Everybody gets upset and angry sometimes and when I was young I thought that having someone near me who was angry was just about the worst thing ever. But now that I’ve grown up and gotten in touch with my own anger, I actually think there are some really great benefits of anger! You can check out my blog: The upside of anger for more details about that.
Recently in my coaching, several parents have shared their guilt over getting angry in front of their kids. I totally get it. It’s hard to keep our cool when we’re feeling really frustrated, but after we lose it, we feel guilty and concerned that we may have somehow damaged our kids. For starters let me say, you’re not doing any long term damage to your kids if you lose your temper once in a while. Kids are very resilient and amazingly able to let things go. But if this is a challenge you struggle with often, I’ve got some thoughts and ideas to help you manage your anger in a more healthy way. You can also teach your kids some of these techniques so that everyone in your family is practicing healthy expressions of anger.
The first rule of expressing anger in a healthy way is to stop directing your anger AT people. When we direct our upset at other people, we’re blaming them for our feelings. But from the perspective of Compassionate or Nonviolent Communication, we know that our feelings are caused by our own unmet needs, not by the actions of others. When we can stop blaming others and begin to take responsibility for our own emotional experience, it can be one of the most empowering experiences in life.
And just think, once you’re able to manage your own anger in a more healthy way, you can begin to teach your kids to do the very same thing! So, what can you do with your anger and frustration without directing it at other people? Well, for starters you can direct it at an inanimate object like a bed or pillow. You can yell at your bed and hit it and nobody gets hurt (do be careful with your own body when releasing your anger). Another of my personal favorite ways to release my anger is to yell while I’m by myself in the car. I find that I feel safe and comfortable making a loud noise when I’m in the car because I’m pretty sure no one else can hear me. And I’ve gotta say, it feels really good to let that stuff out in a primal scream.
Other ideas for healthy ways to express anger are to twist a hand towel and growl, punch a punching bag, imagine stomping on the heads of the people you’re angry at when you’re running or working out, or screaming silently. To scream silently, you simply make the same face and physical gestures you would if you were to scream but instead of letting sound out through your vocal chords, you just let air pass through them. It sounds like “HAAAAA” but feels almost as good as a really loud scream.
Some friends of mine were going through couples counseling and they began to practice turning their backs on each other, yelling, and then turning around with a greater ability to talk calmly with their partners. I don’t recommend doing this with kids if you can help it, but if you’re going to yell, turning away from the people in the room is always more kind and respectful than yelling in their faces. And if you’re trying not to swear in front of the kids, you can simply yell the word “ANGRY!” or “I feel angry!”
So, I hope this blog has helped you come up with some ideas for how you can express your anger in a healthy way rather than suppressing it or expressing it AT someone. Please let me know if this was helpful to you and/or if you can relate to how good it feels to let these frustrations out of your body. Have a wonderful week, Shelly