ANGER IN THE POSITIVE
For most of this course, you have done work in reducing the frequency and intensity of your experience of anger, increasing your awareness of your experience of anger and its triggers. It is good to remind yourself that the goal is not to eliminate anger—the goal is to manage it.
Even when heavily practiced and mastered, effective communication and acceptance do not get rid of anger. The two together will certainly reduce how often you feel angry but you will still feel angry at times. That is normal.
You’ve heard this a hundred times by now but what makes a difference is the way you react to feeling angry. Anger itself does not necessarily mean a scarred relationship, broken possessions, or burned bridges.
Examples of Healthy Anger
Anger can work as motivation for change. Think back to any civil rights movement. What feeling helped fuel that movement? You can bet it was not contentment or complacency.
When things stack up against you unfairly, it is okay to feel angry. Once again, anger itself is not unhealthy. Instead of turning to unhealthy or destructive expressions of anger, however, turn that anger into fuel for finding a solution or for finding change.
Consider the following:
Helen has a great-paying job that is relatively close to where she lives. She has been employed there for years. This past year her boss, Edward, has been treating her pretty unfairly. He continuously gives her work to do, expecting her to work overtime but without the increased pay rate of overtime. She’s expected to do tasks at home, at night, and on the weekends. He even calls late at night, assigning her more duties.
She is capable of doing these things but she soon begins feeling overwhelmed. Instead of going out with her friends or traveling for holiday, she feels stuck at work. She tried on multiple occasions to bring this issue to Edward, being mindful and assertive while communicating. It doesn’t help.
When she asks for time off to visit her mother, who is very sick, and Edward denies the request, Helen feels angry. This is the last straw. She decides she deserves a job that respects her time and effort. She realizes that just because she is paid well, it doesn’t mean she is content. She gives Edward her two weeks' notice and quickly finds a job that isn’t as monetarily profitable but isn’t as taxing on her well-being.
Anger also serves as a great warning system. It informs us that something is out of balance. It may be something within our bodies, such as hunger or illness for example. It may be informing us that a personal boundary has been violated, sometimes making us take ownership of crossing our boundaries.
Look back on the conflicts and anger that you have written about. How many were due to you feeling as if you were not being respected or feeling uncomfortable? Were you able to change the situation or find a solution? It may just take some assertive communication with the other party, as sometimes people act mindlessly and do not realize the effect they have on others.
Continue practicing assertive communication and self-awareness. Continue writing down feelings of anger and what kind of response you have to it. Take time this week to look back over your journal. What kind of progress have you made?