When it comes to our emotions, anger is often misunderstood. It's not uncommon to see it as a fiery intruder, an unwelcome guest in the house of our hearts. The discomfort it brings is enough to make us instinctively push it away, to categorize it as something to be avoided.
However, what if we paused for a moment, took a breath, and considered that anger might have something crucial to tell us? What if, instead of reflexively trying to kick it out, we extended an invitation to understand it better?
Acceptance and Curiosity over Judgment
The first step to understanding it is accepting the presence of anger without immediate judgment. It's acknowledging that this emotion, like any other, is not inherently good or bad. It simply is.
This acceptance can be challenging. Society often teaches us to label anger as a negative force, something to be suppressed or expelled. But what if we reframed this perspective? What if anger is not an enemy, but a messenger?
Unpacking the Message
Anger serves as a powerful data point, a signpost pointing towards something that requires our attention. It could be signaling that a boundary has been crossed, that we're feeling hurt, or that we're struggling to connect in a way that feels meaningful.
Interestingly, anger is not always synonymous with conflict. It doesn't automatically imply someone is at fault. It can be a response to our current circumstances, yet also a layer covering up deeper emotions like sadness. To decode its message, we must learn to sit with our feelings, to allow them to flow through us.
How Anger Points the Way to Connection
For example, anger recently surfaced during a conversation with my husband, Mike. He was sharing about his day at work and I could feel myself getting impatient and irritated that he kept talking on and on about his day.
I thought, "Huh, I feel really irritated with this conversation, I wonder what that's about?" In this one tiny thought there is a lot going on, including awareness, acceptance and curiosity. As I sat with my emotions for a second, I realized that underneath my annoyance was a deep desire to be seen in my day. A desire for me to take up space in the conversation, too.
Which led to the realization that I felt anxious and sad and lonely in my work as an entrepreneur. I didn't feel like I had much to share because it felt like I hadn't made any progress that day. But I still needed connection and validation about my day.
Anger Helps Me Understand My Needs
This curiosity and awareness allowed me to express these feelings to Mike. "Hey, I'm really struggling right now because I realize that I want to connect with you about my day and I don't know how. I'm not sure what to do about this, but I wanted to let you know."
Probably our conversation was interrupted by the kids and the dog and dinner and homework and the stuff of life. And my vulnerability in speaking up about my needs allowed us to return back to the conversation later that evening. Mike was able to make space for me to try and talk about my day, and then to give me attunement and validation and affirmation.
Transformation Comes through Making Friends with Anger
The beauty of embracing anger, by allowing ourselves to get curious about it and granting it the space it needs, we create room for growth and healing. We learn to express ourselves vulnerably, to communicate our needs, and to forge deeper connections.
The journey with anger is not a linear path; it's a dance, sometimes messy, sometimes graceful. It's an opportunity to unearth hidden layers of our emotional landscape, to grow in our understanding of self and others.
So, the next time anger knocks on your heart's door, consider inviting it in. Take a moment to listen to what it has to say. You might be surprised at the wisdom it holds, and the transformations it can inspire.
Want to dive deeper into the concept of making friends with anger? Check out Season 3 of the podcast!