People often view anger quite negatively, sometimes due to how they were brought up themselves, for example you might remember being told “Don’t get angry” or “You need to go in your room until you calm down.” Despite this, anger is quite a normal emotion and really useful for us to understand ourselves better.
Why am I so angry?
You might find that since having children, there are days where you feel angry, or angrier than usual. Most parents struggle with feeling this way about their family members, so on top of the anger there is usually guilt too.
However, realistically there is probably more going on. You might be trying to work and cope with kids after a full day yourself, or you might have been home all day with a child and feeling a bit lonely or frazzled. You might be arguing with your partner over different parenting styles or even trying to manage your child’s anger. On top of this, there are the usual day to day life worries.
The good news is that there are more useful ways to manage anger, and the knock on effect is usually a corresponding lift in your own mood and well-being.
So, if you find yourself feeling stressed and that you’ve noticed your default position is to yell a lot of the time, keep reading.
The anger iceberg
Relationships guru John Gottman talks about the ‘anger iceberg’. We usually think of an iceberg as a large piece of ice floating in the sea, with most it hidden below the surface of the water. Similarly, when we are angry, there are usually other emotions hidden beneath the surface. Everyone pays attention to the anger, and it can be difficult to see the underlying (often painful) feelings the anger is masking.
What lies beneath anger
Some emotions that might underlie anger include fear, grief, overwhelm, embarrassment, rejection and disappointment. Once we explore what is going on with these and where they stem from, it gets a lot easier to manage anger.
And, instead of becoming defensive, for example when a partner or child’s anger is directed at us, we can get curious and wonder where it is coming from. You might have a toddler, or remember your child as a toddler – have you experienced their wrath when they are tired, hungry or over stimulated?! How are you feeling, are you running on little sleep, or are you a bit burned out from life’s demands?
- Slow down.
- Buy some time, either leave the room or go outside.
- Get to know the first signs of anger in your own body: it may be your heart starting to race, or you may feel shaky or breathless.
- Try to breathe more deeply and slowly.
- Get some exercise, even just a walk or listen to some music. Even a few minutes can make a huge difference.
If you feel yourself starting to get angry, it can be good to share this with your kids or partner. Note – you are not apologising for getting angry, and you are also recognising that you are getting angry and need some space – these are great things for children to observe.
You won’t get this right all the time, and that is ok. But apologising afterwards when you do “lose it” goes a long way – and shows your children that anger is ok, it is more about owning it, and managing it.