that there is something wrong with those thoughts, I just want to invite you to hear them, to be aware of them. Why? Because they will lead you to the real cause of your anger, which is the need that is being unfulfilled or you may believe that it won’t be fulfilled with actions of the other person, or sometimes your own actions.
Let’s come back to our example. What need of yours may not be fulfilled here?
You may use the list of universal human needs (CLICK HERE to get the list).
Maybe it’s a need of being taken under consideration? Rest? Being seen with your exhaustion? Understanding?
How can finding a need be constructive?
Discovering the need can shift you from your reactivity to conscious choice of what you want to do with it. It may also bring some shift in your body sensations that can stand behind other feelings appearing here while you acknowledge what is so dear to you in this situation.
And now, from this place you may decide what you want to do. Maybe there is a request you want to make to your partner and your friends, the request that may include what exactly you want to happen here so that your need could be fulfilled. Maybe there is a request to yourself, maybe you want to ask yourself to do something in favor of that need. It can also happen that you don’t know what to do and at the same time you can express yourself saying how you are feeling and ask others to help you find a way to take care of that need.
So, instead of suppressing your anger while entering the living room because you want to be nice and then when people leave say how selfish is your partner, or just not talking about that at all and keeping some resentment that would pop out in any other occasion, you may say “Oh, hi everyone, I’m surprised to see you here. I feel tired after the whole week of working, would that be ok for you if I sit and eat with you for a while and then go to sleep?”. Then you can talk to your partner how important for you is to discuss together when you invite friends or ask what happened that you didn’t know your friends were coming. Here there is a place for your creativity on how to fulfill your needs and your partner’s too to find win-win solutions.
Anger as a gift
“To fully express anger requires full consciousness of our need. In addition, energy is required to get the need met. But anger takes all the energy and directs it to punish people, instead of meeting our need.”
We can see anger as a gift sent from our body to us. A gift that can enrich us and our relations as being aware of what is really important gives us possibility to actually take care of it instead of holding our frustration coming from unaware unfulfilled need.
If you are interested in the subject of anger or you are interested in learning the basics of Nonviolent Communication, or any other subject connected to empathic communication, please see our upcoming events: https://www.empathiceurope.com/our-events/
About the author:
Trainer of Empathic Communication, Coach, eduScrum Trainer, an academic teacher
I am CNVC Certified Trainer supporting families, schools, business and organizations, through workshops, lectures or individually. The way we communicate has an impact on our personal and professional relations. I support people in leveraging the quality of them so they can enjoy more honesty and empathy. I also facilitate systemic transformation through Nonviolent Communication, neurobiology, and 3d-mapping inspired by and following the teachings of Sarah Peyton being in a constant awe how much healing her work brings. The first time when I heard the words of Marshall Rosenberg „Connect before correct” I imagined how would the world look like if we could remember them more often. What I do is rooted in that dream. I have finished postgraduate studies in Leadership in Education, Nonviolent Communication according to Marshall Rosenberg and Train the Trainer of Nonviolent Communication studies, at Collegium Civitas in Warsaw, Poland. I have also finished Business and Life Coaching at the School of Empathic Trainers in Warsaw. I am a mother of a teenage boy who is my source of love and wisdom. Websites: www.paulinaorbitowska.pl, www.widzeczlowieka.pl, www.eduscrum.info