Scene: Bedroom. 11pm. Husband and I engaged in our usual late night banter. And…action!
Him: What would you do if I cheated on you, you punched me, and I punched you back?
Him: How would you feel if I punched you, but only because you punched me first?
Me: That’s ridiculous, I’d never punch you.
Him: But let’s just say I cheated, so you punched me.
Me: I’m much more likely to respond by throwing over your desk and destroying all of your expensive animation equipment.
Him: That’s true. I can see you doing that.
Me: I mean, I probably wouldn’t do that either. But obviously, if you want to torture someone, all you have to do is destroy all the things and people they love most. Duh.
Him: See, here’s the thing: you rarely ever get angry, but when you do, you come up with the most evil revenge plans.
Me: I’m not evil, I’m just very creative. Or maybe I watch too many mob movies.
Ironically, the next day I was at a client’s house discussing healthy ways to express his anger as he grieved the death of a loved one. Obviously, I didn’t bring up the conversation I’d had the night before with my husband. And I didn’t bring up the film Taken, starring Liam Neeson, either:
One of my strengths is I’m pretty Zen on a daily basis, and I can keep calm and clear-headed when everyone else is having a total freak-out. So I hate when someone gets under my skin. I hate knowing that my Zen bubble is not impenetrable.
I shouldn’t view anger as a weakness because it’s not. But sometimes I treat my anger as if it is, by suppressing it. I’m working on this issue of mine because that’s what good therapists are supposed to do in order to be great at their job.
So part of being a grown-up for me is: (1) admitting when I’m angry (which I can tend to be in denial about); and (2) figuring out how to express my anger in a way that both makes me feel better and improves the situation.
I’ve found that the following tactics work well for me:
- writing a letter to the person I’m angry at (but NOT sending it)
- venting to a trusted and wise loved one
- expressing my feelings and communicating my needs to whomever I’m angry at. (This one probably seems like a no-brainer to you, but I find it very difficult.)
You may find the following activities helpful as well:
- turning to a creative outlet
- punching or screaming into a pillow
- meditation or prayer
And for those of you who are sociopaths, please do NOT express your anger by:
- kicking a puppy
- tripping a senior citizen
- throwing a baby
- setting a squirrel on fire
Your expression of anger shouldn’t make the existing problem worse, nor put yourself or others in any physical danger. Instead, it should make you feel a bit better. And maybe, if you’re really thoughtful about how you respond to your anger, it can lead to an improvement in the situation, a solution to the problem, healing and reconciliation with another person, or your own personal growth.
Your Turn: How do you deal with your anger?