This Little Emotion Called Anger, Can It Be Useful?

Dear younger self,

Let’s look at the emotion anger. But first I’m going to say what I will always say; You did the best job you could growing up. You are amazing! I know you tried so hard to be good and you still ended up feeling anger and jealousy. You are human and as a result, its ok that anger comes up in your life. You are not wrong or bad for feeling this type of emotion. And remember, Sis Reyna Aburto, said in General Conference this year that “Like our Heavenly Parents and our Savior, we have a physical body and experience emotions” (Aburto, 2019). Your normal for your feelings. I know there’s a reason you feel angry and I want to help you deal with it better, so you don’t keep stuffing your emotions and then letting it all out when it just gets too hard to handle. I want you to feel heard.

So, there are two types of anger that I want to go over with you. One of them is probably one you already know about. Its where you direct your anger at someone, this way really does not meet your true needs. When you have yelled or been a little passive aggressive, this really doesn’t work in your favor in the long run. I know those are crappy situations to talk about, but most people experience them at one point or another, and it really is ok to talk about it. The next kind of anger is what I call a healthy anger. This anger is a “mover”. It helps you to take action when something unjust has happened or when you need to make some major shifts to your thinking or your physical situation. Its just a feeling and will move on when the anger is recognized and when you can shift some internal beliefs or make a physical change so that your personal boundary stops being crossed. (Boundaries, that’s another post for another day). Anger is not an emotion to direct at the person you are angry with; that causes harm to the other person and yourself and is the opposite of healthy.

You will eventually find out how to deal with the anger you feel without reacting in unhealthy ways but here are some tips I learned. Reach out to a friend and vent your feelings. This helps a lot and is a safe thing to do. You’ll be glad you have developed friendships where you can vent feelings. They and your husband will be lifesavers. Here are 4 tips to dealing with Anger in a healthy way from Psychology Today called “What Constitutes Healthy Anger” (there are more tips in this article to read later if you’d like):

  1. Observe and Experience Anger without being overwhelmed by it and reacting to it. Emotions come like a wave and then they filter out. You might feel like you are going to be overcome by this emotion, but remember this is not true, it cannot happen. That feeling usually coma when I resisted the feeling int he first place. Just let the feeling come and don’t push it away, you will feel it quicker than stuffing it way down deep where the emotion gets stuck and grows bigger. You do not want this.
  2. Recognize your anger as a signal to explore the feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations that precede it. This right here will help you understand how to help the anger pass quicker. This is what it means to feel the anger without letting it take over. Where do you feel the emotion in your body? Is there a color associated with that emotion? What do you need? Etc.
  3. View anger as a signal to direct your attention inward to identify your core desires, needs and values. You will find that most of the time anger is covering up another emotion that feels too tender to talk about or feel. Recognize that emotion and feel the sadness or whatever it is. For you, it will usually be sadness or shame that anger is covering up. Shame is a big one and I will have to address that later in another letter.
  4. Learn how to communicate assertively with others. Developing this will help you to be stronger and not give and give from a depleted source. It will help you to feel heard and seen instead of pushed away. Plus, you won’t end up feeling resentful if you can learn to say what you think and feel. Learning to communicate what you are really angry about is a huge step. Do this please. 

Lynn G Robbins gave a talk called Agency and Anger, in it he talks about agency; “agency…is and appeal to the conscious mind to make a decision” (Robbins, 1998). You have a choice how you react to your feelings, and you can decide what to do about them. You can let anger use you or you can use anger to help you uncover what you might really be feeling. Use these tools, they will help you, but your biggest cheerleader and advocate is your Savior. He felt all the feelings you feel, and He knows how to deal with them. You can pray for help in dealing with situations that are hard.

References
Lynn G. Robbins. “Agency and Anger”. General Conference, 1998. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1998/05/agency-and-anger.p1?lang=eng (Links to an external site.)

Bernard Golden, Ph.D. “What Constitutes ‘Healthy Anger’?”. August 17, 2016. Psychology Today.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/overcoming-destructive-anger/201608/what-constitutes-healthy-anger (Links to an external site.)

Reyna I. Aburto. “Thru Cloud and Sunshine, Lord, Abide with Me!”. October 2019. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/10/31aburto?lang=eng

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