The Other Side of Anger

By John Rocheleau
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Is anger stopping you from enjoying your relationship?

Does anger management just remind you that you need fixing? Do you feel guilty and defensive at the same time — knowing that you are hurting your spouse, and yet not wanting to own the identity that accompanies that judgment?

Do you feel torn between your anger and your desire to be more loving? If so, then you clearly want to change.

Are you willing to take one small but powerful step?

What can you do about anger?

When you ask, “what can I do about my anger?” you come from anger’s perspective and you will do one or all of the following:

  • Suppress your anger by holding it in. This may be considerate of you, but the obvious trouble with this approach is that all of that anger will eat away at your insides. You will lose your ability to express finer emotions, and you will eventually suffer with ill health.
  • Express your anger by saying what you are feeling. You talk about how you feel, but the anger remains. You try to appropriately vent your anger, but the lines are blurry. A good therapist can help here.
  • Calm your anger using relaxation, and visualization techniques. These methods work wonders if you commit to learning them and use them regularly. Mind-body techniques can teach you a lot about yourself. They can help to eliminate the source of your anger.
  • Transform your anger by using its power to fuel positive change. Sometimes we need to keep asking the question “why am I angry?” until we arrive at the deeper answer. Is it really because your spouse seems to ignore you when you say something, or is it because you feel a lack of recognition at work? If you find this deeper answer, then use your anger to empower a positive act that will change the situation. You could sit down with your boss and have that long overdue, but calm, talk.

Thinking about how to deal with anger, from anger’s perspective, is valuable. It will help bring more happiness into your life. Research it; work with it; get help with it if needed. But…

Is there a complimentary way to deal with anger that is more positive and empowered?

Work from the other side of anger

When we try to correct something, we begin with a negative concept, and that negative influence detracts from the power of the solution. In dealing with anger you might think, “I am an angry person; I have an anger management problem.”

While owning your issues is generally a good thing, you can unintentionally identify with your problem and wind up giving away the power you require to overcome it.

To provide some balance of power then, it helps to also work with a positive and empowered solution; one that doesn’t come from anger’s perspective. How…?

You can strengthen your relationship with tenderness and understanding.

Try a Little Tenderness

When all the anger management techniques have you feeling like a second-class lover, why not change things up and take an entirely different approach?

Think of it this way: either you can position yourself in negative territory then work to eliminate it or turn it into a positive, or you can work from positive ground, strengthening those positive qualities, and in doing so, weaken the negative.

No one is angry all of the time. In those times when you are feeling good, you can create powerful changes. Rather than feeling misplaced guilt and shame, you will have positive feelings working for you.

When you summon the courage, and it does take courage, to express more tenderness in your relationship, you strengthen your positive character and you weaken your anger. Over time, this will cause a tremendous shift in the balance of power.

Work from your strengths and you will employ the power of positive emotions. You will slowly identify with this person who is tender, who cares, and who understands. The further you venture into positive ground, the more entrenched your personality will become within it.

We could make a list of all the ways there are to show tenderness and understanding to your lover, but we do not need one. Instead, ask your heart, “How can I be tender in this moment? How can I show understanding, not just for my partner, but for myself also?” You will know what to do.

So to compliment the usual good advice about anger management, engage the positive power of anger’s opposite. Try a little tenderness.

Tenderness and understanding are just on the other side of anger.

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15 comments ↓

#1 Hope Wilbanks on 07.24.08 at 11:06 am

Another terrific article! Anger will eat you from the inside out, affecting everyone and everything around you. Great tips!

#2 Nivas on 07.24.08 at 8:54 pm

Cool One john,
I always love the power of questions..

killer lines john..
“Think of it this way: either you can position yourself in negative territory then work to eliminate it or turn it into a positive, or you can work from positive ground, strengthening those positive qualities, and in doing so, weaken the negative.”

How true that the prespective of questions do matter?
It is not necessary we have answers for all our questions,but it is a must we have right Questions…

#3 John R. on 07.25.08 at 3:58 pm

Hope, I agree with you about how corrosive anger can be. It literally does what you say, “eat you from the inside out.” We should remind ourselves of that every time we feel the rush of anger flood our system.

Nivas, when those “killer lines” hit me, I try not to get in their way — I just write em down :-). Thanks for the killer compliment.

I also think questions are more important than answers. We really must keep asking and searching, with a mind that is cracked wide open.

#4 Bamboo Forest on 07.26.08 at 5:35 pm

I believe anger can be conquered.

#5 Shamelle @ TheEnhanceLife.com on 07.29.08 at 11:49 pm

I few things that has helped me..
– Remind ourselves that anger will never help improve the situation. Anger usually makes things worse because people react adversely to our angry countenance.
– Breathe deeply. Breathing can have a transformative effect on our thoughts and emotions. The nature of anger is to demand a response without any rationality or forethought. Slowing down our breathing will tame our emotions of anger.
fore.

#6 John R. on 07.30.08 at 8:57 am

Shamelle: Your advice on breathing is very good. If people would give it a try they may be amazed at how powerful it is to pause to breathe deeply and consciously. Breath practice is a regular part of my training. It works wonders.

Bamboo: I agree :-)

#7 Jean Browman--Transforming Stress on 08.06.08 at 10:22 am

I’m more apt to feel fear than anger, but in either case focusing on my breathing tends to be my first response. When I get angry I ask myself, “What do you need and how can I give it to you?” It reminds me to take responsibility for my feelings. This post has been helpful because I realize I don’t ask myself the same question when I’m feeling anxious.

In general I don’t have trouble feeling loving and tender towards other people. One of the best moments of my life was when I was angry with my husband for not being considerate of something I deeply cared about. While I was telling him what I was feeling I wanted to hug him…I could understand how he felt, too.

Transforming Stress is about using the power of our emotions wisely. One of the pages lists some of the traits of stress-hardy, resilient people. One of my favorites is “They realize that the quality of our lives depends on how we focus our energy and our attention. They try to align their thoughts and actions with their values. They know how to motivate themselves to take action.”

Thanks for another great post. I’m so glad I discovered you.

#8 gentle seeker on 01.22.09 at 11:48 am

Reading this gave me a sparkle of hope…thanks!

I have anger issues.
My spouse has honesty issues.
He lies to avoid making me angry….yet nothing angers me more than being lied to.

What can be done in this situation? On my part?…and/or his?

#9 John Rocheleau on 01.22.09 at 3:32 pm

Hi Gentle Seeker,

I can see where that situation will lead and so can you. You both have to make efforts to end the loop you are in. And yes, you have good reason to be hopeful that you can remedy this.

For starters, your spouse must stop bending the truth to keep you from becoming angry. I know how difficult that will be. It’s so much easier to avoid the anger than to deal with it, but deal with it he must. Lies, no matter how noble the reason, will only entrench the situation.

Does he realize that his behavior only serves to enable your anger? If you can’t confront it, you can’t deal with it.

Both of you absolutely MUST put an end to this certain downward spiral. You will likely be much more capable of overcoming your anger issues if he stops enabling you by keeping the peace at all costs. And if he musters the fortitude to do this, then you must do your part and practice communicating instead of venting your emotions so destructively. Take a breath before you REACT, then RESPOND instead.

Raise the bar in your relationship and commit to integrity and honest communication. You can both get there if you want to, and if you begin taking steps. You don’t have to solve this overnight; just begin somewhere and take small steps everyday. You can have a good relationship; one where the highlight of your day is when you get together and talk.

Have you shared this article with your spouse. It might help if you read it together. That would be a good first step to show willingness and commitment.

Good thoughts go out to you both :)

John

#10 Eric Nelson on 02.15.09 at 1:21 pm

Hello,
We are having a lot of anger issues, especially on Eric’s part (although there have been very brief periods in the past when its been completely reversed). In addition to several life issues (e.g. my being out of work, etc., which are big issues for Dawn), a large part of the anger on my part stems from my wanting desparately to meand the emotional portion of our relationship (not just meand, but grow!), which is essentially non-existant…as we’ve probably been closer to caring room-mates recently. I’ve spent hundreds of hours writing un-read leters, etc, etc, and its just gone, with no apparent reciprocal interest. Many psychologists say that the most important factor when choosing a mate is to pick one who is willing to work on the childhool/parentally-derived issues which will otherwise ruin what was (in our case) 1-1/2 of the best years/relationship of each of our lives, but seems to have been over-run by unresolved childhood issues & thus progressively going to hell via anger on my part, avoidance of herse, and mutual resentment. I’m aware that I made many early/ongoing mistakes that helped put/keep us here.

Did I also choose the wrong mate – such that we’ll stay caught playing out our infantile issues (think: Harville Hendrix) forever? I know I need to work on my own anger issues (any advice on how?…I’ve just started meditating again, but that may be my only positive habit at present), but even though I believed we were soul mates – hell, I still do -, I would also more than welcome any advice on where to go from here.

P.S. Since my girlfriend wont read them, I have quite a number of heartfelt, humble, kind, and sincere love letters and notes whom I’ll re-address to anyone out there who needs a pick-me-up. Maybe that would make us both feel better.

Thanks for listening.

#11 Dawn Hawkins via E.N. on 02.15.09 at 1:26 pm

PLEASE BEAR WITH ME: I WANTED THIS TO GO OUT TO BOTH EMAIL SITES AND THUS APPARENTLY HAD TO ENTER THE WHOLE THING TWICE. ANYWAY, THEY’RE IDENTICAL…

Hello,
We are having a lot of anger issues, especially on Eric’s part (although there have been very brief periods in the past when its been completely reversed). In addition to several life issues (e.g. my being out of work, etc., which are big issues for Dawn), a large part of the anger on my part stems from my wanting desparately to meand the emotional portion of our relationship (not just meand, but grow!), which is essentially non-existant…as we’ve probably been closer to caring room-mates recently. I’ve spent hundreds of hours writing un-read leters, etc, etc, and its just gone, with no apparent reciprocal interest. Many psychologists say that the most important factor when choosing a mate is to pick one who is willing to work on the childhool/parentally-derived issues which will otherwise ruin what was (in our case) 1-1/2 of the best years/relationship of each of our lives, but seems to have been over-run by unresolved childhood issues & thus progressively going to hell via anger on my part, avoidance of herse, and mutual resentment. I’m aware that I made many early/ongoing mistakes that helped put/keep us here.

Did I also choose the wrong mate – such that we’ll stay caught playing out our infantile issues (think: Harville Hendrix) forever? I know I need to work on my own anger issues (any advice on how?…I’ve just started meditating again, but that may be my only positive habit at present), but even though I believed we were soul mates – hell, I still do -, I would also more than welcome any advice on where to go from here.

P.S. Since my girlfriend wont read them, I have quite a number of heartfelt, humble, kind, and sincere love letters and notes whom I’ll re-address to anyone out there who needs a pick-me-up. Maybe that would make us both feel better.

Thanks for listening.

#12 John Rocheleau on 02.15.09 at 6:54 pm

Hello Eric and Dawn

For starters, you need to take a metaphorical breath and slow down long enough to identify what the real problem is. There may seem to be so many problems that it is difficult to get a handle on something to begin fixing things.

My best advice is to seek the services of a good relationship counselor if you can. Next, I would suggest that you identify the elements of your problems together.

Your joblessness is one. Being jobless can lead to a feeling of dis-empowerment and low self-worth. These feelings can trigger unresolved issues from earlier in life. So create an action plan to resolve that — and take the actions. I spoke on this subject in Jobless Reader Fears Losing Home.

You have alluded to Childhood issues and the resulting anger, so you really need to work on coping skills to help you deal with this. You may not resolve these issues the way you might like to, but you can learn to cope better. Your meditation training is a great way to begin. Physical exercise is another. When the body is healthy and exercising, some very good chemicals flood the system that cause us to be more emotionally balanced. Never underestimate the miracle of running :-)

Trying to “fix” your relationship by spending hundreds of hours writing love letters is not going to count as much as spending that time to learn to love yourself more.

If you can take consistent action that shows that you love yourself, such as meditating, running or exercising, and talking to a therapist, you will indeed begin loving yourself properly. You will then have no difficulties loving another or choosing the right partner. All of this of course applies to you both (except the job problem; that’s yours)

Hope that helps, and good luck to you,

John

#13 bikehikebabe on 05.25.09 at 5:30 am

I have JUST discovered you. What a powerful site! I get angry over little nothing things. I have the perfect husband, family, house, kind of life I love, but there’s the anger over nothing. Must be deep seated.

My daughter left Stanford in mid-semester. (She had the roommate from Hell, a close friend jumped off a tall building, & my mother died, whom she loved.) I send her to a psychiatrist for help. She said,”Mom you need it more than I.”

I talked to the psychiatrist for 3 months; he said nothing. I quit. I asked him to tell me SOMETHING. He said “Get a job.” And this which has been most helpful: “Don’t expect anything from anybody.” A lot of anger was caused by what I thought OTHER people SHOULD do.

My anger, I think, is caused by my feeling stupid. I know I’m not really. I have a college degree from a difficult woman’s liberal college. I’m married to an absolute brilliant man who is extremely kind. I’m crying writing this.

#14 bikehikebabe on 05.25.09 at 5:43 am

P.S. My two brothers & sister were all valedictorians of our high school. (The high school had never had two in a family before.) I was a B student. Never an A.
My daughter (not the one mentioned above) is a psychologist & she thinks I’m A.D.D. & some Asperger. THAT’S IT! Not my fault! I can just be me & enjoy it.

However I will still be your follower & use your techniques to improve.

#15 John Rocheleau on 05.25.09 at 10:03 am

Hi bikehikebabe,

Thanks for your thoughts on the site and for your comments.

Sometimes professional help is vital, but often what we need are common sense solutions. If we think of our psychological and emotional life as a balance of power, we can then ask ourselves what aspects are vying for power in our lives. Is there a balance of power where emotions such as anger are appropriately expressed, or do certain emotions and tendencies have too much power? If we think of it like this, we can then take actions to rebalance our life.

Sometimes, when we are trying to curb an emotion such as anger it is easier and more effective to strengthen it’s opposite. If we try to weaken the emotion that is excessive, our psyche can interpret that as a conflict, and conflicts rarely produce the best results. So when we get a reprieve from anger or whatever emotion it is that is excessive, we can spend that time working to strengthen it’s opposite to achieve balance.

This is just common sense, but it can be an effective way of behaviour modification and it can help us develop an understanding of our unwanted behaviour; we get to see those characteristics from an opposite perspective.

Best,
John

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