Think about what happens when a young child doesn’t get what he wants. Tantrum. No holds barred anger. That’s our untamed, natural and healthy response to powerlessness. Our caregiver’s job is to teach us how to regulate and manage that well of anger in appropriate and effective ways. But if life teaches us to be victims, that anger can go underground. One of the way’s to begin the journey back to empowered personal effectiveness is to make friends with our hidden anger.
Get in Touch with Anger: Anger can be deeply buried in the victim thinker’s consciousness. We often like to think of ourselves as “nice” people and nice people don’t do anger. But the anger’s there and we need to allow it to surface so that we can get used to how it feels and how it can serve us rather than overwhelm us.
There is no right or wrong about the emotion of anger. It just is. But feeling something is different from acting it out. If you feel compelled to express anger, try punching pillows. Letting anger emerge in a safe activity like pillow punching helps us to recognize and get used to the way anger feels in the body. What at first feels overwhelming and ugly can, when brought down to appropriate levels, feel empowering. It can take a long time to unleash and then tame anger. It’s important not to act on the emotion until we are sure the actions we take are safe for ourselves and others.
Stop Feeding Anger: The anger of a victim thinker is fed by thinking. It’s fed by beliefs that things “should” be a particular way, that reality should be anything other than what it is. We mightn’t like the way reality is but the starting point for empowerment is to stop wishing or believing it should be otherwise. Our spouse is not obliged to love us, our boss to recognize our achievements, our friends to be always there for us, our children to do what we want them to do or anybody to be nice to us. We might want those things but as long as we’re stuck in believing we should have them, we are stuck in powerlessness.
If we can stop the flow of thinking that tells us we can’t do for ourselves and that life should be other than what it is, we can begin to ask ourselves “What Next?” What am I going to do about this situation that I don’t like, this relationship that is not what I want it to be. The key here is “I”, what am I going to do, not what is the other person going to do. When we reach this point we become actors in life, not reactors.
For more information and exercises on managing and growing from anger, see Radical Awareness: 5 Practices for a Fully Engaged Life.