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Can Your Anger Be A Gift For You?

“Definitely, YES” – it all depends on your perspective.

As fellow anger-sufferers, whether we feel intense, chronic anger or intermittent and embarrassing anger, most of us are not likely to say to ourselves: “WOW! What a gift it is to have this feeling of anger. I sure hope I will receive more gifts soon. I can hardly wait for more!”

We tend to view our anger negatively. We have been on the receiving end of other’s anger and we know it’s not cool. And we have seen the direct effects of our anger on others. We have wiped the smile off the faces we love and left tears and fear in its place. We have lost friends, jobs, reputations and sometimes our own self-respect because of the way we expressed our anger. We have lost our own smiles, the twinkle in our eyes and our lightness of step because of our anger. We mostly wish we didn’t get angry. We also wish the things and people who make us angry – the so called “triggers” of our anger – would stop making us angry.

So how can your anger be a gift for you?

This is where perception and perspective come into play. Shift, now, to see your anger as an important and positive piece of your inner technology….a built- in resource.

In his book Living Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg suggests that anger is just like the red lights on the dash of our cars that warn us that the oil is low or there is not enough liquid to cool the engine, or the breaks are failing and we may not be able to stop in time. What do we do? We really pay attention. We know this can mean trouble. We slow down or stop. We check our car operating manual. We speak to someone about what is happening. We go to our garage.

It’s the same with anger. In Carizon’s “Taming Our Anger: The Heros’ Journey” group, the men are always able to share the signs they have that they are becoming angry. They go on to discover these anger signs are powerful tools – tools they can use positively to tame their anger.

Like the red lights on the dash of your car, here are some of the signs: jaw tightening, frowning, chest tightening, clenching of hands, sweating, increased heart rate, raised voice. These are your gifts, your early warning anger signs that become your personal resources.
You can use your gifts the same way you would respond to your car’s warning light.

  1. Notice your gift and think of it as a gift; this part is important.
  2. Slow down.
  3. Take some deep breaths. You will find yourself calming.
  4. Take another look at what is triggering your anger. Taking a second and third look at the trigger(s) will open the door for you to have more personal power because you will then be able to make a choice about how you want to respond to the trigger.

This fourth step takes courage. It takes courage and character to take a second and third look at a trigger. It takes courage to shift away from our learned, habit responses. It takes courage not to blame and shame others. It takes courage to take a look at what is going on inside of us and, perhaps, to talk with someone about anger. It takes courage to remember in our hearts how we may have been blamed and shamed, bullied and abused. Our past losses and emotional injuries along with current threats to our sense of self influence the way we view others and the world.

Our anger is a gift that nudges us to see the world with different glasses and to begin nursing our emotional injuries more compassionately so that we can drive on our journey through life with fewer accidents, without carnage and without multi-car pile-ups.

Yes, anger is a gift. It’s just a matter of perception, perspective and practice…..a lot like good driving.

Bernard Porlier, MSW, RMFT, is a counsellor at Carizon Family and Community Services, and leads the Taming Our Anger: The Hero’s Journey Group. For more information, contact Carizon at 519-743-6333 or visit our website at www.carizon.ca.