04/30/2015 04:46 pm ET Updated Jun 30, 2015

The Gift of My Anger

I love being angry. I really love it. I'm not being sarcastic or ironic here, I truly mean it. My anger is precious -- when I get angry, I know it is a wake-up call, a call to action, and a call to speak my truth.

I wasn't always this way. Oh, no. I was always a "good girl." All throughout my childhood, my teens, my 20s and well into my 30s, I was a sweet, happy-go-lucky good girl. Then something happened -- actually, something kept happening, and that something was something that felt truly and deeply awful. That something was panic disorder. I started having severe panic attacks in my late teens. When they would revisit me, I experienced times of great stress. It wasn't until I began therapy in my 30s that I was able to uncover the root issue, which was suppressed anger. The really interesting thing was that I wasn't even aware I was angry when the panic attacks were triggered. That's how suppressed my anger was. Once I understood that, I began to understand myself a lot better.

I was raised in a family where my anger was frowned upon or discounted. I also learned somewhere along the line that that young ladies didn't get angry and so, anger -- mine, my parents', or anyone else's made me highly uncomfortable. I learned to be a master mediator -- a skilled anti-anger, non-confrontational person. I am happy to say that person no longer exists.

I now get angry and I love it. I know that when I get angry it is because some boundary has been crossed or violated. I never sweep my anger aside or suppress or repress it. I've learned to deal with it in a direct and effective way. I never go off half-cocked and start screaming and yelling at someone. In fact, it is extremely rare that I do scream and yell. I've also learned to keep to the original issue that made me angry and not veer off into a litany of other "wrongs." Because anger can be a tricky and sticky thing where many other issues (sometimes related and sometimes not) and other triggers can all come together in both the heat of the moment and in our efforts to be heard as well as to protect ourselves from further violations. People with hair-trigger responses need to count to at least 10 or take deep breaths and manage their anger. I find I'm at the very opposite end of the spectrum, needing to make a point of addressing my anger at first go (otherwise, I'm presented with repeating patterns that ask me to express my anger clearly.) Anger, like all of our emotions, is a gift -- unwrapping it wisely helps us to understand our selves better and live our lives more fully.

When I am angry, I ask myself these questions:

  1. Why am I angry? Has some personal boundary been crossed?
  2. How angry am I? When I become fully enraged it is usually a sign that it's an old issue -- an old trigger that needs to be looked at and addressed outside of the heat of the moment.
  3. How can I effectively deal with this anger? Do I need to speak up? Usually, the answer is yes, though I've often had butterflies in my stomach. Clear and effective communication is both necessary and courageous. Often, boundaries need to be stated more than once so that they remain clearly marked.
  4. How can I release this anger? Am I addicted to my anger? Sometimes, I find my anger lingers even after it has been addressed. When this happens, I do one of several things to get the anger out of my system. Either I write a letter that I do not send or vent to a compassionate friend or sometimes, I find listening to rock music at all volumes and dancing around like a teenager really helps.