Anger. It is a normal and healthy emotion that we all feel. So how come we let it overwhelm us? How does it creep up on us and come bounding out of our mouths in a tirade of loudness directed at those little people who we love the most? I spoke briefly on this topic during a guest spot on a webinar for Stressed Out Mamas recently (hosted by Energetic Mama.) I have had lots of great feedback and requests to expand on the concepts I talk about. So I am going to break it down for you a little more in this post. To be honest a webinar or workshop on this topic alone would begin to scratch the surface a little more deeply but for now here goes;
Understanding anger and how it serves us
What is Anger? Anger is described as a normal emotion with a wide range of intensity, from mild irritation and frustration to rage. It is a reaction to a perceived threat to ourselves, our loved ones, our property, our self-image, or some part of our identity. Anger is a warning bell that tells us that something is wrong.
So if this is the accepted definition of anger, than it is easy to see how it can be positive and how it fits in to our ‘normal’ repertoire of emotions. It is a ‘defense emotion’ used to defend against a potential threat. It is also described as an emotion we feel when we perceive that we (or others) are being treated unfairly or unjustly. When positively directed anger can spur us in to action in defense of ourselves or others.
What gets in the way of us managing our anger? Or to be clearer what gets in the way of us managing our negative expressions of anger?
It is likely that this anger and the way we express it, serves us in some way. It is time to have a think, A little self assessment of how our expressions of anger towards our kids may possibly be serving us.
The way anger serves us is usually by giving us a sense of power or perceived control over a situation or person. Some of the ways that anger does this for us are;
- Helps us to ‘get our way’ from the person our expression is directed toward. (get them to be quiet, do as we have asked etc)
- Restore our sense of control when we begin to feel out of control of ourselves, the situation or the other person.
- Gives us a ‘reward’ of feeling morally superior to the other person (even if just for a few seconds before the guilt takes over)
- Gives us a rush of adrenaline which can feel good and makes us feel strong in the moment.
- Creates fear in others.
Whoa!! Really? My anger that is directed at my child is about that!? I don’t want any of those things for or at the expense of my child! If that is what you are thinking then GREAT! That is why I am putting this down in a post for you to get you thinking. If we are mindful of this we are more likely to be able to change our response, to get our power and sense of control back in other ways.
In no way are you consciously thinking ‘I want my child to be afraid of me’ or ‘I want to feel morally superior to my child’. When we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed in situations with our children, the anger can creep in because of our internal messages
- ‘Its not fair’
- ‘I always have to do everything around here’
- ‘No one listens to me’
- ‘My children have no respect for me’
These are all messages that are telling our brain that we are being treated unfairly, there is an injustice at play a threat is perceived. We mount an anger response and the negative expression is directed toward that whom we have perceived to treat us unfairly.
So the point of all of this is to say to ourselves –
- “My child is a child. They have not treated me unfairly or done an injustice toward me”
- “How is this negative expression of anger (yelling at my kids) serving me?”
- “What can I do to get my power back?
- “What can I do to support my child to get their power back?
A Mindful Response to the Overwhelming Anger
So once we have done this little self assessment exercise above, we are much more likely to be able to feel the overwhelming anger coming and head it off at the pass before it explodes out of our mouths. While you may not be able to eradicate the feeling of overwhelm in the moment, you can mindfully respond to the anger.
First you need to find a way to relax your body. Anger or angry energy is held as tension in our body that feels like it needs to explode out. Some things you can try to relax your body in the moment are;
- Take a really deep breath in and let all the tension out with your out breath. Physically encourageyour shoulders down with the out breath.
- If you are good at visualising, go to ‘your peaceful place’ while breathing.
- Move. wriggle your body, do some star jumps on the spot or your favourite stretch or yoga pose.
- Close your eyes and say to yourself or out loud “My body is relaxed” a few times.
Try an ‘Anger Mantra’ that you repeat to yourself a few times.
My Personal Anger Mantra- Anger is just an emotion, equal to all others, It is just energy. I am not anger, I can choose what to do with the angry energy.
After you have managed the angry energy in the moment;
- try to express or release it in some way later on if you can – draw, write, talk, cry whatever works for you to release any of that energy that remains stored.
- Take note of how angry energy travels through your body, where you feel it and any hints that your body and mind give you that it is on it’s way.
- Consider – How did it serve me? How can I ‘get my power back’ or gain a sense of self control?
If you have found this post resonates with you and you would like to explore these ideas from a more personal perspective;
- Get in touch with me to book a consultation, face to face or via skype from the comfort of your own home.
- Register your interest for the Tree House Mamas Support Circle starting in Term 4 2015. This one is a Face to Face group program. If you would be interested in an online version please let me know.
- Enter your name and email address in the Pop up here on my site to be emailed a link to ‘The Tree House Guide to helping your kids to listen to you’. A guide for parents who find themselves yelling at their kids because it feels like they don’t here you any other way!