How to Use Your Anger to Improve Your Life

This is How Positive Change Happens… How do you feel about getting angry? If you’re like many of my clients, you might believe there’s something wrong with you for feeling angry. You might even think something bad or dangerous will happen if you let yourself acknowledge and experience your anger. I get it. I’ve been there myself. There’s this common belief that anger is just a “negative” emotion. But I don’t buy it. Anger is one of our primary emotions. It’s impossible to live without feeling anger. A lot of experiences in life naturally evoke anger in us. Like the rest of our emotions, anger serves a purpose. If we let it, anger can mobilize us to take adaptive action, like standing up for ourselves and for each other. But when we refuse to acknowledge and experience our anger, then anger cannot do its job. One client tells me, “I have a hard time standing up for myself and being assertive.” Another shares, “I’m afraid of my anger.” You’ve probably noticed that anger gets a bad rap. These inner struggles with anger are painful, burdensome, and destructive. It’s the emotion we freak out about most. When we feel anger coming up, we tend to unconsciously fire a bunch of “defenses” rather than being honest about feeling angry. “Defenses” are therapy-talk for things like: • Getting anxious or afraid when we’re not in objective danger • Going into a depressed state by turning our anger inwards • Defending against our anger by putting up a wall, distancing ourselves, shutting down, pretending we don’t feel angry • Judging ourselves mercilessly, criticizing...

How to Deal with Your Emotions

This is How Positive Change Happens… When people initially contact me to do counselling and therapy, they often say: “I want to work on how to deal with my emotions”. That’s a worthwhile goal because our emotions are a hugely significant part of our lives and they can definitely be hard to deal with. The first step I offer is a different view of our emotions: Maybe our emotions don’t need to be dealt with. What they do need is more willingness to be worked with rather than against or suppressed. How do we do that? We can choose to practice – over and over again – accepting, validating, and tolerating our emotions. Not just a little. Not in a way that’s immediately followed by quickly moving on to bigger and better (and less unpleasant) things. Our emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear need to be identified, accepted, connected with, and tolerated. This process can be really challenging. In theory, it might make sense. Doing it can be monumental. It takes a lot of courage, effort, and support for us to accurately identify what we’re actually feeling, deep down, and then to accept it and validate it. When we try to do so, our defense mechanisms often block us from feeling our emotional pain. They fire so rapidly we sometimes don’t even know it’s happening.  For example, when connecting with an emotion or a feeling like anger or sadness, after a second or two, we may find ourselves saying something like “I feel like my partner/parent thinks I’m…”. Once we do that, we’re no longer dealing with our actual...