EP82 Your Anger Is A Powerful Messenger

Living With Your Child's Addiction Podcast
Living With Your Child's Addiction Podcast
EP82 Your Anger Is A Powerful Messenger

In this episode, Heather discusses the misunderstood emotion of anger and explores its valuable purpose. The discomfort that anger causes can lead to numbing and distracting behaviors that keep you from tapping into anger’s powerful messages. Heather offers 5 insights about anger to help you embrace and learn from it, and a 3 step process to move through your anger.  Listen and gain a new perspective on anger and learn to unlock its hidden wisdom.


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This transcript has not been formatted or edited.


Hey everybody. So this is the first episode I’ve done by myself in quite a while, but I’m excited about it. I like having guests on to add some variety to the podcast. But today there’s something that I want to share with you because I’ve had this come up a lot lately how uncomfortable people are about the feeling of anger. And I want to share with you what I have learned from anger.


It’s such a misunderstood emotion and it makes people feel so uncomfortable, but it’s also a really valuable emotion with an important purpose. So I’m going to share some of my journey with anger, tell you five things to help you understand anger better. And hopefully that will make it easier for you to embrace anger.


And then I’m going to share one way that I process anger that I think is really helpful. When I was younger, I just, I had this rage inside of me for a long time that I didn’t know what to do with. It’s probably one of the reasons that anger was so uncomfortable to me. I didn’t know why I felt that way. I just knew.


that I did not like how it made me feel because I felt so powerless when I felt such a rage and anger because I was really focused on the discomfort that it caused in my body and I had no way of working through it. I only knew how to act it out and that didn’t feel good either. So then I would just try to get away from it however I could.


rather than pausing to listen to the message that anger was there to deliver. And then within that message is how you actually work through the anger. But it required that pause and understanding. Because I didn’t know any of that, my anger just, it didn’t feel safe. I didn’t like how I acted when I felt it.


I just felt like the effect of it, like it was in control of me when I felt that way. And it was always just there right under the surface. Sometimes I would cover it up with a smile, say things that were okay when they weren’t okay with me, or for a long time I numbed with alcohol or overworking just so that I could create this false sense of being okay. But.


because anger and any other unpleasant emotion felt so out of control to me, I started shutting down all unpleasant emotions. Like I just didn’t like feeling them. I felt like they were a nuisance. And I didn’t realize though, that the problem with numbing my unwanted feelings like anger was that I also numbed


the wanted feelings like love, and joy, and excitement. So even though logically I knew, oh, this is an exciting experience, I thought about it being exciting, but I didn’t feel the excitement. Or when I thought something was fun, or…


about love. It was more the thoughts, logical process happening in my brain than emotions being felt in my body. And it really makes me kind of sad that I spent so many years of my life missing out on that because now I get to feel all of the emotions. And over the last year and a half since I’ve gone through such really deep grief,


it’s actually intensified my ability to feel the positive emotions that people want to feel all the time as well. So now it’s like even the deeper I’ve gone into the emotions that are uncomfortable, the more I can feel the intensity of the emotions that we all like so much. But I didn’t realize before that


I had numbed all of my emotions. I didn’t realize that I was intellectualizing everything until I started creating that mind-body connection so that I could feel my feelings. I actually had to analyze my way into feeling my feelings again. And I went through this process of unthawing so that I could feel again. And it was during that process.


all of the realizations came to me. And I started learning to allow and understand and how to regulate my own feelings, which of course then made me comfortable with my daughter’s feelings, because I had also taught her not to feel her feelings. And if her feelings were too big, I was really uncomfortable with them.


And so I would always just try to dismiss her feelings. Like I look back now, I know that’s what I was doing was dismissing her feelings that I wasn’t intentionally thinking I’m going to dismiss her feelings. But what I was thinking was, well, feeling is really inconvenient. So let me help her move past this. And I just didn’t realize the importance of feelings.


And so once I started getting comfortable with my own emotions, then I was comfortable with hers and I would allow her to have a big emotion around me. She could be upset. I would actually encourage her to be like, yeah, this really sucks. You should be upset about it. And that’s something that I wish that I had learned to do sooner, but I’m grateful that I at least learned how to


accept all of my feelings so that I could get that experience of allowing hers as well. So if you’re not comfortable with your own emotions or you’re not comfortable with other peoples, it’s just a signal to you that you have some work to do there to be more comfortable with your own emotions. The more comfortable you are with yours, the more comfortable you’ll be able to be with other people’s.


So something that was really pivotal for me in that process of learning to understand my feelings was when I heard somebody talking about drinking and they said that it was a distraction from your feelings and that drinking is how people make unacceptable situations acceptable. And hearing that, that just really caught my attention.


And it made me curious about like, what’s so unacceptable in my life that I want to numb all the time. And that curiosity was the beginning of my journey toward feeling emotions again. So here’s five things that I’ve learned about anger since I learned how to process my feelings. Number one is that anger


along with all other unwanted or uncomfortable emotions, is a signal of an unmet need. So anger is telling you that something isn’t fair or that you aren’t getting what you want and that you need to do something about it. So the unmet need is the need for things to be fair or for you to get what you want. So when I’m coaching somebody,


and they say that they’re angry, I ask them what feels unfair about what they’re experiencing, and then that opens the door for them to understand their anger. So the next time that you’re feeling angry, just pause and ask yourself what feels unfair so that you can switch from being like in the anger to observing it and being curious about it.


Number two, your anger comes from your thoughts. It’s yours, not anybody else’s. It comes from inside of you, not anything that happens outside of you. So that means nobody else causes your anger. Our brains work in a think, feel, act cycle. So we have circumstances in our life that we have


thoughts about, and those thoughts about those circumstances release the chemicals that create the sensations that we feel in our body as a feeling. And then we take actions based on our feelings. So for example, let’s use the circumstance that your child that’s struggling with substances says the words.


I hate you. So their exact words, not your interpretation of them, but your exact words are a factual circumstance. The act of them saying the words, I hate you, doesn’t create your feelings. Your thoughts about what they said create your feelings. So…


They say, I hate you. And then you have a thought like, you’re so rude. I do everything for you. Or you’re so disrespectful. Those thoughts release the chemicals that create the sensation that you feel in your body is anger. And so then your feelings are not coming from the words that they said or anything outside of you. And I just.


keep repeating that because it’s so important for you to know that it’s coming from inside of you because that’s really powerful. If it’s coming from you, then that also means that you have agency and that you can change it. And that is something that I didn’t know until I was in my 40s. I always felt like my feelings…


were determined by things that people outside of me did. And then that’s part of what made me feel so out of control and powerless about my emotions, because I didn’t know the things that I could do to change them. Or I didn’t even understand them. I don’t always want to change my feelings today. That’s not always the motivation. First, it should be just to understand them and hear the message that they’re giving you. But, so then,


You don’t want to take action based on your feeling of anger. So you want to pause. So remember, we’ve got the think-feel-act cycle. You have a thought, creates a feeling. We take action from the feelings. You don’t want to take action from the feeling of anger, because chances are it’s not going to be very effective action. You’re probably not going to feel very good about the action that you’re taking from anger.


So the key is you wanna pause and create some clarity before you take action. You wanna take action from a different emotion that comes from an intentional thought. So you wanna take an action from a feeling like love or compassion or courage, not anger. Number three, technically, anger is considered a primary emotion, but


Experience has shown me that there is always something painful underneath it, like fear or disappointment, grief, powerlessness, shame, sadness, anything like that. So I find it helpful to look deeper at what’s underneath the anger when you’re looking for a way to work through it. So if I’m coaching somebody and then I get…


to, you know, they say they’re angry, I ask them what’s unfair, we get to what’s unfair. I just keep going with the questions or conversation until we get to what’s really underneath it. And a lot of times that’s often something painful rather than anger. It’s just that it’s easier to be angry. But then when that those, you know, hurt feelings are identified.


it’s easier to get to an intentional thought and feeling if you take the time to go through that whole process. Number four, when you numb anger and other unwanted emotions, you miss the opportunity to learn what matters to you. So when I was numbing my feelings and not allowing them, I really wasn’t sure what…


mattered to me as far as how people treated me. I didn’t have any boundaries because I was always reacting to what other people did. And I would say that I was okay with things that I wasn’t okay with. And I allowed things in my life that I later realized were completely unacceptable to me. But I allowed those things because I didn’t stop and listen.


to the wisdom of my anger or other emotions and what they were telling me that I wanted and needed. And so another part of that was that I rarely got my needs met. I was just focused on meeting everybody else’s needs. But that kept me from truly knowing myself. I knew everybody around me. I knew what they liked. I knew it was important to them, but not what was important to me. And


I didn’t know how I felt about things and didn’t even realize it because that was just what I was used to. Number five, anger is meant to be a short-term emotion. So we don’t want to live in an angry state of being, which could be really easy because some people are really comfortable with anger. It feels powerful.


because there’s so much intensity that comes with it. So a person who feels really out of control might actually feel more in control because they get that sense of power that comes with it. But again, like I said earlier, there’s just, we’re not gonna take good actions from anger. So we only want to experience it in the short term or as long as we need to, to get.


the message from it and where we can just sit with it, hear what it’s trying to tell us. It’s a strong signal that’s meant to get your attention and help you change. You just don’t wanna stay there. Cause it can easily move from being like an energizing emotion to an exhausting one. So if you think of you’re constantly acting out your anger rather than taking the time to process it and see what the message


that it’s delivering is, and you’re not going to feel good about how you show up in your life because you’re going to have angry outbursts, be unpredictable and volatile, and you can’t create healthy connections that way. And that’s what we all really want. And then on the other side though, if you internalize that anger rather than acting it out and you turn it against yourself and you blame yourself, like say you’re blaming yourself for your child’s substance use, then…


that’s gonna steal your joy and your ability to see things clearly. And again, it’s going to steal your ability to connect. It can also lead to depression. So you don’t want to get stuck there in anger. You want to work through it and move through it based on what it’s telling you that you need.


So here’s one way to process through anger. It’s a three-step process that I learned from the book, The Secret Language of Feelings by Kelvin Banyan. I highly recommend that book. I tell all of my clients to read it. It’s incredible. It really does an amazing job of explaining your primary and secondary emotions.


and what they’re all trying to tell you. So step one is to identify the feeling. Is it anger or are you irate or enraged or something else? Emotional vocabulary is really important. So taking the time to look up what different feelings mean and realize and understand how they feel in your body.


is really important. So take the time to figure out exactly what you’re feeling if it’s something, some form of anger. Step two, identify the cause. So you want to write down all the details about the unfair situation. And it’s important to write it down so you can get it out of your head and onto a piece of paper.


so that you can get some space from it, and then it’s not just in your mind. You can read it over and evaluate it when you write it on a piece of paper. Step three, list some of the satisfying responses to the unfair situation. So come up with some ideas, some ways that you can respond to it that make you feel better.


And here’s three ways that you can do that. First, you do a reality check, checking to see if the situation is truly unfair, or is it possible that you can change your perception? Second, if the situation is truly unfair, is there a way that you can make it more fair or fair? And then number three,


If the situation is unfair and there is no way to make it fair, who can you forgive? So I want to point out that forgiving is for you and your peace of mind. So if I go back to the example I used earlier of your child saying that they hate you.


That doesn’t mean you’re forgiving to make what they said OK with you, because that’s the opposite of this process. You need to know that that’s not OK with you. That’s what the wisdom is here. That’s the message for you, that it’s not OK for your child to talk to you that way. There might be some additional steps that you need to take here, like setting a boundary, where you temporarily disengage from conversations when your child talks to you like that.


That’s how you meet that need for yourself. But if it wasn’t for the wisdom of anger, you might continue to participate in unproductive conversations like that. So you can see how that is helpful to know. And I’m choosing my words really carefully here as I talk about this, because I want to point out that boundaries don’t control other people’s behavior. They’re about what you will do when somebody else’s behavior is not OK with you.


So you can’t stop your child from saying that they hate you. You can ask them not to, but if they choose to say it anyway, you can let them know that it’s time for a break and that you will talk to them more later when they’re able to engage in a productive conversation. So it’s not that we go through this process of forgiveness.


or making things fair so that we accept things that are unacceptable to us. It’s so that we learn how to create our own peace of mind and going through the process of taking it one step further in this example. It’s not just working through your anger, but then what do I need to do to help myself in this situation in the future, which is setting a boundary that will protect you?


So there you go. Anger is actually a good feeling. It just has a bad reputation. So the next time you get angry, remember this podcast episode and ask yourself what wisdom your anger is signaling to you, and then pause and listen to what it has to say.