Wellness — February 19, 2024 at 3:00 pm

Thriving Beyond Anger


You could always find it bubbling up here and there in society, but now it feels almost everywhere you turn, on the streets, in the news, throughout families, and around the world. It’s gotten to the point where businesses now have signs and messaging posted saying that they won’t tolerate it.

I’m talking about ANGER.

Both a sign of the times and a sign of distress, either way the road to anger is often paved by trauma. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, “Anger helps us cope with life’s stresses by giving us energy to keep going in the face of danger or trouble.” It also goes on to say that anger is a “common response to events that seem unfair or in which you have been made a victim. Research shows that anger can be especially common if you have been betrayed by others.”

Many of us are still in some form of survival mode and haven’t stopped long enough to take stock, others who have moved on would understandably rather not look back, because I would dare to say the last three years certainly constituted collective trauma. Living under lock downs, fears of death during a pandemic, dealing with long-term effects of COVID, uncertainty surrounding side effects of unknown vaccinations or living with those side effects, stay-at-home working while home schooling children, losing loved ones, losing hope, jobs, livelihoods, even homes…our anger response was practically conditioned throughout all this, and though it’s an emotion that helps us survive, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to thrive.

Reaction Isn’t Emotion

A common misconception is that anger is an action emotion. And it’s understandable since you often hear of people acting out of anger. To deal with it and manage it, we first have to separate the feeling from the reaction, because they’re two very different things. We’re all entitled to our feelings, but the only control we have in this life is over ourselves, our thoughts, and our reactions. Creating the habit of pausing when angry to process why you’re feeling that way, to ask effective questions, or even reframe your perspective is a powerful tool.

Reframing and Detachment

Immediately countering a negative thought or statement with gratitude, positivity, or understanding is one of the best ways to do this. “Gratitude is the antidote to the things that mess us up,” famed Speaker, and Coach, Tony Robbins explains. So essentially “you can’t be angry and grateful simultaneously.” Next time anger strikes, try writing down or thinking of three things to be grateful for surrounding certain situations or people in the moment instead. Try looking at situations from another angle or person’s perspective to think about how you might react. I try to tell myself, “We’re all doing the best we can with what we have,” allowing me to detach from a situation long enough to see a person’s poor behavior is often rooted in their bad day. By not reacting, you can dismantle anger and shift the dynamic too, something renown Author and Speaker, Simon Sinek, recently posted about saying, “When we show love to the people we disagree with, they’re forced to question themselves.”

The Act of Letting Go

Unfortunately, in life’s hurried pace, we might be able to give someone the benefit of the doubt, or choose understanding in the moment, but we don’t always take the proper time to process the why and that can fester or compound if left unchecked. Letting go is huge, and this is where the action becomes important. We still need to DO something to process the emotion through our body, be it physical exertion, journaling, visualization through meditation, or the act of talking to a therapist. Sometimes our anger just won’t be satiated easily and can stick to us. If you can’t shake it try giving yourself a time limit. Allow yourself a few hours or days (if it’s a pretty big deal) to think about it, talk about it, and live with it, knowing that as soon as the time is up, you’ll have moved through it so you can move on and leave it behind.

Heavy is the Armor Built By Trauma

Truly honoring and understanding our emotions is important, especially when it comes to flipping your anger switch, because from an early age we learn to “armor up” as Author and shame researcher, Brené Brown calls it. Sit with your anger long enough and it’s likely you’ll find other emotions like sadness, hurt, or vulnerability hiding behind it. And just think, if you’re doing this, chances are the person who lashed out in anger at you is potentially masking similar emotions too.

It’s time to simmer down, to take a moment for thoughts before actions, to remove the armor, and to let love and understanding be the lens through which we see in order to let go. We’re all at different points of coming through this collective trauma. Let’s switch from survive to thrive so we can all face the future, no matter what it may bring.

Written by Melanie Robitaille

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