The Healing Anger Checklist
By Chas August
The next time you feel angry or someone is angry at you, try these simple steps to easing the tension and resolving the problem.
When you feel angry:
- Breathe. Take a break. Find a quiet place (your office, your bedroom, the garage, a bathroom stall, outside, etc.) and take 5 deep breaths. Breathing deeply into your stomach helps dissipate the adrenaline that usually accompanies anger.
- Find the feelings that are under your anger. We talk about feelings as if they are separate and discrete. We say things like “I’m angry” or “I’m happy”. In fact, our feelings overlap and mix and merge. Often I’m feeling “pain-joy” or “anger-shame-fear” or “love-sad”. Take a moment to write down all the feelings you have in addition to your anger.
- Speak your feelings. Often the things we don’t say have a way of keeping us stuck. Speaking our feelings, the anger and all the feelings under the anger often allows the feelings to move and change. This is not permission to yell at, humiliate, lecture or blame. Please note: it is not always useful to speak your feelings to the person that has angered you. Speaking to an uninvolved, sympathetic third party can be very beneficial.
- Listen to your body. We get angry. We feel our face flush, or the room suddenly feels too warm. We feel tension in our neck, shoulders, belly. We start to fidget. Your body is telling you to MOVE. Take a walk. Go to the gym. Go for a jog. Do some isometric exercises at your desk. Pound pillows. Go to the beach and scream at the ocean.
- Turn self-hate into self-love. Our own negative self-talk fuels our anger. If your friends talked to you the way you talk to yourself, you’d get different friends. Take a moment to tell yourself that there’s nothing wrong with you. You have the right to feel angry. Say “I love you” to yourself.
When you are the recipient of anger:
- Breathe. Excuse yourself for a moment. Find a quiet place (your office, your bedroom, the garage, a bathroom stall, outside, etc.) and take 5 deep breaths. Breathing deeply into your stomach helps dissipate the adrenaline that often accompanies receiving anger.
- Reaffirm your own “okayness”. Anger is not a contagious disease. Nor is it an attack, though it is often expressed in very aggressive language and posture. Notice if you are in any physical danger. If you are, leave. Go somewhere safe. If you are not in danger, reassure yourself “I’m OK. Its OK for me to listen to your anger.”
- Hear what is sourcing the anger. Anger is often triggered by a sense of powerlessness. Listen to hear what has the angry person feeling powerless. Are they feeling trapped? Are they feeling attacked? Are they feeling misunderstood?
- Change positions. Instead of having the anger come at you face-to-face, reposition yourself. Turn, or sit side-by-side. Put a desk between you and the angry person. Stand up. Or, if you are already standing, sit down.
- Active listen. One response to the feeling that you’re not being heard is to say it louder and more forcefully. Help the angry person feel heard by reflecting back the feelings and facts you are hearing (Active Listening).
For more information about Chas August and his work