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Getting Angry May Mean Getting Healthy

Talking with two clients recently, I realized how “nice” girls or guys may misconstrue the anger they feel at people to mean there’s something wrong with themselves. One client came in complaining that she’d had a terrible time since we’d last met—twice she’d blown up at her sister and then she had words with her riding instructor. Another client detailed how her controlling daughter was really annoying her, then spoke at length about how frustrated she was about her granddaughter being manipulative.

The first client was distressed because her anger made her feel “very uncomfortable and conflicted.” She said she didn’t want to be an angry person or angry at certain people and wondered what was wrong with her. The second client viewed her “annoyance” and “frustration” as scary because her own mother had often lost control when she’d experienced these feelings with her children.

I reminded both clients that just because we’re distressed about having an emotion doesn’t mean we’re doing something wrong. Emotional discomfort can be positive if we’re moving from old, destructive attitudes and behaviors to new, constructive ones. So what if we feel an inner shake-up when this happens? Sometimes new management for a company means opportunity and growth even if it takes getting used to.

What you don’t want to do is cease new behavior merely because it causes you or someone else emotional discomfort. Anger can feel scary if you’re not used to feeling it and may cause you to think that something is wrong when, instead, it’s exactly right. If people have been invalidating, undervaluing, manipulating, abusing, shaming, dumping on, or in any other way repeatedly hurting you, they likely will become upset when you no longer allow them to act in these unacceptable ways. Equally, you may be frightened of your outbursts and think you shouldn’t have them. Anger may not mesh with your image of yourself, who you’ve been historically, or who you’ve always strived to be. Maybe you don’t want to be like your mom or dad, older sister or younger brother.

However, if you’ve been putting effort into being more authentic and taking better care of yourself, it’s natural that, if there are hurtful people around you, you’re bound to get angry at them. This is a big step in a positive direction. Your reactions may initially surprise you and throw you off balance, but by stepping back from them, you’ll see that standing up for yourself is exactly what you’ve been wanting to do all along—maybe for most of your life. So, bring on your anger and let it pave the road to emotional health.

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