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Published on May 12, 2020

How to Release Anger Without Hurting Others

How to Release Anger Without Hurting Others

There have been times in my life where I got angry and ended up hurting people whom I cared about. Whenever I think back about these bursts of anger, the consequences of me lashing out were always bad.

I have also experienced people unleashing their anger at me and again, the consequence for me was not great.

Anger can cause problems in your life. If left long enough, the negative expression of anger not only affects those around us but also impacts our quality of life and health.

Dealing With Anger and Uncertainty

The NZ government strategy to dealing with the COVID-19 crisis was to put the county into Level 4 lockdown. For the last 4 weeks, I have been living in “lockdown” with my son and husband.

The normal exercise of grocery shopping is now a stressful one. Only one person in the household can go to the supermarket and when you get to the supermarket, you have to manage the required 2 meters distance from each other, shop for your groceries, and keep yourself safe from cross-contamination.

COVID-19 has thrown uncertainty and disruption to our world, our communities, and our lives. As a result, many of us are feeling angry and scared. The basis of this anger comes from our fear of the unknown and having to deal with uncertainty.

Right now, I have no idea what my life and my business will be post COVID-19, and that is scary. I know that if I don’t deal with my feelings of fear, it will build over time and eventually be released through bursts of anger. This is not good for me and for others who may experience the wrath of my anger.

How Do We Release Our Anger Without Hurting Others?

Our relationship with anger determines whether we control this emotion or it controls us. If you want to know how to release anger without hurting others, you first need to understand what anger is all about for you.

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Anger is a natural emotion that we all feel. It is not a solo emotion because many feelings sit behind anger. These feelings can be anything from anxiety, sadness, fear, hurt, shame, feeling threatened, or frustration.

Anger is also not “The Problem”. It is the behavior we use to express our anger that is the real issue.

Susan David Ph.D., an award-winning psychologist and author of the book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, said that “people judge themselves for feeling negative emotions like anger, disappointment or sadness. Repressing or denying these emotions makes them stronger and leads us into deadlock.”

The first step to building a healthy relationship with your anger is to work on becoming more self-aware of the feelings that fuel it.

In a podcast interview, Four Steps to Get Unstuck and Embrace Change, Susan David outlines the 4 steps you can take to create change in your life.[1]

These four steps that Susan David spoke about gave me a framework to use to help me build a healthy relationship with my negative emotions and feelings. They also helped me come up with ideas on how to release anger without hurting others.

Four Steps to Building a Healthy Relationship With Anger

1. Showing Up

Being willing to embrace and deal with uncomfortable emotions such as anger rather than avoiding or repressing them allows you to develop your Emotional Intelligence (EQ).[2] Developing your EQ helps you gain insight and wisdom that enhances your decision-making when choosing the best strategies for dealing with the overwhelming emotions that you are feeling.

Susan David states very clearly that when you do show up, you must not come from a place of judgment but a place of kindness and compassion toward yourself. Emotions are there to provide you with information about what is going on internally for you – that’s it.

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Give yourself a break and accept that you are feeling anxious and angry and that it is okay.

2. Stepping Out

Once you have accepted that it is okay for you to feel angry, then you can step out. This step, according to Susan David, is not an easy one so you must be prepared to do the work to get this step working for you.

This step requires you to detach yourself from your feelings, step back, and observe what these thoughts and emotions are all about.

A great tip that Susan gave that worked for me was to change my self-talk from “ I am feeling angry” to “At this moment I am observing my feelings of anger are present”.

Detach yourself from the monologue in your head, and see the emotions for what they really are. They are there for a reason.

Stepping out is all about you working out what these emotions are trying to tell you.

3. Walking Your Why

Knowing who you are and what is important to you gives you clarity and direction when navigating your way through the complexity of life.

This step was empowering for me because once I got my “why”, I had a point of reference to work from. This insight gave me a foundation from which I could strengthen my will power, my resilience, and my wisdom to help me identify the ways to effectively deal with anger.

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If you are struggling to figure out your values, here is a link to Susan David’s Emotional Agility Quiz.[3] It is a very simple quiz that gives you clarity about what is important to you.

Your values are the driving force to how you live your life.

4. Moving On

For me, this step was the key to me taking action in a way that was sustainable for me. I was not looking for a one-hit-wonder approach.

I recognized that these emotions and feelings I was experiencing as a result of COVID-19 would come back in some form or another. So, I had to make changes that were long-lasting.

Susan David said that to successfully move on, just take small steps. Focus on tweaking your mindset, your motivation, and your habits in ways that are aligned to your values and can contribute to making a difference in your life

Disruption, uncertainly, and change are part of life.

I had to learn how to manage my negative feelings and emotions so that I could navigate my way through these disruptive events of life. If I didn’t do this, then my emotions would control me and that is not helpful at all.

Managing my anger in a productive way comes with a far better outcome than expressing my anger in a way that hurts others.

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When moving on regarding my anger, I spent quite a bit of time working on adjusting my mindset. Because of the Level 4 restrictions, all the gyms were locked down and so walking is the only exercise I can do that gets me out of the house. Every morning I start my walk with a simple affirmation of gratitude and appreciation for all the good in my life right now.

This simple act has had an amazing effect on lessening the intensity of my feelings of fear, anxiety, and anger.

Even though life is still tough and there is so much uncertainty about my future, I feel more in control of my feelings. I don’t have this intense bubbling of emotions going on inside me that can just explode over nothing.

I am more patient of others and definitely a lot more confident about how I process my emotions of anger in a more positive and healthier way

Final Thoughts

Uncontrolled expressions of anger can cause big problems in your life. That’s why it’s important that you learn how to release anger properly and express it without hurting other people.

Building a healthy relationship with anger is the key to controlling it, and the four steps written in this article will surely put you on the right track.

More Tips on How to Release Anger Properly

Featured photo credit: Christian Fregnan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Coaching for Leaders: 297: Four Steps to Get Unstuck and Embrace Change, with Susan David
[2] Institute for Health and Human Potential: What is Emotional Intelligence?
[3] Susan David, The Quiz

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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