Letting Anger Wake Us Up (A February Feelings Post)
When I set the goal to write about feelings every day in February, I knew it would be challenging. I thought the effort would be the daily setting aside of time, and the openness required to write about randomly-chosen topics. Those things have tested me, but the bigger demand has been letting myself touch on feelings inside myself as I write about them, then moving on mindfully when I’m done. I’m grateful for this opportunity to practice the things I preach- nonviolence, mindfulness, self-compassion. Thanks for your part in this- showing up, reading, liking, commenting, sharing. It means the world. 🙂
Today I drew the Angry GROK card.
I began reading Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life over a year ago, and I’m still studying it. The section on anger is 80% highlighted, and stuffed with bookmarks and notes. I’m passionate about feelings, and committed to unpacking my anger.
Dictionaries define Angry like this-
- having a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility
- stormy or turbulent
- threatening or menacing
- incensed or enraged
Whew! Anger is intense. It is hot in the belly and tight in the fists. It is water in the eyes and pulsing in the head. It’s one of those feelings that’s hard to ignore, and easy to offload onto those around us, via blame and violence.
Hi, I’m Angie. I feel angry often. It’s hard, but I know I’m not alone.
Many of us have anger issues, and it makes sense! We didn’t grow up with healthy anger modeling. We learned to tip-toe, repress, control, and explode. We learned to cut-off, blame, force, and throw. We learned to hurt ourselves. We learned to hurt others. Anger can devastate lives. Thankfully there’s another option.
At the core of all anger is a need that is not being fulfilled. Thus anger can be valuable if we use it as an alarm clock to wake us up—to realize we have a need that isn’t being met and that we are thinking in a way that makes it unlikely to be met. -Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D
Like all feelings, anger is an indicator of needs. This 4 step Nonviolent Communication process of moving through anger helps me identify and express those needs-
- Stop. Breathe. Anger can rouse me, but to receive any healthy messages, I need to calm down. When I feel myself about to boil over, I stop. I breathe in through my nose, then audibly sigh. I often gesticulate in a way that mimics air moving in and out of my body. I might put a hand up, in a “stop” sign, to let those around me know I need a moment. At this point, it’s just about stopping and breathing, to avoid striking. Stop. Breathe. *If you need to walk away, walk away. It’s better to put some space between yourself and others if you’re feeling on the edge. I sometimes go outside, or into the garage. It’s okay to walk away.
- Identifying judgmental thoughts. While stopped and breathing, I ask myself why I feel angry, then I listen to blaming statements fill my head. I’m angry because no one helps me! They don’t care about me! They make me do everything! Sometimes I go into name-calling, or attacking the character of those around me. That makes me sad, because I love the people around me, and I don’t like thinking awful things about them. That’s why it’s important to move to the next step-
- Connect with needs. I often have an unmet need for consideration, order, or support when I feel angry. It helps to know our triggers. I feel angry often, so I get lots of opportunities to identify my triggers! Yay! If you’re having a hard time identifying needs, it may help to look at a list. Once we’ve identified unmet needs, it’s time for the hardest step-
- Express feelings and unmet needs. Oh my. This takes courage. To open our mouths and speak our anger and our needs means trusting ourselves not to hurl insults and abuse. It also means being open to not being received well by those we’re speaking to. It’s risky and bold, and it’s a necessary part of moving through anger. Here’s an example of expressing feelings and needs-
When I came home and saw the Jenga tower of dirty dishes, I felt hot in my head, because I wanted to cook dinner, and I needed some order in the kitchen. I need some consideration and support.
Sometimes when people hear our feelings and needs, they snap at us in defense, even if we worked hard to express ourselves nonviolently. This is hard, but we can hold compassionate space for ourselves during conflict. While writing this post, I’ve had to take breaks to breathe. I’ve put my hand over my heart while saying, “gracious! Anger is hard to feel, and hard to express. I am here for myself.”
If Nonviolent Communication was easy, we wouldn’t live in a world where guns fire when hands are up, and hate speech draws applause. Practicing nonviolence is hard, valuable work. It takes guts. It takes vulnerability. It takes screwing up, and circling back. Nonviolence begins in ourselves, then reaches out into the lives around us. It starts with you and it starts with me, so I’ll keep digging deep into my feelings and needs, and sharing that process here. I’m grateful for the company as I learn and grow. 🙂