Anger is a natural, healthy emotion — when used appropriately.

 
If D + anger = Danger, what is the D?
 
How about: D = Defenses ?

In its natural, unfueled state, anger is your body’s warning that some potential violation is occurring. It warns us to mind our boundaries, reinforcing the appropriate ones and removing inappropriate ones. ANGER alerts you to pay attention to this D: defenses!

Are your expectations too high? Do you really expect, for example, that all other drivers on the road will always be courteous and fair? How much stress would you save yourself if instead you expect people to act foolishly, for life to be unfair, to be cut off in traffic or to hit those red lights? Whenever it doesn’t happen you will be pleasantly surprised, fueling gratitude and joy rather than rage and anger. How about your spouse, your children, your boss, your coworkers? Do you really expect everyone to see things your way? Even though they do not have your upbringing, your priorities, or even your particular mix of experiences or even bodily hormones? For your own and everyone else’s sake, start expecting everyone else to see things differently than you — and you will grow a long way toward wisdom and peaceful living!

 
Is someone crossing one of your boundaries? This is a legitimate reason to be angry, but a very bad time to lose control. If you yell, scream, hit, call names, or use blaming or shaming language, you have now crossed THEIR boundaries, and have now practically given them a reason to continue to violate yours! It is NOT easy to do, but it is SIMPLE: Clearly and confidently state or restate your boundary. Some examples:

  • I did not agree to work on weekends… see you every day… respond to emails within an hour.
  • I do not answer phones… make coffee… read minds… share my political or religious views at work.
  • I will continue to put my family first… see my therapist on Wednesdays… confide in my best friend.
  • It is important for me to treat everyone with equal respect… eat healthily… remain sober… know that you heard me.
  • I feel violated when people assume they know how I feel or why I did something… someone touches me or speaks to me disrespectfully.
  • You do not have a right to speak to me/for me that way… touch me there… assume you know what I am thinking, how I am feeling, or why I did something.

Managing your boundaries is one of the toughest skills to learn, and something that must be continued indefinitely. However, showing yourself this basic respect teaches others how to treat you, and skillfully managed boundaries are all the defense you really need. Anger can then become a handy warning system, alerting you to search for the offended boundary and reestablish it. The offender is calmly informed of their offense, and given a chance to respect your boundary, now that they are aware of it. You have shown them the same calm respect that you are asking them to give you. And if they continue to act disrespectfully, you have a right to remove yourself from their presence and/or to seek the help of a neutral third party. NO ONE deserves to be treated disrespectfully.

 
Remember to check your defenses for unreasonable expectations and indefensible boundaries!
Be realistic, but be REAL. Be willing to help others find and respect their OWN boundaries and limitations.
Instead of fretting over not being able to change others’ behavior, ask questions like these:

  • Is it unreasonable to expect you to be home by 6pm… call me if you will be late… look at me when I am speaking?
  • What day(s)/ time(s)/ place(s) are best for you? What are you willing to try, and what are your limitations/ strengths/ weaknesses?
  • Does it make you uncomfortable if I rub your shoulder… give you a hug… ask for your feedback?
  • Do you feel disrespected if I pause and check my phone messages… ask others for their opinions… check the report/ schedule?
  • What is the best way to let you know that I feel hurt/ disrespected/ uncomfortable without getting you upset?
  • Can we come up with a plan to save money… understand each other better… live more stress-free?
  • How do you feel about… What do you think about… How could this be better? How can I show you I love you/ have heard you?

 
The bottom line is: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.!
If in doubt, always strive to treat yourself and others with RESPECT.
Do or say the most respectful thing you can come up with at the moment.
No matter who the other person is, or what they’ve done or said.

Remember that anger is only useful when it is not FUELED.

 
Just remember that people do grow and change, their priorities rearrange, and even their biology alters throughout each day with fluctuating hormones, levels of alertness, energy, and will power. Treat others with respect and patience, allowing for changing boundaries and limitations, and you will find that people are more respectful of your own. Also, check in with yourself to be aware when your own boundaries change. Don’t expect yourself or anyone else to remain the same, indefinitely.

 
More anger & boundaries management resources:
Anger Management Books
Mayo Clinic: Anger Management
APA: Controlling Anger
HELP Guide: Anger Management
Dr. Stan’s Tips
What’s your anger style?

Books on Boundaries
What are personal boundaries? How do I get some?
Begin to set personal boundaries
Out of the FOG: Boundaries

 


 

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