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Go Beyond “Managing” Your Anger: Choose To Feel + Express It Without Hurting Anyone

This past week I ate a lot of cheap chocolate, potato chips, and other crap food because I was angry…and instead of feeling and expressing it, I chose to eat it.

Why was I angry? Well, it’s kind of a long story, but I’ll try and break it down for you.

A week or so ago my husband and I had an uncharacteristic argument. It was uncharacteristic because we hardly ever argue and because it quickly escalated beyond raised voices to me yelling, me trying to make him see my point, me being critical of the way he handled something, and me digging in my heels.

It wasn’t until I had some time to myself that I realized a few things:

1. I wanted him to acknowledge and validate my worth and contribution to the subject about which we were arguing.

2. When he didn’t do that, I got loud and strident…and ugly and desperate.

3. Underlying all of it was this: “I am more trouble than I am worth. I must! prove! that! I! provide! value!! And if the person I love and care about most in the world disagrees with me, then I am not able to prove my value.”

(And yes, if I’ve said it once I’ve said it 6 trillion times: worth is inherent. But apparently I need to say it 6 trillion times +1).

4. I was angry because it was me who devolved into bad behavior and (in my mind), he was the more evolved one, the more even-keeled one, the more rational one, the one who’s always responsible, the one who takes care of everything and everyone…the mature one.

(Yeah…even that pissed me off!)

Upon reading this you might be thinking, “Oh wow, look how she figured all of that out and put a nice neat little bow on it.”

But guess what? I intellectualized my anger (and then ate it)…I didn’t feel or express it.

And that’s why I found myself semi-consciously eating cheap chocolate and potato chips (and surprisingly, not Goldfish crackers, Smartfood popcorn, or Smarties candies). To the point where my body started to ache. I think it was just as much the sugar and crap as it was that unexpressed anger that was literally hurting me.

I am sure you’re wondering what I did to feel and express it.

Disclaimer: No husbands or other living creatures were harmed (or even aware) that I was feeling and expressing my anger (until later when I told him about writing this post).

I put on some music that helps me feel strong emotion (Mumford & Sons’ “Sigh No More” album) and went for a very brisk, determined walk in which I muttered to myself, cried, stamped my feet extra hard, and pumped my arms furiously.

As I walked and muttered and stamped, I learned that my anger had some additional messages for me:

It’s hard for me to admit that my husband and I had an argument because I’m afraid that others will think our marriage isn’t as solid and healthy as I think it is…and even deeper than that, I fear that if I am angry (loud and strident…ugly and desperate), he’ll leave because who wants to be with a woman who not only doesn’t provide value but is also loud and strident…ugly and desperate?

And? At the very same time I realized how very safe I am in my marriage that I could write all of this down and publish it, knowing that he’d be okay with it (and he is).

So here’s the thing. Anger isn’t meant to be “managed.” It’s meant to be felt and expressed. And anger can be felt and expressed without harming anyone…not even you.

Join me for a free teleclass:

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21 Comments

  • Posted February 25, 2014 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    I love this!

    I think I must be really angry this week because I can’t stop eating.

    • Karen
      Posted February 25, 2014 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      You’re “hangry” ;-)

  • Posted February 25, 2014 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    Great post Miss. I’ve heard that right below anger is sadness and we sometimes hold on to the anger to avoid deeper pain. Not sure if it applies to everyone all the time, but it certainly applies to me. ♥

    • Karen
      Posted February 25, 2014 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      Yep, it applies in this case…there was definitely some sadness and fear under that anger.

  • Posted February 25, 2014 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    Nicely expressed! I realize I too try to “manage” it and have to realize it is okay to express it! Great share, Karen.

  • Posted February 25, 2014 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Good One!!!

  • Deb
    Posted February 25, 2014 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I love the idea of deliberately managing feelings. I’ve always thought that “anger management” was about learning strategies to process your anger that don’t involve taking it out on others.

    I think arguments are a really important part of healthy relationships. We’re individuals so of course think differently, right? I’ve noticed that Hide and I have got better at agreeing to disagree about certain things. Since I have stopped feeling the need to be right and am managing my blood sugar levels better, it has been a lot easier to have respectful conversations.

    I can totally relate to your fear of what others think. On reflection, I think that’s because I have at times been judgmental of some of my friends’ relationships … probably also connected to control issues.

    Thanks, Karen. You always provide me with a starting point for reflection. xx

    • Karen
      Posted February 25, 2014 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

      Yeah…perhaps it was unfair of me to “dis” anger management. My point was that anger is meant to literally be felt in the body and expressed, not “controlled” or “managed” (which in my mind meant intellectualizing it). And it’s funny because, as I said, Tim and I rarely argue and we’re cool with agreeing to disagree. That’s why this situation took me by surprise!

  • Nicole D.
    Posted February 25, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    <3

  • jules
    Posted February 25, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Yes. All of this I read a quote years ago. Anger shows us where our boundaries need to be. I’ve learned that usually means I have crossed the of my boundaries becoming walls shutting out the good more than what I am trying to protect myself against. If that makes sense. My feeling that turns me to food is disappointment. And a side note of anger management from when I facilitated classes..Anger is a secondary emotion yet we often fear the reaction of the tension from trying not to feel builds up. Like shaking a soda bottle. You can’t stop the build up unless you find different ways to release the energy. Eating is one way to squelch the energy. It removes us from the build up because We believe it’s a comfort and distracts from the real emotion under the anger.

    • Karen
      Posted February 25, 2014 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      Yeah…there was some sadness and fear under this anger. I think what I learned most out of this episode is that it is up to me to meet my own need for validation….and that can include asking for it, in some cases.

  • Posted February 25, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Thank you SO MUCH for this. As a woman who rarely fights with her husband, I SO relate to the concerns about fighting. We argue so rarely that when we do I tend to escalate it out of the same fears. Also, I’m dealing with a mega shit-ton of stress and anger lately, so this is incredibly timely (as you so often are for me). I may go stomp around at lunch to see if I can steam through some of this anger.

    • Karen
      Posted February 25, 2014 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      There’s nothing like a good STOMP!! Think about how that adorable little daughter of yours expresses her anger and frustration…kids are our role models when it comes to moving emotions through the body!

  • marie ernest
    Posted February 25, 2014 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    i’m only beginning to become aware that i have alot of repressed anger. i think that may be the reason i hoard, my house is filthy, i have 22 cats & 3 dogs… and i cave in easilly to a depressive state. ive created a good foundation & support circle in the past 3 months & just began therapy. i never cry. today for the 1st time on the phone, a lady who is a mentor of mine suggested that unstead of stufing it, i let the tears flow when i feel it. i did. i was scared. but i didnt completely fall apart, and after… i kind of felt relieved.

    • Karen
      Posted February 25, 2014 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      You are so brave Marie, and I honor you and your journey.

  • Posted February 27, 2014 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    I got some anger issues for sure but I tend to keep them under wraps these days.. great post Karen!

  • Posted February 27, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Were you able to talk with your husband after you felt and worked out some of your anger? I have had that experience of realizing I’m angry and still eating (supposedly, crunchy foods are more attractive when we’re angry and sweet, creamy ones when we’re sad) because I didn’t feel like I could talk to the person about what was making me angry.

    All relationships have fights and tough patches — the important thing is to be able to be honest with each other too. It is hard — my husband and I both have a tendency to get defensive — but I still think it’s the only way to have a real relationship.

    • Karen
      Posted February 27, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      I did speak with him right afterwards but I didn’t express my anger at the time because I wasn’t quite sure what it was all about…and, as is the case with most intense anger, there’s usually something deeper than the current situation. It’s important for me to say that even though I felt angry AT him, it wasn’t him who was causing my anger. It was my thoughts about what he was saying that made me angry. I take full responsibility for that. In any case, my anger simmered for a while until I finally chose to feel it…and then I wrote this post. I talked with him again, in more detail about it before I posted it.

  • Posted February 27, 2014 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Okay, so I may not be married or in a relationship, but I’m in a relationship with myself. I used to be RULED by my anger. It consumed me. Until I read a Thich Nhat Hanh book “Being Peace” where he said that anger (and really all negative emotions) were like a child needing to be held. Negative emotions need our compassion, our patience, our understanding, and our forgiveness. And then, when those negative emotions are ready (acknowledged, healed), they walk away themselves. I’m not saying they’re dismissed, but they’re not clinging to you desperately.

    I also learned from my mom that when your first instinct is to yell, to whisper. It forces people to listen to what you have to say (active) versus just hearing the noise you’re making (passive). Whenever I’m my maddest, I’m my quietest.

    • Karen
      Posted February 27, 2014 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      I love Thich Nhat Hanh!! I also love the concept of non-defensive communication (wrote about that recently too).

      Of course, I agree with you re ALL emotions. I’m teaching myself not to label some emotions as good or positive and some as bad or negative.

      Your mother was a wise woman <3

  • Posted March 1, 2014 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Wish I could participate in your teleclasses….

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