I am realizing more now than ever that we don’t know how to express our feelings. When I say “we” I am thinking of the westernized. Most of us know how to be happy and know exactly how to show it by smiling, laughing and letting the glow of being in the moment radiate. Sadly the real problem hits us in the gut when expressing low emotions. Keep in mind high emotions are what most people consider positive feelings. Low emotions are those that are typically considered negative. I use the labels of high and low because I intent to eliminate the negative/dark implications. Low emotions just are. They are not good nor bad. They have a purpose much like high emotions (i.e., happy, excited). Perhaps you feel anger because someone disrespected you, violated your trust or let you down. Low emotions convey that something is not okay much like pain is communicating something physiologically is problematic. Let’s learn how to express emotions in a productive manner to help the feelings serve their intended purpose.
Once you recognize and experience anger you may not know what to do with it. Some people will bottle it up which is suppression. Others may project their anger onto friends or family. Various maladaptive defense mechanism may come into play automatically, but notice how toddlers don’t do this. Young children have no problem letting their feelings be known to the world! As we develop we lose this tendency for being true to ourselves. Of course screaming and tantruming in aisle 7 is inappropriate for your age. However there are socially appropriate and healthy was to express anger. Do not “suck it up”. Do not “just get over it”. Do not “swallow it”.
Here are my recommendations for expressing anger for people of all walks of life:
- Write it out
- Journal your emotions! This is one of my favorites but it yields the best results when you already have a journaling practice in place. When journaling there is no structure needed. It is a free association process. No judgement allowed. SImply write and write on. Do not get caught up in using proper grammar, spelling, etc. The goal here is to identify your feelings which may not be anger alone. Beneath the anger you are experiencing may be resentment, disappointment, rejection, bitterness, frustration or even confusion!
- Get physical
- No, do not fight anyone! This recommendation is all about expending energy. Any cardio activity is effective but depending on your level of anger you may need an aggressive sport such as boxing.
- Talk to the person
- If you are angry with someone the most healthy thing you can do is let them know. Do not talk with the person when you are enraged or furious. Wait until you are in a more calm place and take ownership of your emotions by using “I” statements. For example, “I felt angry when you told me you forgot about my birthday.” Also, keep in mind the response of the individual on the receiving end may not be what you expect. They may or may not be receptive so, do be prepared for this possibility. Verbalizing your feelings is the point
- Vent to a Friend
- Before you start ventilating please caution your loved one you are not seeking advice and you may use offensive potty words. Once the stage is set, let her rip! My partner is the person I vent to the most. Right before I go on my vent tirade I tell him “I need to yell”. He knows this is my code phrase for my loud vent session with no advice to be given.
- Accept you ARE mad
- For some reason having a low emotion is perceived as negative. If you are angry then accept where you are. Do not try to conceal it, mask it or fake happiness. Walk in your truth and you will be LESS ANGRY. Go ahead and be upset. Delaying expression can cause serious problems in the long run and ultimately make you more angry.
“Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Buddha
“When angry, count four. When very angry, swear.” – Mark Twain