No more Miss Nice Girl!
A student asked me recently, "So how am I supposed to rage?" In short: What's a healthy way to express anger?
We’ve all been there ...
You finally get to your assigned seat at a sold-out concert only to learn the woman sitting next to you has apparently taken a bath in perfume. A bad day’s irritated slow burn flares into full-on rage when a more careful driver won’t get out of your lane. You have a cranky kid (or a cranky boss ... they pretty much act the same, right?) who just keeps pushing your buttons. Or, your partner "opens up" and tells you who he was really thinking about during sex.
The stoic Greek philosopher Epictetus supposedly said, "Those who are well constituted in the body endure both heat and cold: and so those who are well constituted in the soul endure both anger and grief and excessive joy and the other affects."
Nothing personal, but I’d prefer to do better than just "endure" anger, thank you very much. Sigmund Freud’s explanation of what happens to unexpressed anger — depression as anger turned inward — is great but, well, it’s a rather depressing idea all by itself.
Conventional 21st Century wisdom says: It’s good to rage and let it go.
But how do you do that without breaking things and hurting people, including yourself?
You can consult your astrological chart, talk to a therapist, or take control of your life and find your own healthy way to manage "hard" emotions. Here's how to burn off or play with some of that seething anger:
- Vent on social media (As if enough people aren't doing that already!)
- Get physical. Work out, or join a pickup ice hockey or volleyball game (Be careful, please)
- Visit an "anger bar" (Yes, such a thing really does exist)
- Explore specialized mixed martial arts programs (such as Pugilistic Offensive Warriors, where Veterans with post-traumatic stress therapeutically beat the hell out of each other)
- Laugh it off watching a funny movie. (Watch Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson holler humorously at each other in Anger Management, for example)
- Join a drum circle that really rocks and bang your frustrations away
Basically, there are a ton of healthy and fun ways to work through feelings of anger and rage.
But, here's a more important point — don't get rid of your anger too quickly!
Yes, I know health and healing gurus love to extol the virtues of letting your anger go as quickly as possible, as if it's a toxic bomb. But the truth is — anger and rage are valid emotions. And trying to ignore them or repress them often causes more harm then good. Here are three surprising ways your rage actually serves you:
1. Anger reminds you to care for yourself
Like other pure emotions, at its core, anger is simply a reminder to care for yourself.
Got anger? You’re getting a chemical reminder — brain/body chemistry actually — that some part of you needs care. It could be physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, or a combination cocktail of two or more. Notice it. Take a quick inventory of what’s going on in your scene. If you can, give yourself time out to gain perspective. Breathe. Have sex (always a good option).
2. Anger really is all about you
Your angry emotions are NOT about someone or something else — they're about YOU.
Sure, your rage is often triggered by other people, things or events, but the fact remains that when you get angry ... that's on you. Oversimplification? Not really. We choose our emotions. Personally, I choose to get angry about racism and inequality; but I also choose to feel compassion for the elderly driver who’s going a lot slower on the expressway.
What about you? What are you choosing to get angry about versus what you choose to let go?
3. Anger is a doorway to your power
Angry? What will you do?! ... WHAT WILL YOU DO??!!
Anger is a high-energy emotion. There’s lots of power in it. Adrenalin, heart rate, sensory awareness and mental acuity all increase with anger. As Jim Carrey said in the movie The Mask, "You have to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well ... do ya? Punks?"
All that energy … which door will you choose? Go all emo and destructive, or opt for sexy and productive? Or slam the lid down hard and regret it later?
(Here's a hint: Try to get it out in a healthy way ... please. No one's yet made an adult rage diaper that really works.)
Right about now I hope you’re actually craving your next moment of rage.
If not, trigger yourself just so you can get good and angry and do something new and different with it! Need inspiration? Just check out the Starbucks holiday cups fracas for starters. Apparently that will piss you off. Then hit me back — hard! — with what your anger story is, OK?
Bill Protzmann is a speaker and life coach on a mission to raise awareness about the power of music as self care. Want to join the music care movement? Check out the Music Care website or sign up for lessons.