Understanding and Using Anger

 

Betrayal trauma comes with lies, deceit and hurt.It’s ok to feel angry! You have the right to be angry.

The experience of anger can give us energy and a sense of power. It can be helpful to feel angry as it moves us towards change. However, anger can be intoxicating and feel comfortable to stay in longer than is needed to make change. Staying in anger keeps us from being vulnerable and allows us to stay away from other, more difficult emotions. In Harriet Lerner’s book The Dance of Anger, she discusses how anger can be a tool, and by engaging in the following areas we can sharpen this tool:

 

1.We can learn to tune in to the true sources of our anger and clarify our experience

To engage with anger in an effective way it’s important to understand that anger is a secondary emotion (or reaction to an emotion) and to observe other experiences that may be present. For instance you may be angry because your partner did not consult with you when they went forward with an expensive purchase, even though it was agreed that you would both discuss any expensive buying. The violation of the agreement, along with being left out of another decision can cause feelings of anger. Other feelings might include hurt, betrayalor fear that you cannot trust your partner. By creating space for all of the feelings (not just the anger) you can have a better understanding of what exactly you would like to do.

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2.We can learn communication skills

Having our anger heard can be healing. In order to do so it’s important to have a variety of ways to communicate our anger. It can be a temporary relief to blow up at a partner, however when this happens there is often limited or artificial change in the environment. Having effective communication skills allows for a higher chance for our anger to be heard and for authentic change to take place.

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3.We can learn to observe and change ineffective patterns

Harriet Lerner talks about the difficulty to observe patterns when we are in anger, however she states that this can be a powerful tool. By observing our interactions we’ll have a better understanding of how we might want to make a change. For instance, perhaps when you become angry you burst into tears and yell at your partner, this triggers a response from your partner to walk out of the room, you then follow your partner becoming louder and more upset. By seeing your moves in the pattern you will be empowered and able to make the changes you want to for a different outcome.

 

If you’re hoping to understand more about your anger and how to use it I would encourage you to read The Dance of Anger. If you’re interested in talking to a therapist about anger, betrayal trauma, or other experiences happening in your life please contact me to set up a free 20 minute phone consultation.

 

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