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Day 17. Gulp… But I’m Scared of ‘Bad’ Anger (Fear Not!)

One of the things that you can fear about being boundaried is that your anger is going to come out in a ‘bad’ way, possibly because of your perception of other people’s anger and/or your previous experiences of it.

In the resources section, there’s a Recognising Feelings Guide. You need to read the chapter on anger (if you haven’t already) to get some insight into what anger is and some vital facts about it.

This class addresses myths about anger as well as explaining where it’s inappropriate so that you can distinguish you from your fears and make conscious choices.

Inappropriate anger is about inability to control your mouth and your actions, even when cues around you, including your own body language or that of the other person, suggest that you should. As a general rule of thumb, people who cross the line with anger are those who carry on as if only their anger and opinions can exist.

Some examples include:

Name-calling – Quite simply, it’s using abusive and insulting language. If it’s coupled with swearing, it can be particularly venomous. Swearing on its own is not necessarily inappropriate but swearing coupled with other inappropriateness is a problem.

Reverse accusations – They’re accused of something, and then they accuse you of the same thing and take up victim status.

Being physically inappropriate (without physical abuse) – Crossing your personal space by getting up too close or raging at objects, smacking the wall, stomping around with their arms flailing all over the place.

Physical violence – This is abuse, no exceptions. It is not provoked – it is their inability to control their behaviour due to the thinking behind it.

Proverbially beating you over the head with anger – We can express anger, but that’s it. We can’t keep going over and over it and beating people over the head or bringing up old shit each time we’re pissed off. Bringing up old stuff is a tactic used to strengthen an argument at all costs, but it also communicates that we’re either not done or that we hope in some way to make the person feel small or bad. This is particularly inappropriate when one person has free rein to go back centuries if they bloomin’ well feel like it, but the other person is censored on bringing up even something that happened five minutes ago.

 

 

MYTHS THAT DRIVE YOUR HABIT OF SUPPRESSING / DISCARDING ANGER

 

Anger is the same as aggression.
Association: Anger = Aggression
Anger can result in aggressive thinking and behaviour, but this is far from always being the case. When anger is the appropriate way to feel – as if you’ve been wronged, feeling hostile, etc., this may be aggressive in part. For instance, if you’re in an argument, although an argument isn’t automatically aggressive, it’s dependent on the behaviour and attitudes exhibited. It doesn’t mean that it’s ‘bad’ or that you’re aggressive in the sense of being disrespectful and raging. It’s important to note that aggression is hostile or violent behaviour and attitudes, not hostile and violent behaviour and attitudes, so don’t assume that because you don’t feel friendly towards somebody at that moment that it makes you violent.

Anger means that you’re under attack.
Association: Anger = I’m being attacked or am attacking others
If you associate anger with being attacked, you will want to suppress your right and those of others to express anger. You will feel insulted by people’s expression of anger, especially because you engage in pleasing behaviour in the hopes of controlling the possibility of them getting angry. You and they are only human of course, so on occasion, people will be angry. Sometimes it will be because they have the wrong end of the stick, and sometimes, there will be a legitimate cause. If they are engaging in violent anger, then yes, you are under attack. And note that violent anger (rage) means that it’s uncontrollable (at the point of rage, although it can be controlled in the wider sense, i.e. they don’t behave this way with their boss for example), and it can be verbal or physical which of course leads to emotional and mental abuse as well. This isn’t the same as anger or having an argument. It’s essential to distinguish between the past and the present and real threat versus your imagination. A person may feel attacked if they try to raise an issue with you and you accuse them of attacking you when they weren’t, which is why it’s critical to address your narrative on anger by uncovering the beliefs and associations that you have with it.

Being angry means that you have to have a conflict or do something about it.
Association: Anger = Conflict or me having to do something to get rid of the feeling
Being angry means that you feel as if you have experienced an injustice and your job is to evaluate whether that’s a real issue or whether it’s inaccurate whether that’s wholly or partially, and to also stand up for you, even if that involves just being honest about what is happening and how you feel to you. Most of my feelings of anger and subsequent reactions don’t turn into a conflict or result in me having to do something to another person. This isn’t because I’m pretending that I wasn’t angry or secretly pissed off with loads of people; it’s because sometimes I get the wrong end of the stick, often I can address a situation within myself and modify my subsequent behaviour and attitude towards a situation/person (boundaries), and once I admit that I’m pissed off and gradually gain perspective, I feel better almost immediately and can move on.

All anger is going to do is make you feel bad.
Association: Anger = I will feel bad
Anger, like all emotions, is your instinctive emotional response. If you feel bad due to anger, it’s due to the associations and thinking about it, including the criticism that results. If you overfeed anger with berating comments and distorted perspective, then yeah, you’re gonna feel bad. It’s also important to note that when you suppress your feelings, then you will experience your anger and fear as well as the anger of others more intensely.

Anger is unnatural.
Association: Anger = I am abnormal
Anger is an absolutely normal and vital emotion. It lets you know when you have something to address, where you’ve been hurt, and where you need to protect you or take preventative measures. If anything is unnatural, it’s to pretend that it’s not in your emotional range, to not express it, or to try to eliminate it from your life while suffering in silence.

Anger is an automatic precursor to conflict, criticism, rejection and disappointment.
Association: Anger = Guaranteed ‘bad’ outcome
Obviously, if you think this, then you’re going to think that if you allow this feeling ‘out’, you’re going to let bad things ‘in’. Anger is an emotion, and again, it’s your instinctive response, so it’s not as if bad things are guaranteed. If you have this belief, you’ll believe that all conflict is bad, when conflict, along with criticism, rejection, loss and disappointment, are an inevitable, necessary and natural part of life. It’s important to note that pretending that you’re not angry or trying to avoid it will not spare you from conflict, criticism, rejection, loss or disappointment. By taking ownership of your feelings (instead of those of others), you can recognise yours instead of trying to be pleasing all the time, and you will not feel so impacted by any of these things that you feared because you respected and recognised your own feelings instead of pretending that they don’t exist and then feeling wounded and shortchanged anyway.

Anger will make you behave like bad examples in your life.
Association: Anger = Me behaving like people I don’t like, respect or am afraid of.
Anger is an emotion, not the behaviour itself, and you can’t always choose your feelings, but you can choose your behaviour and modify it through learning from the insights that you gain from each experience. If you don’t get angry, how the hell do you know what your anger response is anyway? You may be projecting your perception of other people’s anger onto you and fearing that you’re going to be out of control or just like them when actually, you’re very different people. Even when we share similar issues to others or even the same bloodlines, it doesn’t mean that we will behave similarly or that we’re bound to wind up exactly like them because what affects our behaviour is our thinking and our responses to cues and triggers. Bearing in mind that our experiences are our own, we can’t claim to have the same thinking and responses as others.

From personal experience I can tell you that deciphering anger feelings can feel confusing initially because you’re trying to get a sense of your intuition, but over the years I’ve learned to step back, to talk me off the attack ledge and calm me down, and to also distinguish between the past and what’s in front of me. Thankfully, the remaining lessons are about how to be angry (if you are or need to be) and have boundaries. 

JOURNALING: What do you do to reduce anger? Are these healthy, soothing measures or unhealthy ones?

 

Which other emotions follow anger? Which thoughts and actions prompt these specific feelings? What are you afraid of that affects your response to anger, and how does this affect and transform your anger? How does it affect your thinking? Can you see straight or do you feel blinded?

 

When you push down your feelings of anger, what does this transform into? Do you feel resentful, tense, anxious, frustrated, simmering?

 

Are you desensitised to anger and if so, why?

 

If like me you grew up in a home where there was a lot of anger and drama plus you have got into the habit of playing down your feelings and self-doubting, you are highly likely to be desensitised to anger. You are schooled in minimising your feelings to the point where it may take you some time to actually realise that you’re pissed off. You may find this frustrating because you have a delayed reaction and then feel that it’s ‘too late’ to respond and/or feel victimised and helpless. You might transform your feelings of anger with a narrative that helps to soothe your anxiety or use fantasising as a means of escape.

 

What do you tell yourself when you’re in potential anger situations? What are the cues and triggers that let you know that something is going down and that kickstart you going into your proverbial bunker?

 

 

 

 

 

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