Six Steps To Healthy Anger: Consume Your Anger So It Doesn’t Consume You

The British Psychological Society states that Bottling Up Your Anger May Be Good For You.

Let’s say that the above header makes me angry. (It doesn’t, but let’s pretend it fills me with rage.)

Imagine that the content and phrasing make me want to yell and scream, “No! You nitwits! “Bottling” is the entirely wrong word…” and in my rage I go on my blog  on Facebook, or Twitter, and I rant about the negative consequences of how social science research is reported online. In my rant I could go overboard and compare the British Psychological Society and it’s website to the sorts of people everyone seems to despise.

What would happen then? Well, firstly I would alienate pretty much everyone who’d I’d want to listen, and some who could help. I’d alienate people who like catchy headlines and I’d alienate fellow therapists as well as hard-core scientists because they’d be embarrassed by my outrage.

An angry outburst would probably also bug my clients, because together we strive for clarity and compassion, not for polemics or tantrums. In short, no one likes the person who stands with the blow-horn and tells the world it’s stupid. (Unless they are funny and make you laugh while doing it.)

In the above case, absolutely, it would  have been better to “bottle up” my anger than to pour it all out. That would be a wise first step. Acknowledging my anger but refraining from acting on it in a public way would have been the better course of action (or inaction). However, bottling it up is obviously not an end result in itself. The girl in the picture is going to want to drink her orange juice when she’s thirsty. And Coke-a-cola doesn’t bottle it’s product so it can stay shelved, bottled forever. Coca-Cola Co. bottles pop now so it can later sell it to children and make lots of money for dentists.

How to Bottle (and Release) Your Anger Safely

At best, bottling our anger is only a part of a fuller process. The next step would be to decide whether to drink the anger alone  or later with a friend or trusted advisor? Do we let it sit until it loses its fizz and can sip it without getting gassy? Or do we gather with our teammates, shake the bottle up, and pop the cork, so we can use our shared anger to unite for our better interests?

There are lots of safe and good ways to drink from a bottle of anger and each drink has it’s own time and context. But it’s safe to say that anger is usually best consumed after some mixture of reflection and distraction have added other items – like perspective and wisdom – to our shelves.

It’s clear that everyone lives better when we wisely use our emotions, including anger, in balanced and constructive ways. Maybe we do bottle it up for a while, so we don’t throw a tantrum and hurt other people’s feelings. Perhaps, because we are grown ups, it’s best to refrain from blurting out hurtful things or acting on angry impulses, particularly when doing so would upset our children, cause damage to our relationships, tick off our bosses, embarrass anyone on the internet (or all of the above).

Consuming our anger properly is simple in theory but very difficult to do. Luckily, we get better with practice and time.

Below are my recommendations for managing your anger in a healthy way:

Six Steps To Consuming Anger

  1. Bottle your anger.
  2. Set it aside for a while. In that time, add cans of wisdom and boxes of perspective to your shelf.
  3. If your anger is carbonated, let the fizz fizzle; if it’s orange juice, let the pulp settle.
  4. When you’re ready to drink, open your anger carefully – do not shake!
  5. Drink!
    and, lastly:
  6. Share with someone who can help.

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