How to handle anger

 

One of the steps to a fulfilled life  (and a happy marriage) is learning how to handle anger. There may be times when anger is appropriate. But fundamentally, whether it lurks quietly in the background of our consciousness feeding happily on our natural joy — or emerges in a rage from its lair – anger is destructive. And devastating.

I was a young, idealistic 15-year-old when I experienced the devastating effect of anger at the lunch table one day with my mum and dad. Dad had many wonderful qualities. But until his death at 95 he was never able to free himself from the anger that was always present in him like a dragon just waiting to lash out and destroy its enemy.

I was trying to explain to my father how important truth was to me — how I wanted to give my life to finding truth – when suddenly he exploded and hit me a violent blow on the side of my head. I still remember the gasp of anguish from my mother. And the bitterness I felt as I sat in stunned silence for a moment, then quickly left the room without a word.

A trust was broken that day, I believe, that never really healed.

How to let go of anger

Where I’m coming from here is that I received an e-mail from a member of the Happy Seeker community the other day in which she said, “I truly enjoy reading your blog … the simplicity and directness of it. Would you write on anger and letting go of it?”

Been thinking about this and talking with JoAnn a bit about it. I decided to share as accurately as I can our experience of anger since we married 14 years ago. And how we have learned to let go of our anger and find a new level of harmony and balance which is the joy of our lives.

I used to simply get up and leave

Anger is a symptom of our pain. So in this regard, I can remember quite clearly what would happen between JoAnn and me when something triggered our pain and anger flared between us.

My, how quickly it happened. Often it seemed as if the anger came out of nowhere. Things might have been going very well between us — we had had a good day for instance visiting Chataqua Park in Boulder — when suddenly the dragon came out of his lair and began spitting fire.

The way we each reacted when this happened was very different for both of us, and yet in a way the same. We both knew there was no alternative but to let ourselves feel the pain we were feeling. We just went about it in a little different way.

I would feel a sudden uprising of anger so strong the only way I knew how to deal with it was to make a quick exit — from the room and probably from the house.

This of course made things even harder for JoAnn, because in addition to her own woes she would feel frightened and concerned for me – hoping I wouldn’t drive the car into a tree or whatever.

JoAnn used to retire to her room

JoAnn, on the other hand, liked to retire to her room. The door would close — and it might stay closed for the rest of the day, or even the next day. It was very frustrating for me – very essential for her.

“She doesn’t love me anymore,” I would mutter to myself. But with the gift of time, I came to realize that it wasn’t that she didn’t love me anymore. She just needed space so she could get a handle on what had happened, and find her way back to a place of balance and harmony.

We realized we each processed anger (pain) in our own way, but it seemed to pass me more quickly through me than it did through JoAnn.

We both value inner peace

One thing that has helped us in our journey toward a more fulfilling life together is the simple fact that we share similar values. We both value inner peace, for example, and this has helped motivate us to let go of our anger as quickly as possible.

Another thing that helps, by the way, is not to hold a grudge. Holding a grudge is deadly. It destroys our life and makes us old before our time.

The last step was talking together

After our anger subsided a bit, the last step in this process I’m describing was this. No matter how uncomfortable it might be, we would come together and look clearly and objectively at what had really been going on in us and between us.

We would do our best to clear the deck, so to speak, before we moved forward.

Ultimately, we learned and are still learning that the only way to handle anger or fear or any other difficult emotion effectively is to feel it – and keep on feeling it no matter how painful that may be. We learned that anger is like a storm or a strong wind. If we are patient, and love the truth at the core of our existence more than anything else, it will surely pass.

I appreciate very much the question my reader sent to me. I hope that the above is at least a bit useful and would welcome any other ideas for articles you may have.  I send you love and blessings and would love to hear any thoughts or ideas you’d like to add to the above.

Picture by Egon Philipp

 http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2640/3811512155_39fb65faa3.jpg

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie @ Happy Maker August 2, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Great article Chris. Hubby and I are about like you and JoAnn. We have found when that anger hits, step back and think about things. The thinking helps to let go of the anger, so you can get it under control and talk.

Holding onto anger does build resentment and hate which will destroy the person holding onto it. I have a sister that this has happened to and she just won’t let go. it is very sad to watch, but she is the one that has to change it. Oh, I do get a few words in at times to try to let her see what she is doing to herself.

Love will also calm anger.
Blessing,
Debbie

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Christopher Foster August 3, 2011 at 10:12 am

Your words brought me some real joy Debbie. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences and thoughts so genuinely. Looking at some of the comments I’ve got so far I can see some common threads and it makes me think what a miracle it is that we are privileged to share this human experience together — with its pain and all. We’re not so separate as we sometimes think, are we?

Your last sentence is so great. It’s the biggest piece, I’m sure, being true to the love that is in us all. The true nature of it. What a privilege it is when we have a partner with whom we can share that love.

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Ken Wert August 2, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Important stuff here, Christopher.

So important to recognize the anger/fear/pain relationship. It provides us with something concrete to work on — why do I feel pain or fear? Knowing that answer opens the door to learning ways of reducing the role of those emotions/reactions in our lives. That can help us reduce the role of anger as well.

I think the ultimate goal is to get less angry and less often. If fewer things bug us and less intensely, life can be experienced with greater, more consistent happiness.

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Christopher Foster August 3, 2011 at 9:59 am

Ken, what a great comment. Thanks so much for sharing this valuable input. What I get from your comment is how important it is to be willing to go a bit deeper into our lives and not keep trying to simply distract ourselves. I’m sure “distraction” has its place but if we really do want to live a happy fulfilled life — gotta do our work. Blessings.

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Phil D. Malmstrom August 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Anger sits at such a primal level in us, doesn’t it Christopher?

In the case of Shannon and I, while bursts of anger are uncommon, when they do happen it’s such a massive release of emotions from both of us that it can take some doing to get things back under control.

She and I deal with these conflicts completely differently; I tend to want to talk it out, and she needs that “quiet time” to get her emotions in check first. This has led to some tense moments on both sides, but our commitment to each other always overwhelms the moment and steers us back to common ground in short order.

Thank you for a wonderful post!

Have a Blessed Day!

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Christopher Foster August 3, 2011 at 9:45 am

I’m so thankful for the heart connection I feel with you Phil. We need friends in this world don’t we. We all need friends.

So interesting what you share in your comment, it sounds like we have very similar patterns in play. But how true it is, and how I love your input here, that if we really love our partner and our agreement is strong, it will bring us back to common ground.

So very, very happy to be sharing life’s journey with you. Hey, if it feels appropriate — please say Hi to Shannon for me:-)

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Phil D. Malmstrom August 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I’m thankful for my connection with you as well Christopher, and proud to call you a friend. :-)

I’ll absolutely relay your greetings to Shannon, please send mine to JoAnn as well. :-)

Have a Blessed Day!

winsomebella August 2, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Learning to feel emotions fully is valuable advice. Thank you.

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Christopher Foster August 3, 2011 at 9:32 am

Thanks winsomebella. And thanks for checking in and reading the post. Wish you all the very best.

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Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition August 3, 2011 at 8:11 am

Hi Christopher,
What a great post. I remembered from your story about your father that I had the same reaction – loss of trust when one of my parents were angry with me.

Feeling every emotion and then understanding what it’s trying to tell you is the best way to deal with them. Ignoring them or stuffing them back down will always backfire on us. Thank you for this excellent reminder.

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Christopher Foster August 3, 2011 at 9:30 am

Thank you Angela. One of my special friends on the internet:-) What you say is so absolutely true. Stuffing painful stuff down does NOT work, I’m afraid it took me a long time to find this out… good to share the journey with you.

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Nadeja Gerasimow August 5, 2011 at 6:35 am

My reaction to anger, in the past, was to harbour it and vow to leave the situation which was ‘making’ me angry and eventually I would leave. However now, I realize that a good long walk, a change of heart, and a return to the sanity of serenity, was the way to go.

I am in a relationship where we are both discovering the value of being together; sharing values. As you mentioned in your article Chris, shared values are essential. We honor life by honoring each other.

I am discovering that the relationship is more important than whatever it was we feel angry about. The anger and reasons for it dissolve and the friendship grows. This is still a work in process, but it seems that there is less and less to be angry about. Thank you for this soothing place to share my thoughts. Good to be with you. Love to JoAnn

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Christopher Foster August 5, 2011 at 10:21 am

I love what you say here Nadeja. Thanks so much for contributing. What a fine recipe for dealing with anger, “A good long walk, a change of heart, and a return to the sanity of serenity.” Amen. I also love the simple realization that, as you say, “the relationship is more important than whatever it was we feel angry about.” It’s good to be with you too.

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Patti Foy | Lightspirited Being August 5, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Hi Christopher,
What a great post, you make so many good points. It breaks my heart hearing about the shock of what happened with your father. But then, I always have an appreciation for the beauty of the innocents.

It’s so true, anger can sneak up on us, no doubt. And before we even know it’s there it’s out of control.

I’ve noticed in my own life that it’s not so much the anger that’s the problem as my reaction to it. Anger is a great motivator, if we don’t react immediately. And if we can use its energy to make whatever change or take whatever action is indicated after we can more cool-headedly think it through, it’s quite an ally.

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Christopher Foster August 6, 2011 at 8:47 am

This is a lovely thought Patti, very apt and very true. I suppose the truth is anger is just energy, and like anything else it can be used rightly or it can be used wrongly. I do so appreciate your comments, and the friendship I feel with you. Take care.

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Vie | Chartwell Motability Insurance August 9, 2011 at 7:25 am

Hi Christopher,

How I wish my boyfriend could leave me some space when we’re both in the height of anger. Just like JoAnn, I usually get quiet and want to be alone when we quarrel. I don’t want to talk while we’re both angry because not one of us will admit that we’re wrong. But I hope we will get through this stage in our relationship. And you’re right, there’s no point holding a grudge. :)

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