How I leverage anger to boost peacefulness

Let’s not kid ourselves, anger can’t be kept under control. Anger can be either shown or kept inside, but it can’t be tamed. False! Anger can serve us well and its destructive nature can be reduced dramatically. What we need to change is the blaming reaction towards ourselves whenever we get angry.

With this post, I’d like to illustrate a couple of tweaks that help me taking advantage of anger. I already talked about how my relationship with anger changed. Now, I would like to further explain what can be actually done whenever we feel angry.

I am quite sure that some of you have been told to count to 100, or to breathe deeply or, as in my case, to minimize whatever triggered you: “You are so sensitive” — “I was just kidding”. Are these sentences familiar? Well, I learnt to count up to 1.000.000 just to try to calm down. The only result that I got was to be fast with numbers. I pretended to minimize the impact that the external input had on me. As a result, I learnt to be passive aggressive. Breathing worked, as long as I was calm enough to remember to breathe.

I realized that my mistake was to try to keep anger under control when it was too late. Actually, I was trying to control my feelings. I was in denial whenever I didn’t accept the fact that I was angry. The turning point in my life was when I could see how helpful anger was. Anger was the representation of healthy desires, it protected me for being further hurt and it set my boundaries to restore balance. Beating myself up because I felt angry entitled anger to come forward to defend me from my own blame. In other words, I attacked myself strengthening the protective reaction of anger.

I realized that my mistake was to try to keep anger under control when it was too late.

When I got to the point where my will to change exceeded the comfort to remain the same, I decided to have a long term strategy that would alleviate the tension that I accumulated and that eventually turned into an outburst of rage.

First Tweak — Visualization

The first tweak to leverage anger is visualization. I started practicing visualization in a martial art context. Now, I also apply visualization when I dance tango and, of course, when I want to learn more about myself. What is visualization and how can it be used to take advantage of anger?

In martial arts or tango, visualization is about devoting time to “step out of myself” and look at myself from different angles. I focus on my movements and I try to perceive and see every single muscle I move. It gives me a very strange feeling though because when I feel the movements, I am still “within” myself, while I look at myself moving from an external perspective.

When I talk about anger, visualization goes slightly different. I focus on my feelings and reactions and I try to represent the process that goes from the interruption of my positive mindset to the outburst of rage. I can then say that I see anger as a ticking bomb. I definitely have some time before it explodes. Only now I am aware of the vicious circle I can get caught in:

  1. Something happens and I feel triggered. The bomb is activated
  2. I start blaming myself for how I feel. The psychological pressure I put on myself makes the bomb ticking faster
  3. Under pressure, triggered and judged, I carry on the interaction with myself and other people with aggressivity, paving the way for other triggers to arise. More triggers mean back to point 1.

When the countdown is over, the outburst occurs.

Before I came up with my own visualization of anger, I felt overwhelmed by the vicious circle. It seemed to me that I was never in control of myself, being suddenly angry beyond the point of no return.

By representing anger with the ticking bomb, I gave my feelings a structure. They have a specific time frame and they are much easier to recognize than before. We might have completely different representations of anger, and that’s perfectly fine. The point is to be able to give anger a reality. The more accurate the representation the easier the control.

We might have completely different representations of anger, and that’s perfectly fine.

Keeping my metaphor in mind is the most difficult part, but it still requires much less effort than I expected because at stage 1. of the vicious circle I am still quite in control of my emotions. I need to step out of the situation for a split second, remind myself that the bomb has been activated and stay present. This shift in perception requires way less energy than calming down once the inertia of anger overwhelms me, a small change that dramatically shapes me and the way I react.

Second Tweak — Shield

Now, having in mind what anger might be for you is a necessary but, unfortunately, not a sufficient condition to completely take advantage of an outrageous reaction. The last tweak that complements visualization is shield, i.e. understanding how anger has always protected you. Because that’s the whole point. Anger is an energetic response to an overwhelming psychological or a physical threat. Anger is the powerful Captain America’s shield that gives us the strength and confidence to defeat the threat. At least, that’s the pattern that we might have learnt during the years.

In my case, anger protected me from the humiliation and the disconnection that I experienced within my family environment. Anger gave me voice and the right to be in my family. Thus, anger empowered me to fight back against all the passive aggressivity and violence that I directly and indirectly received.

The key step to be aware of is the following: our mind builds a very strong action-reaction response. Whenever we are attacked, anger arises. During the years, the response gets stronger and rooted in our behaviour to the point that anger arises whenever we feel under attack. Even though the feeling isn’t always right. This means that we might start getting angry at the slightest assumption of attack. As for me, I was constantly on the verge to get outrageous.

Thus, recognizing the shield enables me to distinguish between the old pain and the current situation. In other words, when the bomb is activated, the mind has made a link between what’s happening now and what I experienced when I was a kid. The shield wants to protect me. Anger is then the representation in the physical world of what the shield is in my mind.

Anger is the powerful Captain America’s shield that gives us the strength and confidence to defeat the threat.

Being aware of the origin of the pain allows one to be detached enough from the old pain to maturely keep the inner turmoil under control and better manage the situation he is involved in.

Conclusions

Visualization and shield tweaks go hand in hand. The former facilitates the realization of the latter. Building our own metaphor of anger helps us in understanding why we needed to be protected. We then focus on our wounds and, bit by bit, we learn how to distinguish the old pain from the present situation. We give voice to our inner child and we confidently tell him that now the situation is radically different. When we were children, we were dependent from our educators and we needed to stand and cope with that situation as best we could.

Now, we don’t have to obey. We don’t have to stand. We have the power to decide with whom we want to spend time and why. We are always free to choose and consequently responsible for our choices. We don’t need anger to defend us.

We give voice to our inner child and we confidently tell him that now the situation is radically different.

To conclude, by applying the visualization and shield tweaks I learn how to leverage my strong emotional responses and turn them into a precious resource of peacefulness. Before developing the tweaks leverage, it took me a couple of days to finally be myself again after I had an outburst. In the post tweaks scenario, it takes me only few minutes to get on my feet and feel relieved from the grip of anger.

At this stage, if the bomb gets activated I simply approach it, I look at it, I understand how helpful its devastating power was for me when I was a kid and I switch the timer off. I built a mental shelf where I proudly collect all my unexploded bombs.

Did this post challenge you? If so, please consider sharing this content with your network.

Keep growing.

Originally published at www.yougrowwegrow.net.

I mentor people to develop the required soft skills to become successful remote workers — alemontalto.com