Anger is an everyday emotion. If you like to have the radio on a certain station, it’s your anger that helps you speak up to keep it there. If you like to have your coffee with cream and sugar, it’s your anger that helps you ask for it at the diner. If you like to look out the window from your living room, it’s your anger that nudges you to orient your chair toward that window.
If these things don’t seem like they have anything to do with anger, it’s because these are forms of anger in its soft state. In American culture, we associate anger with violence and sudden action. That is anger in its intense state, which happens when it’s been ignored in its soft and mood states.
In DEI, we recognize the soft, mood and intense states of all emotions in the Emotional Vocabulary List. Being able to recognize where your emotions are on the spectrum of intensities helps you learn to work with them. When you can recognize and work with anger in its soft state, it’s easier to access the gifts and information it brings.
I like to think that learning to work with anger in its soft state is like learning to drive a car in an empty parking lot. There’s time for taking things really slowly, and room to practice turning again and again, without worrying about merging or parallel parking yet. Anger is the same way – in the soft state, there’s time to step back and consider the questions for anger: what must be protected? What must be restored? And there’s room for practicing putting your words together in an empathic way to protect your boundaries and respect those of others.
Once you’re comfortable with anger in its soft state, you’ve laid the foundation for working with anger in its mood and intense states. The thing is, when you’re good at recognizing and working with anger in its soft state, then there’s no reason for your anger to ramp up to a mood or intense state – you’ve already addressed the issue!
Befriending Anger is a 4-week course that starts Sept 11th, and runs through Oct. 6th. In addition to written curriculum supported with worksheets and audio recordings of practices, there are weekly experiential webinars designed to teach you how to give voice to your anger with intelligence and empathy. You can learn more here.