Comprehensive view on anger will allow you to see that anger, just like any other emotions, has a function; understanding anger will help you to see that anger is problematic only when it is suppressed or expressed to intimidate.
Anger exists on a spectrum, ranging from mild annoyance to rage, and it shows up as a signal that our boundaries are being crossed. When our relationship with anger is healthy, we acknowledge the anger and take responsibility for ourselves by maintaining healthy boundaries and using assertive communication. For example, if your friend frequently comments on your choices in a critical sarcastic way, you might feel ticked off, and as a result of that you might say to your friend: “Your negative comments really bother me, and the narrative I create based on such comments is that you want to put me down, which makes me feel hurt. What I need from you is to be supportive of my choices, or to give me constructive criticism instead of the sarcastic jabs.”
Unhealthy ways of dealing with anger.
Unhealthy relationship with anger stems from limiting beliefs we have about anger and includes anger phobia, anger avoidance (denial), anger suppression (minimizing, rationalizing, tolerating, making excuses for others’ behavior), and aggression (using intimidation). Some of such limiting beliefs included:
- it is not ok to feel angry, because it means you are a bad person;
- feeling angry leads to abuse and aggression
- true lady/true gentleman means you don’t get angry
- respect is when others are afraid of you
- being intimidating is a sign of strength
- If one doesn’t let their anger out, they will explode
- if you want to be taken seriously, you have to show your anger
It helps to take inventory of your beliefs around anger and examine how such beliefs system was formed, whether it serves you or not, how does it effect your relationship with your loved ones, how does it effect your work life and so on.
Healthy Relationship with Your Anger
Having healthy relationship with anger means you do not judge anger, you do not feel guilty or ashamed of it, you do not fear anger and you do not feel angry with feeling angry. Healthy anger steps:
1) accept feeling angry as one of many emotions humans experience;
2) decipher the message behind feeling angry (for example: have your boundaries been crossed? Are you crossing your own boundaries by doing something you are uncomfortable with?)
3) deciding on the responsible action about the above;
4) acting (speaking up, standing up for yourself, implementing required changes, setting boundaries, etc)
Abuse versus Healthy Anger
It is important to note that ABUSE and ANGER are NOT the same thing: – Anger says: “Stop”, “No”, “Leave”, “Don’t”. Anger stands for justice, freedom, boundaries, truth, self care and integrity. – Abuse says: “Submit”, “Bend”, “Change”, “Don’t speak”, “Don’t ask”, “Don’t tell”, “Be afraid”, “You are worthlessness”, “It’s your fault”, “You are no good”, “You can’t”, “You don’t deserve it”, “You are inadequate/stupid/crazy”, “You are not good enough”. Abuse stands for punishment, manipulation, control, pain, fear, guilt, humiliation, isolation and domination. Anger is an emotion that rises when our boundaries are crossed, when we see injustice, when we need to choose between integrity and survival and when we are mistreated. In other words, anger is a healthy protection of integrity. Anger avoidance contributes to anxiety, depression, dysfunctional relationship, feeling stuck, and much more. Abuse is a symptom of a mental health disorder such as PTSD, BPD, paranoia, and childhood relational trauma resulting from neglect by parents, physical punishment such as spanking and beating, childhood sexual abuse, emotional abuse such as chronic criticism and shaming, inflicting guilt, gaslighting, trivializing children’s needs, scaring, humiliating, isolating and ignoring a child.
• You can say no or yes, and you are ok when others say no to you.
• You have a strong sense of identity. You respect yourself.
• You expect reciprocity in a relationship—you share responsibility and power.
• You know when the problem is yours and when it belongs to someone else.
• You share personal information gradually in a mutually sharing/trusting relationship.
• You don’t tolerate abuse or disrespect.
• You know your own wants, needs and feelings. You communicate them clearly in your
• You are committed to and responsible for exploring and nurturing your full potential.
• You are responsible for your own happiness and fulfillment. You allow others to be
responsible for their own happiness and fulfillment.
• You value your opinions and feelings as much as others.
• You know your limits. You allow others to define their limits.
• You are able to ask for help when you need it.
• You don’t compromise your values or integrity to avoid rejection.
• You can’t say no, because you are afraid of rejection or abandonment.
• Your identity consists of what you think others want you to be. You are a chameleon.
• You have no balance of power or responsibility in your relationships. You tend to be either
overly responsible and controlling or passive and dependent.
• You take on other’s problems as your own.
• You share personal information too soon, before establishing mutual trust
• You have a high tolerance for abuse or being treated with disrespect.
• Your wants, needs, and feelings are secondary to others’ and are sometimes determined by
• You ignore your inner voice and allow others expectations to define your potential.
• You feel responsible for other’s happiness and fulfillment and sometimes rely on your
relationships to create that for you.
• You tend to absorb the feelings of others.
• You rely on others opinions and ideas more than you do your own.
• You allow others to define your limits or try to define limits for others.
• You compromise your values and beliefs in order to please others or to avoid conflict.
• You are likely to say no if the request involves close interaction.
• You avoid intimacy (pick fights, stay too busy, etc.)
• You fear abandonment OR engulfment, so you avoid closeness.
• You rarely share personal information.
• You have difficulty identifying wants, needs, feelings.
• You have few or no close relationships. If you have a partner, you have very separate lives and
virtually no shared social life.
• You rarely ask for help.
• You do not allow yourself to connect with other people and their problems.
How do I change?
Understand that developing healthier boundaries (as with any life change) is a process, not an
event. It will take time and practice. There are no quick fixes. Healthy
boundaries will lead to improved self-esteem and increased intimacy in your relationships. The payoff is big, if you are persistent! Below are a few suggestions to help you stay on track in
1. Identify the ways in which your boundaries are unhealthy. Make a list of how they express
themselves in your life.
2. Write letters to yourself encouraging change and addressing the fears that work to prevent
change. Nurture your right to have boundaries!
3. Make a list of personal rights (i. e. boundaries) in your relationships and paste it where you
can read it often.
4. Keep a journal and record the pain associated with not maintaining healthy boundaries in
your relationships. (pain is a great motivator.)
5. Write an entry in your journal answering the question “Who Am I?” Do this periodically.
6. Look for role models of healthy boundaries in your life or in the media. Confronting a
boundary challenging situation ask yourself “What would my role model do?” Better yet, if
your role model is a part of your life, ask them!
7. Build in time for yourself away from your relationship on a regular basis. This will include
alone time, time with your close friends, time for spiritual growth, and time to attend to life’s
8. If you have difficulty saying ‘No,” look for opportunities to practice. If you have difficulty
saying “Yes” to any activity that involves interacting with others, look for opportunities to
9. Seek counseling to examine the roots of your unhealthy boundaries.