What is Anger?
The dictionary definition of anger is a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility. There are two things I want to highlight here. The first is that anger is a feeling – just a feeling. Second, anger encompasses more than feelings of hostility and includes feelings of annoyance and displeasure, too.
Anger is an emotion. It is just like happiness, fear or sadness. Emotions by themselves are not wrong. They are something instinctive in us. But emotions are powerful – they can move people to action. The actions that result from emotions are what are assessed as right or wrong. It is not the emotion itself.
Why Doesn't Everyone Like Anger?
From my interactions with many people, few are able to detach behaviors from the cause – emotions – especially if the behaviors are negative. After all, the fuel of almost all crimes of passion is anger. At its worst, anger kills.
But anger doesn’t just harm physically. It can also severely harm other people emotionally. That’s why anger can be seen as dangerous.
If you think about it, fire is also dangerous. However, people have found ways to harness the power of fire and to help them in their daily lives. The same can be done with anger.
How Can Anger Lead to Emotional Health?
Just like fire rightly handled, anger can light up our lives, disinfect our emotional wounds for healing, protect us from predators, and ‘cook’ us to maturity – enhancing our natural flavors.
1. Anger allows us to know ourselves.
Like a fire that shines light, anger shines light on our values and what are the things we hold dear.
Why were you hurt? What made you feel offended? Why did you feel insecure?
Back in school, it takes an exam to identify what we really know and what we don’t know. Anger does the same. If someone jokes about something and you feel violated, that means you hold that topic in high regard. If you feel jealous that your friend is hanging out with someone else, that might mean that your friend is more than a friend.
If you know yourself, it makes it easier to move forward, to make decisions, and to say ‘no’ graciously.
2. Anger can be one of the initial steps to healing
I once read that one of the reasons why people cling to anger is that if they let go of it, they will realize how hurt they have been.
Sometimes, they are just not ready to face the pain. Henri Nouwen said that to heal, you should revisit the pain, but only when you are strong enough. If someone revisits the pain but they are not ready emotionally to experience the wounds, they might get depressed. In a way, being angry helps them keep sane.
I recently read a book entitled ‘Toxic Parents Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life’. The author detailed how she found it unhelpful that some of her clients skipped the step of being angry, or they addressed their anger at the wrong targets – themselves. She outlined how many of our structures in society (religious, culture, etc) encourage suppression of anger and how she found her clients unable to move on with their healing process because of suppressed or refusing to feel angry. Based on my personal experience, I agree with her. Unless you acknowledge your anger and work on the trigger (the assault on your values), it is difficult to get healed.
3. Anger protects us and gives us control
Unfortunately today, there are more and more people who do not respect boundaries. Expressing anger strongly states where your personal boundaries are which people should not cross. It gives you control over how you want to be treated rather than being treated as a pushover.
When I was starting out as a teacher, I was told that with kids, you have to be firm otherwise, they will keep on pushing the boundaries and you’ll have a disruptive class. I don’t think many of us have outgrown this tendency to push the boundaries. Is it because of our capitalistic society or is it because of society continuing to redefine boundaries according to a certain group’s outlook?
If you look at history, we have many examples of a certain group obtaining only the rights they deserve after they have resorted to firmer and more ‘hostile’ actions: women’s rights, ending of slavery, freedom of several countries, worker’s rights. I am not promoting terrorism but what I’m trying to say is that when boundaries with regard to human dignity are crossed, it provokes. And sometimes, anger rightly expressed is the only weapon to get what was wrong right.
In our personal lives, many people still try to test us until when we will give in. Many are programmed to try to take as much for themselves. If you leave with housemates, there will always be people who would not do their fair share of cleaning the house. In school group works, there are always people who refuse to do their fair share of work. In relationships, there are many times that people will abuse your friendship and just continue ‘taking’. There is always room to talk peacefully. However, there is a point where you just have to realize that it is more effective to say what is happening is making you angry.
Expressing rightful anger gives you control over the situation when you’re feeling weak. It gives a strong message to the aggressor that you will not let him push further. True, you might lose some ‘friends’ but friends shouldn’t be taking advantage of each other.
4. Expressing anger can help us mature.
We do not always get angry for the right reasons. But if we share with others that we are angry, we can get people to help us see what is right from wrong. This is essential to maturing emotionally.
Sharing that you feel angry with someone mature can help you shed light on why you are feeling what you are feeling and share points on why you shouldn’t be feeling this way. People usually share this with counselors and it makes me feel sad that they would willingly share this with a stranger but not with friends. For me, it just shows that people around them are not mature enough to handle conflicts.
Handling conflicts does not mean there is always a restitution of relationship. Sometimes, the more mature way is to accept that their both parties cannot agree and just agree to disagree. Being able to accept that you have to make choices and you can’t have it all is another sign of maturity. When you know you can let go, you know you have grown.
How to Be Angry Positively
We all desire acceptance. We all desire to belong. We all desire to be liked. We all desire to be loved. That’s why many people do not want to express anger because it turns people off. But I think expressing the right anger sieves through who are the people who should be in your lives. For this, you need to express anger in a positive manner. There are two things that you need to note. First, express anger for the right reasons and second, express your anger in a positive way.
1. Express anger for the right reasons.
There are right and wrong reasons to be angry about. Like I shared with you earlier, feeling angry is neither good nor bad. It is just a feeling. However, should you choose to express it, think over it and make sure you express your anger for the right reasons.
Is someone constantly abusing you or taking advantage of you? Are you being treated without dignity? Are you being disrespected? Is the cause you are fighting for just? Was someone physically harmed? First, take a stand. Be firm. And if being firm is not working, you can tell the person that what he is doing is making you angry. If the person still continues, just cut ties. But don’t think that you were wrong to express your anger.
2. Express anger in the right way.
Maintain respect for the individual. Express anger at the attitude, not the person. Seek to correct, not to get even.
Before being angry, ask yourself what you want to achieve. At the end of the day, many just want to make things right when the soft approaches did not work.
Maintain respect for the individual. Try to use positive or neutral words. Never insult them. I think this will be easier if you focus your anger on the attitude, not the person.
It is really difficult to see the person and the action as two separate entities. But seeing them separately helps us greatly. Do you love the person less if he has done something that made you angry? Do you care for him less? Do you disrespect his personhood less? If you see the action as the person, then it will be difficult to express your anger. However, if you see them differently, it will be easier for you to focus on what really is the issue. The issue is the action.
I don’t believe that anger management means anger suppression. I believe that it means healthy expression of anger. Based on my experience, expressing anger to achieve a healthy goal is helpful. That goal should be to right what is wrong. It is never to seek to get even or to get vengeance. Once you get what is right, then it should stop there.
Anger Doesn't Have to be Bad
Feeling angry is all right. It’s how you express your anger that counts. So learn to express your anger in a healthy way. After all, when you’re happy, you can’t help but smile. If you’re angry, it is not always easy not to express it. You have to accept both ideas: being angry is ok and you have to express your anger healthily.
Here are some books you may want to read to help you with anger.
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Write to Feel Right – Writing a Journal to Survive a Broken Family (Surviving a Broken Family Rule 3)
Journal therapy has been used by counselors to help their patients deal with traumatic and emotional experiences. In journaling, you write not just the events in your life but also your emotions and thoughts about these events. This activity allows you to consolidate your emotions, express yourself, acknowledge reality and it can be a source of encouragement as you move forward. If you have gone through the experience of your parents getting divorced, separated or having their marriage annulled, or any other emotionally draining episodes, writing a journal will help you deal with the frustrations and help you move forward.
Benefits of Writing a Journal
1. Writing Helps Consolidate Emotions
Have you ever been in a situation where you are at a loss for words? You don’t even know where to start when expressing yourself. Start writing.
When you are going through an intensely emotional experience, most of the time, you don’t even know what you want to say, or how you feel about things. By writing, you put down your thoughts into paper and it allows you to take a step back and see where you are from an outsider’s point of view.
There is a reason why the great speeches have to be written and drafted before they are delivered. That’s because you want to see the totality of the message you are delivering. When you write, you can see what and how are you feeling from all angles that matter to you. You can also identify areas where you have questions. As a result, you develop an understanding of what you really are feeling at that point in your life.
Tips for Writing:
2. Writing allows you to express your true self
You may be afraid of rejection once people know what you really are feeling. Your journal will not reject you. So you can be true to yourself.
One of the things that children feel when their parents separate is the feeling of being unwanted. Some ask, ‘If I had been a good girl, I think my dad would have stayed.’ But the reality is that it was not their fault. But that is still the message that they get.
So the kids become afraid of rejection and they end up hiding their true self. They wear masks. This becomes a habit and may reach a point where one no longer knows who he really is. You don’t need to wear a mask when you write a journal because there will not be a rejection.
You can be comfortable with what you write, even your darkest secrets. The fact is what you feel and who you are is real. The only thing you need to note is that this should not be the end. You have already lost something, so don’t lose yourself. Those who know and accept themselves are bound to find joy.
And I believe everyone is good. Everyone’s true self is good. And if you know where you are right now, it is easier to make resolutions to who you want to be in the future.
Tips for writing:
3. Writing reminds you of reality
Denial is part of the grieving phase and writing allows you to get out of the denial stage.
When you write things, you make a record of the events that really happened. As long as you write truthfully, it will be a good reminder of what has been lost. It helps show you the reality until you can accept it.
Another good reason to write is that you can also write the blessings and good events that come your way. This will remind you that it’s not all bad things that are happening around you. There are good things, too. And when you see the good things, it helps you see that the reality you face still contain joy despite the trials. When you see that good things still happen, won’t it be easier to get out of the denial stage? After all, something good awaits you so why spend more time feeling desolate?
Tips for writing:
4. Writing encourages you as you move forward
In the future, once you read about the worst times in your life, you will feel proud of yourself that you were able to pull through. It will also give you confidence to strive for a better future.
I have travelled down the memory lane through my journals. And it’s a great reminder how far I’ve come, and how I have been taken care of by God. When I see how I’ve triumphed in the past, it puts a smile on my face. I hope you’ll experience this, too.
Tips for writing:
I just want to emphasize that while I have been advocating writing as you feel, this is only part of the healing process. This serves as an aid. It helps you see reality but also helps you see that good things still happen in your lives. Use your journal as a reminder; let it help you move forward. But remember, you still need to make a decision where you want to go.
Learn more about writing to heal from the books below:
And then accept it. And move forward.
At one point in your life, you have to revisit this even and go through the pains to face it and own it. Accept that it happened, don't deny it. Denying it does not change the past but it changes your future. Grieve over the disappointments, the broken dreams and promises, the future that is forever lost, the future that will not be within your reach no matter how hard you try.
Not grieving is like building a house without a strong foundation; it's skipping the first process and eventually, you'll be haunted by your past.
You don't have to deal with the pain immediately. In fact, Henri Nouwen suggests in his book 'The Inner Voice of Love'
I started dealing with the pain of my parents' separation 20 years after it happened. I guess I wasn't ready to revisit this part of my life earlier. I didn't know how hurt I was; after all, my life turned out well. I did great in school and I've held my ground. But just because my life turned out well, it didn't mean that my parents' separation was ok.
Many people try to justify what happened in the past was good because eventually something good came out of it. But this is not an excuse to say that what happened was not all right. Every child has a right to a father and a mother who provide a loving and safe home. If the parents separated due to domestic violence, you can't grieve if you keep on telling yourself that it was for the best. As a child, you didn't deserve or need a violent household as much as you need separated parents. It couldn't be helped if you parents have to separate, but it wasn't the best situation. It was probably the best solution but it was not the best situation. Until you understand what you deserved - a loving family - you will not be able to grieve.
Never feel that you have no right to feel pain. But whatever you do, know that it is not your fault. You have nothing to grieve about yourself. It was the situation. Don't go into self-pity mode. Accept that there was nothing you could have done to keep your parents together. They did not get divorced or separated because of you - it was because of their limitations to maintain a family. Try to understand them and love them just the same.
Do Not Self-Destruct
So, your parents are undergoing a divorce, or your parents are getting separated. Indeed, it's a tough life you have. And though you see that broken families are becoming a norm in our society, that fact does not negate the pain you are feeling. The truth hurts. (Ouch!)
I came from a broken family. My parents separated when I was eight; my father left my mom for her cousin. Many people who see me now are surprised that I came from a broken family. Who wouldn't be? I got my university degree from the National University of Singapore. I was a scholar since I was in fifth grade. I have a good job. I have good friends, and my mom was able to successfully support my two younger brothers and I. I have a lot to thank God for. And I have a lot to share to people whose life are like mine when I was an eight year old girl.
Yes, if you are a son or a daughter of a couple whose relationship is crumbling, this is for you. If you are a parent who has not thought about about your kid(s) during while contemplating separation, this is for you. If you are a parent who hopes that your kid(s) will eventually be able to cope up with the separation, this is for you, so you could see what they had to go through.
Just a disclaimer: My mom had been very good. I don't blame my mom or my dad for anything. I don't believe that parents separate with the intention of spiting their kids. It's just that my parent's union was never really right to begin with.
So here I start with Rule Number 1:
Do not self-destruct
By this time, you probably feel that the whole world is conniving to destroy your life. It must have been written in the stars for you to be miserable. You might be even wondering if this is a result of the e-mail chain that you broke, or a result of you breaking that mirror (ok, I'm kidding). But jokes aside, yes, I believe at this time, you probably think that Murphy's Law is absolute. Everyone, and everything, is out to destroy your fairy tale.
It might take a while, it might take a long time. But for sure, if you self-destruct, your healing will take a longer time. Because you're not only healing the wounds from your parents' separation, you'll also need to heal the wounds you've inflicted on yourself.
If you can't think of anything right now, just remember this: Don't self destruct!
I'll be writing the other rules I've followed to survive happily. So stay tuned and hang in there, my friend. The rainbows will come one day.
I’ve read many books on love and relationship and I have come to summarize them in five points.
The five Cs: Creed, Character, Committed, Chemistry, Cashflow.
I’m a firm believer that when a man and a woman decide to pursue their relationship, they should see to it that there core beliefs align with one another’s. There are things in people that they feel cannot be compromised. Superficial things may be changed. You can train yourself to squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom and not from the top but some things cannot be changed because they form the core of who you are.
For myself, that would be my faith in God. It is something that I won’t compromise. Many think that this is a negotiable factor but the truth is, faith, usually, is in the core of most people. So before you let yourself be lifted up in cloud nine, ask yourself if your fundamental creeds match.
The acid test for me on this one is whether I want little hims or hers running around and I believe that these little ones will make the world a better place one day. When your kids turn out like him or her, would you be a proud parent?
Habits are ingrained. And the children grow up mimicking their parents’ examples. Do you want to have your kids grow up acting like he does?
I certainly don’t want my kids to grow up without respect for any one, even the humblest of our brothers and sisters. I don’t want them cursing or addicted to porn. I want them to grow up with integrity and with charitable humanity. I want them to learn what being committed really means.
While I think committed can fall into character – because a person of character knows how to honor commitment – our society nowadays have not been highlighting examples of being committed so I think this deserves another point. You’ll want to be married to someone who will honor his/her promise to forever, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part. It’s easy to promise forever on better, health and richer but true commitment is seen when he/she sticks by his word during the worse times, the poorer times, and in sickness both of body and spirit.
Let’s face it. Nobody wants to be in a relationship where you just live with each other because both of you are committed. You want to be in a committed loving relationship.
I find it ironic that I have to write ‘committed loving relationship’. Before, loving also meant committed. In fact, loving used to be a more holistic word encompassing commitment and feelings but today, our society equates love to infatuation and the high you feel when you’re with someone. Now it feels like there are lots of disclaimers with one says ‘I love you.’
Back to the topic, you still need chemistry. I recognize that there will probably be less divorce in our world if people only learned that commitment should take precedence over what one wants because at the end of the day, we are made for giving to others more than we are made for taking. However, I still believe that marriage is much more enjoyable when you’re with your best friend. You guys need to click. Both of you should be able to laugh and cry and work well together.
If you look at periodic table, the noble gases are probably those called to singlehood. But as for the other elements, there are lots of choices with which to form a stable molecule with. And there are a lot more people in this world than there are elements in the periodic table so I’m sure chemistry should not be a problem.
Also, I think it helps to learn the five languages of love and that there are, indeed, differences between men and women. Like you needed to learn chemistry in school, you also need to learn how to handle chemistry in real life.
There you have it. Maintaining relationships is not really that complicated but it is demanding. If you're considering marriage, you should approach it with either a forever or a forNever mindset. No in-betweens.
For the kids, the trauma of having to live with a broken family is undeniable. Though many brush it off, it haunts them when they are alone, it haunts them in the silence of their hearts. Many may deny it and try to appear strong but we all need healing. And here are the things I followed to help me cope.
Friend, you are not alone.
1. Don't self-destruct. While I have already written about this at length, I can't emphasize it more. I remember when I was a child, my mom used to tell me that I was not really punishing her if I chose to be rebellious, refuse to go to school, or be promiscuous. She told me that she'll eventually get old and I'll be left to clean up after my own mess. That really put things in perspective.
Just last December, my mom told me that in parenting, you need to adjust your style to your kids' personalities. I think she had a good understanding of what I was like, what inspires me and what pushes me to achieve things. She is one great woman. (Kleenex, please)
2. Grieve, but not too long. Let's face it. Sometimes, separation is like experiencing death. It may not be a physical death of a loved one, but for a child, it may be the death of dreams of Sunday night dinners, or of your dad walking you down the aisle on your wedding day.
The Kübler-Ross model, there are five emotional stages when dealing with death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I feel that the same can be applied when dealing with our parents' separations. You have to go through a proper grieving process, otherwise, moving on will just like be bandaging a deep wound, but never properly treating it.
3. Write a journal. There is a reason why jotting notes, using pen and paper to solve arithmetic, or making mind-maps are effective ways of studying. It helps us see the whole picture. It helps our mind process information.
Writing a journal, likewise, helps you process your emotions. Plus, there is an added advantage of doing so. One day, you will look back and be proud of yourself knowing how far you've come, and how stronger you've become despite what can be considered a major set-back. You don't have to use a Mont Blanc for this, but may be a pen with Swarovski crystals might be nice ;)
4. Find a hobby (a good one!). I repeat, find a good hobby. Smoking is not a hobby, it's a vice. Drug? Definitely a vice! You should know the difference between a good hobby and a vice.
You can sing, you can paint, you can dance. For me, I studied hard. I read World Book Encyclopedia. Yup, I know it was boring, but it helped me cope. Right now, when I am sad, I cook. So turn that negative energy into something positive. After all, a great many novels have been a result of heartbreaks.
5. Surround yourself with positive people. Well, if you're a blue crayon and you surround yourself with blue crayons, you'll only be able to paint blue. Surround yourself with colorful people and be a part of a rainbow. Soon enough, you'll be happy since you are part of a happy crowd.
But more than happy people, surround yourself with joyful people. There is a difference between happiness and joyfulness. I hope you will learn what it is. I'll write about this in my next write-ups.
6. Find a good counsellor. I'm not talking about professional counsellors although I believe that they really help. Support groups also help, but I'm talking more about good friends, aunts, uncles, family members, anyone who you know is a part of your life.
Only through loving can the wounds of love be healed. I feel that people you know personally are the best people who can give you sound advise, while at the same time, give you the healing love you need.
7. Visualize what you want to be 10 or 20 years from now. I hope you're visualizing something great.Now this sounds easy. But the tough part is to believe that this is achievable.
Most of the time, I see this advice in business books, or in motivational books. I believe this is also applicable in personal life. Don't let others, or the events that have happened in your life define who you will be. You have the power to choose.
8. Don't lose hope, the best is yet to be. Like they said, when you're down, the only way is to go up. Fight on!
9. Be realistic. It will hurt so prepare yourself. Whoever tells you that it will be easy is lying through their teeth. Our hearts are not made of stone. So if you know what is coming, you can prepare yourself for it.
I went on a thrilling ride in an amusement park last December. I'm pretty sure a couple of you have tried it before. I hope Disneyland has one. Whenever I see that I am accelerating down, I would brace myself and ensure that I don't just depend on the safety belts to keep me on my seat. At the back of my mind, I think of how to shift my center of gravity to prepare myself for the impact. I'm sure that's not the right way to enjoy an amusement part ride. However, I knew this technique helped me avoid feeling nauseous after the ride. The same can be said of what is happening in your life right now. Know what is coming up, and prepare how to handle it.
10. Choose what to believe in. You will hear a lot of messages from many different sources. I sincerely pray that you be wise, and that you will know what to believe in. Once you follow the wrong advice, it will be very difficult.
I'm not professing that I have the right advice. You may not agree on some of the things I say. But I hope you read with an open mind, and an open heart.
Bonus Rule: You may have known by now that I like sciences very much. Now, I've given you and overview of 10 rules. However, I realized that there is a zeroth rule. It's the most basic, and I'll write on that, too.
Until my next write-up, I wish you well.