Using Anger as a Tool for Change

by HCHC on August 29, 2012

Anger. What feeling or feelings does this word bring up for you? For some people, anger invokes feelings of guilt, fear, powerlessness, depression, and injustice. But thinking of anger doesn’t have to feel this way. How can we break this cycle? When can our anger help us to clarify what we need and want in a way that supports a change in a pattern of living that is not working anymore?

There is not one person reading this article that can say they have never experienced anger. How many times do we blame our anger on the other person? We say, “if my child would just listen to me,” or “my husband is so forgetful,” or “that guy had no right to cut in front of me in line.”

Imagine that instead of blaming people for our anger, we use this energy as a catalyst for change in our lives and especially in the patterns of our intimate relationships. Dr. Harriet Goldman, author of the book “Dance with Anger,” suggests “Anger is a tool for change when it challenges us to become more of an expert on the self and less of an expert on others.”

Dr. Goldman invites us to release the blames and instead clarify our personal wants and needs, to look inward for the solution instead of outward. Anger challenges us to become clear about our values, boundaries, needs, and priorities. Below are five ways to start using your anger as a tool for change (and stop blaming others for your feelings).

1.    Use “I” Statements: Shift the problem to yourself and the blame away from the other person. Avoid using “you”’ statements. For example, when your spouse forgets to pay a bill, use words that reveal how you feel.  “I feel anxious when I am unsure of whether or not a bill is paid.” No one can argue with your feelings. If we blame the person, they will just come back with a retort, often feeling threatened and judged.

2.    Offer Praise and Show Compassion: Tell the person at least one thing they do well or what you like about them. In the example with your spouse, realize they pay the bills on time 95% of the time, give them a little room to make mistakes. “I appreciate that all the other bills were paid on time this month and I realize this is hard work for you. I know I do not express my gratitude enough.”

3.    Suggest a Solution: As the saying goes, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Come up with a solution that you both can agree upon. Everyone makes mistakes, even you. Let them know you realize this, but a solution still needs to be found. “What can we do to make it easier? It would be helpful to me if we sat down every month to go over our finances. I can even create a summary report.”

4.     Analyze your Anger: Find out where your anger originated and what you really want. Anger is rarely all about the situation at hand. Maybe you grew up in a household where the bills did not (or could not) get paid on time. Perhaps you suffered through evictions, feuding parents, or turned off utilities. Perhaps someone did not pay you back and this is festering unresolved resentments toward people who do not pay bills on time. All these past hurts can stimulate a reaction in the present. The key to using anger as a tool for change is not to react, but act. Yelling and blaming negate our needs and wants when others feel we are overreacting.

5.     Release: Learning to let go of old hurts allows us to live fully in the present with clarity and conviction. There are many ways we can let go of this anger and hurt. Some people like to run or dance. Other people find counseling, acupuncture, Reiki, or bodywork techniques effective. Find a solution that works for you.

You are responsible for your own happiness. Realize that you have no control over whether someone else will change his/her behavior. Attaching your happiness to the actions of others only breeds resentment when that person does not live up to our expectations. Let go of the need to fix the behavior of everyone else. Instead, concentrate on “clarifying what is not acceptable or desirable” in your relationship, as Dr. Goldman reminds us. Be assertive by using “I statements” instead of “you statements.” Set boundaries.

When you are ready to release these old hurts that hold you back and create stagnant anger, give us a call, we are here for you.

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