Making Peace with Your Feelings of Anger

Dealing with Anger Anger 101: Making Peace with Your Angry Feelings


The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Growing up, we are formally taught for at least 13 years how to read, write, and perform basic mathematical equations. We take hundreds of tests, learn to spit out essays, play team sports, and toot on the recorder. But when—and where—do we learn how to deal with our feelings? We are rarely taught about our feelings with any intention. We learn emotion by observing our families and by experimenting in our relationships, mostly without anything that could be construed as constructive feedback.

If you think about any other learning experience in your life—picking up an instrument, starting a job, developing a new skill—you probably had some official starting point when you got information or direction to launch you on your quest. Along the way, you probably got a lot of feedback from a teacher, mentor, or parent.

So how did you learn to process your anger?

The answer is, of course, that most of us never did. Rarely do we learn how to deal with this challenging emotion. People often get professional help only when it is causing them severe distress—for instance, when they are so angry that they have been assigned to anger management classes, or they are so afraid of their own anger that they engage in self-harm, directing it inward instead of toward the appropriate target(s).

How do you identify your (probably unconscious) relationship with anger? Here are some simple exercises to help you explore your anger.

1. Examine the Messages About Anger—Spoken and Unspoken—You Received Growing Up

Did your parents argue? Were they mean or even violent? Was anger simply avoided? Did their differences get resolved?

Were you allowed to be angry and express it? What were the repercussions when you did?

Did your parents apply the same “rules” about anger to themselves as to you and each of your siblings?

Think about the unconscious messages you internalized as “normal” and put them into statements you have carried with you all these years (i.e., “If someone gets angry at me, then I will hurt them worse,” or, “Just surrender your anger to God”). Try not to judge the statement as good or bad; it is just what you have learned.

2. Look at Yourself in Your Relationships

When someone is angry at you, how do you react? Do you just swallow it and internalize it, or do you retaliate and say something that hurts the other person even more?

What about when you get angry? Do your friends and family listen and allow you to express it? Do they ignore it? Do they suddenly accuse you of all the things they have been storing up as resentments?

Do angry feelings just pass for you and do they get resolved? Or do they sit with you and rear their ugly heads when there is a minor issue and suddenly you erupt at some unsuspecting bank clerk? Again, don’t judge yourself.

3. Ask Yourself What You Fear in Expressing Your Anger or Tolerating Someone Else’s

If you understand what you are afraid of when it comes to anger, you will be able to make sensible choices as you begin to deal with it differently. Are you afraid for your safety or for that of a loved one? Then, clearly, it is important to work toward a place where you are generally able to live without fear.

If you make peace with your anger instead of avoiding it or overindulging it, you may find that it no longer feels like a dreaded enemy but rather a caring, if uncomfortable, friend that arises to help you—even move you forward in some way.

If, however, you fear anger because it has always been unsafe in the past, you might choose to practice it with a willing and aware partner or friend. Many of us fear our anger because we worry we will be overwhelmed by it. Or sometimes we experience other people’s anger as criticism of who we are, instead of just applying it to the issue at hand. Sometimes the anger is masking other emotions, such as sadness, which can be easier for some to tolerate.

At this point, you might be thinking I mistakenly advised you to practice your anger.

I meant it!

As I mentioned earlier, we have treated any other skill in life as a process, one which we continue to hone—hopefully with compassionate feedback—and one through which we may need to stumble. If we are willing to allow and accept our anger, we may begin to learn that it is just an emotion—an emotion needing expression, but one that will pass. And like any new skill, it takes time and practice to hone.

If you make peace with your anger instead of avoiding it or overindulging it, you may find that it no longer feels like a dreaded enemy but rather a caring, if uncomfortable, friend that arises to help you—even move you forward in some way.

If you are struggling deeply with your anger, it may be most effective to work on it with a qualified therapist.

© Copyright 2015 by Lillian Rozin, MFA, LCSW, RYT, therapist in Media, PA. All Rights Reserved.

Anger 101: Making Peace with Your Angry Feelings

CE Courses of Interest:

Self-defeating behaviors are negative on-going patterns of behaviors involving issues such as smoking, weight, inactive lifestyle, depression, anger, perfectionism, etc. This course is designed to teach concepts to eliminate these negative patterns. The course is educational: first you learn the model, then you apply it to a specific self-defeating behavior. A positive behavioral change is the outcome. Following the course, participants will be able to identify, analyze and replace their self-defeating behavior(s) with positive behavior(s). The course also provides an excellent psychological “tool” for clinicians to use with their clients. The author grants limited permission to photocopy forms and exercises included in this course for clinical use. Closeout Course #40-08 | 2007 | 44 pages | 35 posttest questions Click Here to Learn More!


This CE test is based on the book “Psychological Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Fundamentals and Beyond” (2006, 328 pages). The chapters in this practical and insightful guide for helping individuals with this troubling disorder, written by prominent specialists, provide practical, step-by-step descriptions of psychological approaches to treating OCD. After explicating the general, underlying features of the disorder, the contributors to this volume describe evidence-based behavioral and cognitive approaches, such as exposure and ritual prevention and cognitive restructuring. Subsequent chapters discuss how to apply these strategies with particular presentations of OCD, including fears of contamination; doubting and checking; incompleteness concerns; religious, sexual, and aggressive obsessions; and compulsive hoarding. Also included are discussions of more advanced issues, including dealing with treatment resistance and comorbidity and treating OCD in special populations.

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This CE test is based on the book “Anger Management: The Complete Treatment Guidebook for Practitioners” (2002, 320 pages). A comprehensive state-of-the-art anger management program and a must-have manual for the practitioner. The authors are distinguished researchers, teachers and practitioners in the field of anger management, and their book offers a detailed, research-based and empirically validated “anger episode model.” This indispensable resource for human service professionals emphasizes how to help clients understand, manage, and prevent unhealthy anger. The book is packed with detailed procedures, examples, exercises, and client handouts.

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This course will outline biological, behavioral, psychological, social-environmental and mind-body treatment approaches to pain management and introduce techniques and interventions that mental health practitioners can use to be most effective. In addition, participants will be introduced to novel approaches to chronic pain management such as acceptance and commitment therapy, a new psychological treatment that helps clients disidentify with troubling thoughts associated with pain. Case examples will be utilized to illustrate how a mental health practitioner develops appropriate treatment plans for patients with chronic pain. Finally, special topics of interest to mental health practitioners will include: 1) treating chronic pain patients with a history of drug abuse; 2) treating special populations with pain, such as the elderly and patients with AIDS; 3) suicide and pain, and 4) reducing a client’s resistance to participation in psychological treatments.

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Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA Provider #AAUM); by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (#PCE1625); by the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); by the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); by the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).