Does your anger frighten you? Do you run away and hide from it?
There was a time when I verbally attacked people when angry. Or I would injure me with beer or ice cream.
I learned not to attack when angry, but avoiding, ignoring, or stuffing anger is not useful either. It could cause a build-up, bringing an eruption, or just make me waste energy “stewing.”
Even if I can handle anger without being destructive, I am wasting a powerful and useful emotion.
Anger gives me energy, purpose, and opportunity for discovery.
The energy I gained from a drained battery.
I slammed the car door, DAMN IT. My wife had forgotten to charge the electric car. At first, I was pissed. Then I allowed myself to get angry. My blood was boiling, and I just let it flow. I slammed another door, even LOUDER, with even more colorful vocabulary.
This was the first time I intentionally allowed myself to be angry. It felt amazing. Slamming a door felt incredible as my heart was beating faster and faster. It was like the excitement on the top of a roller coaster just before plunging. I stayed with this feeling.
I asked myself, “Why are you angry?” My first thought was there was no way I was angry at my wife. I had zero ill will. She had taken the car to do something useful for the family and forgot to plug in the car, and this was understandable and not even frustrating.
I realized I was angry because I would have to drive the gasoline car. It is loud, and I hate burning fossil fuels. Then I was hit with even more compassion. Every other day of the week, my wife drives the “noisy” car. I felt even more love for her. My anger was real, but the cause wasn’t really a big deal.
I started getting scared. I knew she heard me. I didn’t know if she connected the dots of why I was angry. We have craters in our relationship because of my anger.
Did I make a mistake letting my anger out? I went back inside to get the other keys, and she wondered what was wrong. When I said, I was going to drive her car. She gasped with, “Oh no, I forgot to charge the car.” I gave her a huge hug. During the embrace, I could feel that my anger did not pass on to her. I knew she was disappointed for me, but I could tell she wasn’t feeling shame. Avoiding stupid fights like these save enormous amounts of time and energy.
The real gold is being able to transfer the energy gained by anger into something useful. It was an energetic drive to work. I’m sure I solved all of the world’s problems during the commute. I was in shock and awe that I could be so angry, and this energy didn’t fall on my wife. I could harness anger and not run away from it or hide or, more importantly, throw it at someone else.
I don’t remember what I accomplished that day at work, but it must have been a lot. I remember bouncing into the gasoline car at the end of the day, singing the praises of the drained battery and the energy and power I gained from the anger.
It’s not easy.
Turning anger into energy, purpose, and discovery is not easy. It’s a skill that takes a lot of practice. Learning this skill turns destruction into growth and is well worth the practice.
Here are the steps I go through when I feel anger:
- STOP: When I recognize anger, I know I need to stop and take a quick assessment of the situation. Immediate action may be required. Or, more importantly, immediate NON ACTION might be best.
- Pause and FEEL. Can I feel it in my body? I feel my chest tighten, and I can feel my blood pump in my veins. It is critical to know what anger feels like physically. This recognition will help me recognize anger in the future.
- Discover the cause of this anger. Often a perceived injustice happened. For me, often the injustice comes from fear. What am I afraid of that is bringing this anger? This discovery will lead to useful action.
- Find an ACTION that brings growth. The first action inspired by anger may be destructive. Justice towards a person who caused my anger might feel appropriate. But most of the time, trying to change another person is not that useful and could cause destruction instead of growth. Find an action that brings maximum benefit outside of the actual injustice.
- I enjoy this boost of energy. I am transforming anger into growth.
The next time you recognize your anger, welcome it like a friend, not an enemy. Don’t push it or bury it or pass it to someone else. Instead, allow the anger to be with you. Pay attention to what happens when you welcome anger. What can you learn? How can you put your boost of energy into useful action?