Reminiscing back to your childhood days, you might recall throwing a fit at the candy aisle when your mother refused to get you that bag of skittles. Back then you felt free to express your negative emotions. You couldn't even have fathomed to keep them underlid in a box, that box would have exploded for sure.
Then over the years, we learned that expressing out loud our feelings more often than not didn't get us anywhere. Long gone are the days when we were understood and forgiven for having crossed the bounds of proper behavior. You are now a grown-up, it's time to start acting like it. Some might even suggest that you should suppress your anger altogether. But our feelings are still as potent as when we were kids. We've just learned to ignore them or bottle them up.
While suppressing your anger is probably wise to do in public or at your work place (you don't want to lose your job or be labeled as a psycho,) your frustrations stacked up on one another will slowly eat away at you. Studies have shown the link between cancer and suppressed anger:
"Cancer is caused by the suppression of toxic emotions; primarily anger, hate, resentment and grief. Suppression of these toxic negative emotions increases stress hormone cortisol levels, which directly suppress immune system function. When the immune system is not functioning properly, normal cells mutate into cancer cells as revealed in the 6 phases of cancer." (alternative-cancer-care.com)
You might be thinking that this rage you feel will always be a part of you, no matter how long you meditate or try to control it- it's still there underneath – like a dormant volcano. But you can learn to manage it and express it in healthy ways by putting into practice some useful and practical tips, so that it doesn't end up ruining your life.
So what are some ways we can express that oppressing anger in a healthy manner?
Here's what works for me:
1. Inner Reflection
Trough quiet reflection, identify the main events in your life that prompted anger to take residence inside your heart. Mistakes, personal failures, regrets, and poor choices may have amplified the guilt and anger. Write them down so as to capture the feelings, purging those experiences on paper, letting them free.
2. Let go through forgiveness
True forgiveness cannot be achieved without understanding and compassion. Let your inner voice reveal to you the deeper causes behind hurtful acts or words. As Simone Weil observes, "a hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves." Remember it never was about you. It becomes easier to forgive when you recognize the humanness in the other.
Similarly, forgive yourself for past mistakes. Dwelling on what ifs and should haves will continue to trap you in a vicious circle of negative thinking. There is an African proverb that says: "when there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you." When you have accepted yourself with all of your hang ups, getting past your regrets, your flaws and imperfections, you will be able to let go of self loathing and anger. As a result, people or circumstances will make you less angry. So if people push your buttons, there won't be an immediate knee jerk reaction. It all starts with you.
Instead use the hard earned lessons as a building platform for a new beginning.
Everyone deserves happiness and a fresh new start. If you continue to let guilt hold you back, you will never be able to experience life, the present moment to the fullest. Let it go. You've suffered long enough.
3. Keep it real
You have the ability to control your anger, it doesn't have to control you. Only you are responsible for your life and how you choose to react to any given situation.
Whenever you disagree with someone, and you start to feel the first bouts of anger coming on, hold your tongue and take conscious deep breaths instead. Leave the room. Let your heart rate return to normal until your mind is focused again.
When the time is right, express your frustration by talking about it in a calm manner. For instance you could say "I feel hurt when we are in a disagreement because I truly care what you think" or "why do you feel this way?" "how can we resolve this?" This way the conversation doesn't revolve around who's right or wrong. You let the other person know that you are willing to listen with a caring ear, making space for an honest and calm conversation to happen.
In this way you will save yourself the painful realization aftermath that the whole thing was over dramatized. A misunderstanding that could have been cleared out in the early stages had you just put your pride to the side for a moment.
If you don't have the possibility to talk it over, go for a run, listen to some music that speaks to you, play a video game, write in your journal your thoughts and feelings, or find an outlet to transfer that powerful emotion outward (without having to punch anyone.)
Visualize the person you love the most in your life for a few moments. Fill your heart with those positive feelings.
Now picture the person(s) who have hurt you in the past. Say "I forgive you." "I am releasing you." Try to feel the release of the negative energy in your body, heart, and mind. This doesn't mean that you are dismissing your justified feelings of anger. According to St. Augustine, "forgiveness is simply the act of surrendering our desire for revenge; that is, our desire to hurt someone for having hurt us." Forgiveness will unload a huge burden off your heart. Do it for yourself.
Recall the good moments you lived with the person(s) you have in mind; what they said or did that you appreciated. It will become easier to finally forgive and let go. Do it for yourself.
5. Accept that the past cannot be undone
Focus on improving your present life instead, which will determine your future. Holding on to resentful thoughts will only drag you backwards, also preventing you from cultivating meaningful interpersonal relationships. Your cynical mood will affect the way you see and interpret the world around you. As a result, you miss out on life and other beautiful moments. The past doesn't have to define you. But you can redefine your future self. Drop that bag of bricks you've been carrying around by starting a new chapter in your life. You have a another chance for happiness.
6. Accept the fact that a lot of things will always be beyond your control
Sometimes things don't go your way no matter how much control you think you have. Similarly, you cannot change people, all you can do is accept them as they are or walk away.
7. Choose to be more open instead of being angry and closed off
Personally, I find that the most effective way to let go of my anger is to ignore the voice that tells me to keep myself guarded (unless my gut is telling me so.) I tell myself instead that everyone is unique and different. People will respond to me based on how I respond to them in the first place.
Being honest and open creates a bonding experience. There is no room for anger when you lay it all out. By clearing up any misconception that may arise you can move forward instead of clinging to negative thoughts and assumptions. You reclaim your power by being authentic with yourself and others.
I choose to make conscious efforts to build genuine human connections, to see from other peoples' point of view before jumping to hasty conclusions.
Empathy and understanding of others defuse my angry feelings.
Cultivating better relationships, choosing forgiveness over bitterness, not letting the past affect my present life, and expressing my feelings in healthier ways, has led me to let go of past grudges and live life more in peace.
Anger is a normal human reaction. You just learned to rely on it too much for protection, but many times it is unnecessary and uncalled for. It damages your relationships and if it isn't properly managed, will damage your health as well.
This life is meant to be enjoyed. But an angry heart will kill joy every time. Rage is the most devastating and lethal human emotion. By effectively managing your anger instead of suppressing it or flying off the handle, you will gain more self confidence and self respect. You will reclaim your energy and peace of mind.
If your anger comes back like a sudden violent storm, don't deny it. Allow the emotion to pass and the raging water to return to calm. Let your pain get expressed, your side of the story get heard by talking about it in a normal tone instead of yelling. Then gently let the negative emotions go by deeply accepting yourself just as you are.