Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Giving Anger the Respect it Deserves

"You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist."~ Indira Gandhi

Among the plethora of emotions we juggle with on any given day, anger is the one that can indeed hold us back from reaching our potential.

We are often not entirely aware of how much anger we hold on to. Many things make us angry, and when we feel powerless to change them, our frustration drives us to feel even angrier.

We are taught since early childhood to keep our anger in check, to forgive and forget, and to let go. Yet, some things are not easy to let go of, and when someone tells is to ignore them we feel as if others are discounting the validity of our reactions.

In some cases, when the individual is not able to reestablish a good relationship with anger – and experiences guilt when honoring this feeling – the pent-up frustration simmers under the skin, and can easily erupt in an escalating pattern of violence.

It is okay to feel angry. What is not okay is to hold back our feelings without having an outlet and allow them to putrefy under the surface. If not released, anger leads to depression and illness. When we give ourselves permission to feel anger, we are able to honor the validity of our feelings and let the blocks go in a healthy way.

Several years ago, I read a book which suggested thinking about the very things that make us angry; when anger is finally able to rise, we should allow it to spread through every cell of our being and focus on feeling its effects without pushing it away. Once the feeling is fully summoned we should then tell ourselves that we honor our anger as a valid response to the situation that triggered it. Then we should tell ourselves – out loud – that it is time to let it go.

Feelings will not go away until properly acknowledged for the purpose they have served. Anger itself is, sometimes, the fuel necessary to cross through a difficult situation, and its task is an honorable one; thus, it should never be ignored – no feeling should.

It is often difficult to express our anger in our workplace or around people we care about, but never addressing the feelings that have built-up is a sure path toward creating resentment for the people that caused us to be angry. If, for any reason, we are not able to respectfully express our feelings to the person that caused us to feel angry – or to appropriately “feel” our anger in the environs we find ourselves in, we must “bookmark” the feeling, and address it later on when we can do so privately.

When we recognize our anger it loses its significance, and can be prevented from consuming us. Being able to address all of our feelings allows the power to move on from a difficult situation and create a better reality.

We wouldn’t want to forget being joyous – anger is only the other side of the same coin.

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