Back when I did my NLP practitioner course, I got introduced to an intervention called Six Step Reframing. It’s based on the assumption that every behaviour has a positive intention. You pick a behaviour where the positive intention isn’t quite clear to yourself (more bluntly: one of your behaviours that annoys you and you would like to change) and through the intervention you a) find out what the positive intention is and b) think of some new behaviours that honour the positive intention but without the negative “side effects”.
At the time I picked the fact that I tended to get really angry at even the tiniest of issues. I rationally knew it made no sense. And then I got even angrier for getting so angry in the first place. My Eureka insight at the time was: it’s ok to be me. Only that it didn’t feel like Eureka at all. I simply didn’t get what that actually meant and how that would help me with my anger. I still remember the frustration – and yes, I do realize the huge irony in this! About 24 hours later, the lightbulb eventually went on: being me also included getting angry. My anger wasn’t something I had to erase. In fact, I SHOULDN’T erase.
Fast forward a few years and that insight went up another level. I was mentoring a couple of girls in a voluntary capacity. I loved working with them and always looked forward to our weekly meet ups. Then one day I got annoyed with them. At first, it was just a feeling and I didn’t know what exactly had triggered it. The feeling translated into getting a bit impatient and sarcastic with them. But I didn't communicate my feeling of anger with them. Afterwards, I told a friend about it who said, I shouldn’t get annoyed about it. BANG – what a trigger that was! Cause that was essentially my own inner voice: Don’t get annoyed! Well, once I say that to myself, it’s already happened, right?! Which leads me into the spiral of getting annoyed with myself for getting annoyed.
Fortunately, I’ve learned enough not to get sucked into that vicious circle (for too long anyway). Instead, I realized the importance of my anger. It generally starts with a niggling feeling. Sometimes smaller, sometimes bigger. But it’s to be taken seriously rather than brushed aside. What is the cause of it? And can I do something about it? My focus thus shifts to dealing with my anger rather than ignoring it. If I don’t understand and honour why I am angry, it will just happen again and again. I might well get proficient at shifting my focus away from the anger but it won’t help me in not experiencing the anger in the first place.
In this particular case, I realized that I was getting annoyed partly by the girls’ behaviour and partly because I felt that they were putting me in a situation where I had to “tell them off”. Taking that further, I understood though that this wasn’t about telling them off or telling them what to do but it was about being clear on MY expectations and boundaries. I know that this is something I am still learning to get better at. What a lovely opportunity to practise!
And practise I did. Next time I saw them, I explained that I had gotten a bit angry with them and why. And I got a totally different reaction to what I had expected: they apologized. They totally understood where I was coming from. Having understood what my anger actually meant I was able to talk to them not from a place of anger but from a place of wanting them to understand why I didn't think their behaviour was beneficial for them. Without understanding my anger, it would have lingered and most likely expressed itself passive aggressively. I might have gotten tetchy with whatever they had said and done, completely unrelated to the actual cause of my anger. They would have been confused and felt treated unfairly and the whole relationship would have gotten out of whack.
Any emotion is here to tell you something. That doesn’t mean that we should dwell on things or feelings but we shouldn’t ignore them either. Take your gut feelings seriously and decide on a course of action. That course of action might well be letting it go. But even in order to let something go, we first need to acknowledge its existence.
My anger isn’t always down to deep seated issues. Sometimes, I am simply tired, stressed or hangry 😉 So, my anger-analysis doesn’t always take long, it often happens in an instant and I can move on from it swiftly.
In short, I still don't enjoy getting angry. But I have learned to see the value in getting angry and to use it as a compass to address issues. I no longer see anger as something to avoid at all costs but instead of something I can and want to deal with.