What’s going on underneath All that Anger?

Anger Iceberg

You just witnessed your child having a meltdown. Or maybe your partner or spouse is just fuming. Their face is all red and angry words are being thrown all over the place. What’s going on underneath all that anger and rage?

What is Anger?

Anger is a natural and necessary emotion. Our ancestors used anger to keep them safe from being attacked. Anger tells your body to move, to run to flee or to attack. Its a warning system. Anger can be a quick hot emotions or it can slowly creep up on you. It is a feeling that occurs when we feel attacked, deceived, frustrated, treated unfairly or wronged in some way. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry. It’s a real emotion. Sometimes it’s easier to show anger instead of other emotions such as shame, embarrassment, feeling threatened or inadequate. Children may show anger as they may be unable to express their emotions with words.

How to figure out what is going on underneath all that anger

Whether it’s your toddler, your tween, teen, your partner or even yourself who’s all anger it’s important to figure out what’s going on. After all being angry can prevent you from talking about what you need, expressing what needs to change, or asking for your needs to be met.

Here are some simple ways to figure out what is going on underneath all that anger

1) Breathe deeply

Take a deep breath. This is harder then you think. It’s important to calm and centre yourself so you don’t get caught up in the heat of the moment.  Anger catches people off guard. it can make you defensive or even trigger your own anger and rage.

2) Check your own Emotions

If you are angry, judgmental, rushed, not really interested in what they’re saying or feeling. This is not going to go well. In order for you to talk about emotions you need to make the conversation a safe place to talk about vulnerability.  No one is going to engage in a conversation with you if you are judging them and how they feel.

You need to be understanding, compassionate, and open to hear things that you may not want to hear from your child, your spouse, your siblings or even your parents. This takes courage because you may hear someone tell you how you have hurt their feelings.

Tell yourself and the person you are listening to ” I am trying to hear what you are saying. I might not get this right and we may have to stop. I am really going to try to hear what you want to tell me.”

3) Sit down or Crouch down

If you’re talking to your child, crouch down and get down to their level. Say to your child “I hear that you’re really angry. Is there anything else that you’re feeling? or  I can see you are angry. Could you be feeling something else too?”

See if you can get your teenager or your spouse to sit down somewhere to talk. You want to physically demonstrate you are open to hearing them.

This can be the time when you say would you like a cup of tea, a cup of coffee, some hot chocolate or get out the milk and cookies. You want to help soothe your child or your partner.

4) Start Listening

This means no defending your position, no shutting them down, no thinking of what you’re going to say back to them.

Truly listen to try to understand what is going on for your child, your partner or whomever you are listening to.

This can be really hard as they may say things that will make you angry, sad, you don’t want to hear, or you don’t want to know that you’ve done that hurt their feelings. Remember this is about getting the other person to express what they are experiencing and feeling. Too often we stop listening and start thinking about our own arguments or we go to problem solving and start offering solutions.

5) Listen, Listen, Listen

I know I just said that above. Can’t emphasize how important it is to be open to listening to what someone else has to say. Even when it get painful or uncomfortable. Listening is a gift to your relationship.

6) Know when to stop the conversation

If you start feeling your blood boil, you don’t care what they’re saying, or you want to shout back at them… Stop the conversation. Don’t let your anger overpower you.

It is OK to back out of conversations when done in a respectful manner. Let them know that this is an important topic, you want to hear what they have to say and you don’t want them getting more upset or hurt. It’s not that you want to ignore the problem and their feelings but you are getting overwhelmed and you don’t want to hurt them.

Not all conversations have to be one big long conversation. Sometimes a shorter conversation is bette. Assure the person you will make time to have this conversation again. And commit to a time to start this talk again.

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