Articles and Media

Mobilizing Anger

by Ana Palles

Mobilizing Anger Anger can be useful. It is a powerhouse of energy, one that we unfortunately don’t always know how to use wisely.

Most of us work throughout our lives defusing anger, whether our own or our loved ones. It can be trying but those of us who are regularly in the role of peacekeeper know we are there because we’re good at it.

But even the most laid back amongst us have our limits. Like my friend Sam – a quiet, easy going, nothing rattled her kind of woman. Sam was everyone’s warm and loving friend. Her comfortable pillowy body, soft welcoming voice and easy smile made her an easy winner of the Office Mom title. At first glance, you’d think Sam was a pushover. And in many ways she was.

That is, until, Sam finally had enough. I saw her in action one day around a conference table. The weekly meeting with her counterpart in the engineering group was as usual, confrontational. No amount of negotiation or reason was bringing about compromise and each week, we all just gritted our teeth at the storm that always arrived on schedule.

This week seemed no different and Sam calmly listened as her fellow manager pounded on the table making belligerent demands of her team as he always did. Sitting very quietly until he was finished, she calmly pushed herself up out of her chair and said as quietly as if she were asking for a cup of coffee, “Well, I’ve had a bellyful.”

And just like that, the issue was over. Weeks of arguing and refusal to compromise had finally triggered Sam into action. The engineering manager just stood perfectly still in stunned silence. Sam calmly walked out of the room and the next thing we knew, meetings were over and Sam’s proposal was adopted. Rightful anger is good. It certainly channels respect.

When someone continuously makes us angry, we have to ask ourselves the question, is this relationship good for me? If the person consistently makes us feel bad, looks for opportunities to undermine or hurt us, why do we stay in the relationship? Do we become so desperate for companionship that we’re willing to be a dumping ground for someone else’s bad day, bad choices or bad moods?

And it’s not about heroism or sainthood. We don’t help anyone by trying to take on their issues. Letting ourselves be unappreciated and mistreated doesn’t fix anything either. It worsens our lives, steals our happiness and creates contempt from the person who is dealing out the abusive treatment.

Instead, when we let someone treat us this way, it dims our light. It is as if someone was pulling electricity from our little generator, we eventually run down. Why should we allow anyone in our life to take our light, our happiness? Do we do this for friendship? For love? No. We do this because we lack self worth.

For Sam, it was anger that finally snapped her out of this pattern. It gave her the spark she needed to take action. In her case, anger was an ice cold bucket of water letting her brain guide her next steps free from emotional baggage.

The key is in using our anger effectively. Anger is like an ounce of rocket fuel. Knowing how to work with it delivers top performance. Letting it work you is disastrous.

One way we can use that power is by getting physical.  Exercise changes the anger from something explosive and unstable into energy that our bodies can absorb and use.

Almost ten years ago, I took up kickboxing as the stress levels in my corporation ramped up. No matter what was going on in my week, I looked forward to my twice a week cardio-kickboxing class. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. Not only did I get a great workout, but the cardio cleared my head and gave me focus, strength and solutions.

Eventually, most of us wake up and realize that suppressing our anger, just gritting our teeth and riding out bad situations doesn’t solve anything. We waste a lot of living when we do that. So don’t.

People, who bundle up their anger, zipping their lips or ignoring it, will eventually explode out of the blue. Sometimes suppressing anger is so much a way of life for us, we don’t even realize we are doing it. Maybe the handful of antacids we chew like candy would give us a clue to how our bodies really feel.

Instead of gritting our teeth or exploding in anger, let’s use that powerhouse for our benefit. Next time you are feeling angry, try taking these steps.

  1. Burn it Take a 15 minute exercise power break. Go for a quick run around the block, do some push ups, power walk or do a hundred jumping jacks. Consciously plug into your anger and use it to amp up your performance. You’ll feel the flow of energy pulsing through your body and it will feel fantastic! You’ll be surprised at your heightened endurance. Take deep cleansing breaths as you do your 15 minute surge. Flushing your lungs with oxygen purges wastes from your body. The purpose of intense physical exercise when working with anger is to convert the volatile energy into something our bodies can use. So get that burn moving now!
  2. Think After your quick burst of exercise, your body should feel vibrant and energized, and best of all, your mind should feel clearer as well. Getting the blood flow circulating through some good cardio exercise is an excellent brain tonic. Assess the situation in a calm and detached manner. Ask yourself some questions: Why are you angry? Who are you really angry with? Is a friend continuously causing anger? Is your life better or worse with this person in your life? What would have prevented the situation that made you angry in the first place?

    Pretend that you are advising a sibling or a good friend through this situation. Is your life made better by staying or leaving?
  3. Act This is when we decide on our action steps. If you’re in a bad job situation, try updating your resume and canvassing local businesses. If it’s a personal relationship that is continuously resulting in anger and pain, then perhaps it’s time to let the relationship go. The point here is productive action.

Anger is powerful energy. When we figure out that we can use that energy for fueling actions that will help our lives, we take charge over our happiness and personal satisfaction in life. Don’t wait, just do it.