Anger: A Warning Sign

The other day, the Hub asked me, "What's all the anger about?"

Sure enough, I had been feeling angry more than usual. Angry about the book we're reading for book club (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), angry about the number of cars I had to wait for before I crossed our road and angry about how the British love to congregate outside pubs when it's actually not that warm outside, so I spend 'summer' freezing. Which is also how I spend winter in this country, due to lack of proper heating and insulation in buildings. In a completely temperate country, how is it that I end up so cold all the time?

But I digress.

I've been struggling with trying to figure out if anger is a good or a bad thing. It's certainly real, in the sense that it's a genuine emotion, but it's not really productive. When you're angry, it's typically because you can't get your way, and you feel you have lost control. Which happens in life – a lot.

With all this anger floating around in my head I was pleasantly suprised to find out that this month's Self Discovery Word-by-Word word happens to be 'anger' (see the end of the post for more information on this series).

I think anger is a warning sign. It's a signal that things aren't right – that I'm not paying attention to what it is I truly need at that moment. It's a sign that there's something going on that requires attention. I may be over tired, doing too much, not eating well enough, not getting enough exercise, or even socializing too much (even a social creature like me requires quite a bit of down time, and particularly alone time).

Or maybe I'm just going through a low patch. Whatever the reason, anger is a warning sign that I need to step back and take some time out. But it is also, maybe even more importantly, not a time to mull over what's wrong, or try to 'solve' the problem.

One of the most important things I learned from reading so many of Richard Carlson's* helpful books, is that typically when you feel down, you also have an overwhelming impulse to 'solve' the problem, whatever it is. Maybe you need a new job or a new boyfriend, or maybe it would help to lose 10 pounds (as if). Sometimes even moving to a new city (or country) seems like just the ticket!

But big life-changing decisions cannot be made from an angry state, but with a clear and healthy mind. Have you ever had one of these moments where you are feeling down and decide you must change something, only to find that the next day when you are in a better mood you realize that things aren't that bad – that maybe the fact that your husband has left the wet towel on the bed isn't a reason to leave him? (I promise you I've never thought this.)

I think that anger is mainly reactionary. It's not in itself helpful, except for the fact that it can make you sit up and take notice that something's not right. It's probably a good time to try to clear the thoughts and the noise away and just be for a while. Do something that gives you comfort and take care of yourself. Maybe there is something big that needs changing, but anger isn't the path there. By slowing down, noticing the anger and then sifting through it and seeing what emotions lie beneath could actually help sort out what's really going on.

P.S. I'm still not sure what's making me so angry, by the way, so I will be following my own advice, which serendipitously comes at a very appropriate time.

This post is part of the Self-Discovery Word by Word blogger series, started by Ashley at Nourishing the Soul. This month's word was chosen by Jules at Big Girl Bombshell -- you can click here to get the details and participate too!

*The late Richard Carlson is the author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff and my personal favorite, Stop Thinking, Start Living. I give him credit for giving me some novel ways to ponder life when I first started reading about psychology and the philosophy of happiness.

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  1. Thank you so much for participating in the Word by Word discovery! I agree...anger shows us what we need to do..sometimes it just takes time to figure what it is all about.

  2. Anger is definitely a sign to stop, look, and listen, IMO. Not rush to solve the "problem," but just to BE with it.

  3. Thanks for the comments @Jules and @TWG! I thought this month's word was so interesting to write about and I really learned something from everyone else's posts. Here's the link to the roundup if you're not familiar with the series and are interested in checking it out:

    One of the things I picked up on reading others' posts was the link between anger and expressing it. I'm afraid I don't often express enough of what I'm feeling verbally (even something as simple of expressing my opinion when it goes against the grain) and I think that holding back often results in supressing some anger. Definitely food for thought!


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