As the final piece in our series on anger I have the pleasure of presenting a guest blog by Jamie Perillo, LPC. Jamie is a licensed child and family psychotherapist, yoga instructor, parent educator, and the founder of Inspired Families. She is completing a parenting book for the busy Mom and Dad.
Thank you Jamie for this wonderful contribution.
To be in the presence of someone else’s anger can be uncomfortable and suffocating. Some people’s anger is loud – “I want the world to know it” kind – with yelling, slamming of doors, and stomping around like a five year old in a heated tantrum. Other’s anger is quiet and suffocating. Their presence brings a dense cloud of negative energy that spreads to every inch of the room the person is in – and you feel it.
Anger is a human emotion and actually, it’s unhealthy not to express your anger. However, there are appropriate ways to express anger in a healthy manner. Unfortunately, many people are not taught effective anger coping strategies, nor are they taught how to deal with other’s anger.
Tips to help you cope with another person’s anger:
- Cultivate compassion. Anger is often a person’s first response to their emotions but it is not typically a “first feeling.” When a child runs into a busy street you will see the parent run after the child and then once safe start to scold them. Anger was not the parent’s first feeling – it was fear. When your husband is yelling at the printer because it stops working, your husband’s first feeling is related to their own feelings of incompetence, anxiety, or stress (they just might not know it) rather than towards the machine itself. When you can cultivate compassion for someone, try to understand their “first feelings”, you will feel less affected by their anger.
- You are not an emotional punching bag. Many couples will make excuses for their spouse’s behavior saying “they are just stressed.” This might be so; however it is not an excuse to be treated unfairly. Set boundaries with the person who is anger y. Develop an anger plan –perhaps find a place you will walk away to until you are calm. You can also make statements as, “Your voice is getting louder. I understand you are upset. When you are calm, I would like to help or support you if you tell me how I can help.” Then walk away. This sends a clear message you love and support that person but will not tolerate being their emotional punching bag.
- You are not an anger sponge. Many of us, particularly women, tend to see another person’s anger or sorrow and immediately take it on as their own and try to “fix it.” Sometimes you might even feel you did something wrong. The other person’s anger is not your stuff. Create a mantra for yourself to repeat when in the presence of another’s anger.
- Anger + Anger = More Anger. Some people’s initial reaction is to get angry right back. They might have been calm and joyful until the other person’s anger struck. Instead of saying, this is hurtful, I feel helpless, or am frustrated; some have a tendency to fight back with anger. Instead, walk away and find a place where you can maintain your calm and check in with your own feelings before responding. Take deep breaths.
- Seek support. An individual therapist, couples counselor, support group, or group of friends can be helpful.
- Self-care. Do not forget to care for yourself. Take walks in nature, join a gym, yoga or dance class, or indulge in massage or acupuncture. When you are drained physically, emotionally, or mentally you cannot fully respond to the situation. The stronger your emotional and mental health is the healthier your response will be.
- Journal. A journal can be your best friend. A place you can go back to again and again when you need to unload anytime anywhere.