To Resolve It, Match Your Approach to Your Type...
But whichever way it manifests, anger can destabilize us, making us vulnerable to harming ourselves, others or both if we allow it to overtake reason and caution. Therefore we can reap huge dividends and prevent major negative outcomes by knowing what to do when we feel angry.
First, some understanding. Anger is an emotion wired into every human being to serve a survival purpose. Feeling angry is a sign that we're responding to a threat, whether real or perceived. It is not just an emotion; it has a corollary physical response because our body is mounting a defense to meet the danger. When we're feeling angry, blood is being removed from our sustaining systems (digestion, elimination, immunologic, circulatory), and poured into our skeletal muscles to ready them for action. Our liver releases massive amounts of glucose to supply energy to our muscles. Our pancreas secretes insulin to burn the glucose. Our respiration rate rises to provide oxygen for the metabolic fires. Never mind if we just ate, digestion will have to wait: surviving in response to threat is the current biological priority. Our stress reaction is in full swing. We are ready for action!
The key to managing anger effectively is to use this natural, biological process to achieve goals instead of turning anger into a threat to the very goal it was designed to fulfill. We need to learn to act in a way that resolves the threat and reestablishes our physical and emotional internal balance. In other words, we need to learn to use the energy of this roaring physiological furnace for an effective response, one which identifies and responds to the threat in such a way that real safety is established, the anger is resolved, and the bodily responses mitigated so our bodies can shift back from basic survival mode to "thrive" mode. This re- energizes our sustaining systems, improves our digestion, respiration, circulation, elimination, and immune function.
How to do this? As there are three kinds of anger, three types of strategies are required – insights I learned at a Transactional Analysis Seminar - from professionals working with emotionally disturbed adults.
Anger Arising from Unmet Needs
All of us humans have basic things we need to survive and thrive. These include both physical and emotional needs: air, water, food, bonding and connection with others, trust relationships. Meeting these needs supports not only the survival of the individual, but the species as well. Frustrate these needs and anger is the result.
Effectively resolving this kind of anger means addressing the basic need. The fundamental question is "What is needed here?" Air, water, food, space, connection, stimulation, relief of pain? Provide what is needed and the anger is resolved, the stress removed. Our needs are fulfilled and we begin once again to thrive.
The second kind of anger is that used as a tool to construct a boundary so individuation can take place. Developmentally this kind of anger is that used by two year olds who are beginning to emerge as individual little people, separate from their parents. Just as with two year olds, in adults also, it is motivated by our need to be individuals, to be unique, to break away from oneness. This anger is saying "I'm not you; I'm me, a separate person."
The inner question to be resolved becomes whether the ties that bind (the need for connection) will withstand the desire to separate; will the person be accepted and loved as an individual if separate?
Because separation anger is a tool used to become an individual, its resolution involves simply giving it up. Once the individuality is established, the tool is no longer needed and can be put away.
The third kind of anger is a mask for another feeling, usually fear, often hurt, sometimes grief and sadness. Essentially this kind of anger covers something else with an angry front, which is why it's often referred to as racket anger.
Strategies for resolving this kind of anger involve making it safe to uncover the feeling beneath it so it can be resolved. Then anger rackets become unnecessary, the person can calm down and recommit to solving problems in a straightforward way.
Learning to deal effectively with these three kinds of anger is not only beneficial to the health of individuals, but also to the world. As people learn to deal effectively with anger, they are no longer hooked on the temporary but destructive "high" of anger dramas played out in warring responses. (Imagine a world in which the world leaders dealt with their anger in these ways!)
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