Anger! Clear steps to unlocking both facing and feeling anger skillfully

I don't know about your family dynamics, but anger was one of the hardest for us. I was taught to suppress it and that it would harm others so I bottled it up. But then I'd become a pressure cooker and lose my patience, explode and yell over small things, like the kids refusing to help when I asked.

The other part of our family dynamics around anger was that my Strong Willed Child had wonderful access to her expression of anger. She would yell at her sister when she'd use her pens without asking. She would have a fit & refuse to leave on my time table or resist doing what I told her because it wasn't her idea.

I'm guessing a child leading with intensity and anger is familiar to most of you.

So triggering! Especially to me as I believed anger and not cooperating were wrong. In my mind, 'She shouldn't feel nor express anger. She should listen and comply.' Because of these thoughts about anger, it was even more uncomfortable for me.

Some background about anger.

  • Anger is normal + necessary to point out when something matters.

  • Often it is a spot light to when we need a boundary, something is not OK with us.

  • Mostly, anger highlights that we have an unmet need. We usually want something stopped or changed.

Let me say that again another way. Anger has a purpose and is our friend. It helps us get our needs met, connect to our values, to pay attention to what matters.

The problem is that most of us have had negative, scary, awful, uncomfortable experiences with anger. Our grandparents and parents weren't taught how to feel, own and release it, so instead of listening and befriending it, we avoid, distract, numb, offload AT, repress, distract, withdraw. We believe we need to protect ourselves against both facing and feeling it.

So what can we do to feel more OK both feeling and facing anger?

Start by journaling to answer: What was my experience with anger as a child?

What are my thoughts about feeling anger?

If you have had negative experiences with anger like I did, either it was never allowed, or it was explosive and directed AT you or someone nearby, it makes sense you aren't comfortable feeling it nor facing it.

I would get stuck in anger one of two ways:

  1. I would want control, so I'd attach to 'my way' as right (which would feel to my Strong Willed Child like I'm controlling her and telling her what to do; she'd experienced a sense of threat & react)

  2. I'd offload my anger AT her (which would feels to my SWC like a threat & she'd react or withdraw)

Instead, I invite you try these clear steps to relate to anger in a new way. To get curious, befriend it.

  • Notice that you are upset, angry with a body scan. (hot? Fast breath? Tight jaw, stomach, shoulders, fists, throat?)

  • Name and accept you are angry, validate it's ok to be this way. That you make sense. Something matters to you.

  • Listen to the anger. Ask, "What matters right now? What is your anger wanting you to know, wanting to express?"

  • Pay attention to the needs underneath. Are you wanting to be heard? Ease? Partnership?

  • If your child is not a good strategy to get your needs met (Hint: they usually aren't) how else can you meet them?

  • Own your anger. Make a repair. Let your family know that something in you got activated and that you have an unmet need. That it's hard not to turn to old protective patterns like offloading at others, numbing, withdrawing, repressing, but that you are trying this new way. That it's vulnerable for you and hard and you'd appreciate their understanding as you learn.

Please share how anger has been for your family dynamics recently. What is one step you'd like to try to shift from old patterns of repressing, numbing, withdrawing or offloading anger AT

TO listening and befriending it to connect to needs + what matters.