Managing Anger in a Healthy Manner
We are truly free when we feel safe to express all of our emotions.
All of our feelings are valid – even anger. However, our actions, as expressions of these feelings, need to be managed so that we do not cause damage to others.
Noticing that we are feeling angry is a great place to start when managing our own anger. For many years when growing up, I didn’t believe I felt anger. At some point in my early childhood I’d decided that anger wasn’t okay, so I simply denied that I was ever angry. When I finally
acknowledged its existence as part of my suite of available emotions, I had to begin to affirm anger as valid and then slowly, through trial and error, work out ways to best express it – both on my own and in the presence of others. I found yelling at the top of my voice out in a large field extremely effective. This is an on-going journey for me, though it’s become a more efficient one since I need to support my own children travelling this path.
Having recognised our own anger, the next step is to consider what tends to spark those feelings. For me, this usually involves frustration at things not going my way and feeling out of control. When working with children we may often feel angry about them not doing as we wish or feeling we are not in control. While lack of control is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be very stressful at the time. Expressing this feeling without blame or turning it into an attack on others is an effective way to defuse the intensity in the moment: “I’m really struggling right now!”
Lastly, during times of calm and creativity, we can create ways to acknowledge and express our angry feelings so that they do not cause those around us to feel attacked by our communication or actions.
When others are expressing their anger around us, the single most helpful action we can take is to acknowledge their feelings verbally or with a nod to say, “I get that you’re feeling angry.” Recognising that they are feeling angry right
then, let them be with that emotion rather than avoiding it, ignoring it or getting caught up in it. Keeping calm and ensuring our own safety until the storm has abated is wise. It’s not about us at this moment. It’s about them expressing a feeling they have at that time. No matter what they are saying or trying to do to us, their actual message is, “I’m feeling angry and I need some help to express it and move on!”
Once expression and acknowledgement has occurred, a choice of action can then be taken. This may be to continue expressing the feelings further or to take some time to calm down, alone or together. Working together can be fun.
How are you showing your anger? Acknowledge and reflect on how you express your own anger. Make changes you feel necessary, one at a time.
Notice when you’re getting distressed. Say how you’re feeling, either to yourself or out loud. Choose a method of calming down. Here are some ideas:
Take three slow, deep belly breaths and say, “Stop,” and breathe; “Calm,” and breathe. “Do no harm,” and breathe.
Get outside for a walk, run, dance or twirl.
Have a bath or shower.
Knead dough, whisk ingredients – get cooking!
Write, draw or do crafts to both relax you and express your feelings.
Do something else that helps you to move on through the anger.
So you get angry, too. Acknowledge children’s angry feelings when they occur. What words could you give them to help them really express their distress? Let them know what you see with patience and generosity, such as, “I see you’re really feeling angry!” Perhaps add, “Would you like some help to calm down?”
Get the anger together. Show children you understand how they’re feeling in a fun but genuine and respectful way. Use full body expressions such as stamping feet, clenching your teeth and hands and opening your mouth and/or eyes wide – really experiencing the anger – while finding out just how angry they really are. “Are you angry enough to eat the sun?”
Hmm, how did that go? When you are both calm, discuss what the experience was like for each of you.
Find another way. Offer options to help children articulate their feelings, including feelings of anger, using drawings of faces or images or colours they can point to or talk about.
Create an anger expression plan. Include any of the previous suggestions along with: stomp feet, clench hands, jump up and down, stretch up tall or curl up in a ball, run around in circles or speed down the hall, either roll on the grass or lie gazing up at the sky, punch a cushion, crush a spongy ball, rip up paper, roar loudly like a lion for as long as you need, yell, “I’m so angry I could jump over a volcano!” or something else outrageous.
Recover and reconnect. Breathing deeply while saying together, “Stop, calm, do no harm,” can be very helpful. Where is a special place you can sit and be together? What are some lovely things you could do to enjoy each other once more? Forgiveness is key.
After an episode, consider together, “What can we do differently next time? What other ways could we choose to express our anger?” Acknowledge and discuss the good choices you each made. Role-play the situation to help you remember other options and create different outcomes for next time.