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December 10, 2023

Stopping Gun Violence& Positive Anger

At least 50% of Americans would say, “There is absolutely no such thing as positive anger.” Yet, when anger is not expressed, people act out violently with guns, knives, and fists. It is the quiet loners that go postal!

We are told that “Guns do not kill people; people kill people.” Every shooting is sparked by anger! Yet, no one is looking at the source — anger.

All Violence Is the Result of Anger Not Expressed.

Many have written off the expression of anger as just inappropriate and immature behavior. People should not get angry or at least “control themselves.” “Something is wrong with people who get angry!”

When it comes to anger, we were told what not to say and what not to do, but we were never given appropriate ways of expressing our anger. Angry people were either yellers and screamers or showed no emotions. My mother told me that when I was little, Parents Magazine emphasized that parents should never get angry in front of their children because you would “warp their little psyches!”

However, when not given appropriate ways to express anger, some people will act out their anger violently against others. In contrast, other people will act out against themselves by becoming depressed and suicidal.

My parents never got angry at each other! As a result, I grew up assuming no one got angry in good marriages. Of course, I married a woman raised in a family of violent yellers and screamers. When the marriage was peaceful and quiet, I assumed that the marriage was going great. She feared when the marriage was peaceful that, something was terribly wrong and that people were stuffing their feelings, and eventually, terrible things would happen.

So, she would start fights over dumb things. When that happened, I knew we were headed for divorce, but she felt safe because nothing was thrown, and no one was hit. At the time, neither of us understood what was happening.

I was becoming more frightened, less open, and honest in the relationship because I thought she was getting ready to leave the marriage. We both assumed anger was negative and because we did not understand that there was such a thing as positive anger, this marriage could have ended.

Destructive anger is often the result of not expressing feelings. Freud said, “Depression is anger turned inward.” Confucius said, “To repress a feeling is to give it unlimited power.”

Expressing anger is one way to get it out of your system. Freud called it venting. Try it yourself the next time you are angry and want to rid yourself of it. Go into a bedroom where nobody can hear you yell, scream, and cuss (express feelings as strongly as you feel them) and see if you can keep it going for more than 15 minutes! (Check out the three exceptions further down in this article.)

Sources of anger: Do you have expectations of other people, of yourself, your mate, your children, the government, your neighbor’s political views, the way politicians should behave (and talk), how police should behave, how everyone should receive a living wage whether they work or not, how people should drive on the freeway? If you said yes to any or all of these, you have an anger problem!

Most of your anger comes from people not living up to your expectations. And then there are the people who do not live up to their own expectations of themselves. These people will be angry at themselves, not express that anger, and be very depressed, or they will blame others for their anger. These people can be identified by the large number of “I shoulds” they put on themselves.

Yes, there is positive anger despite what you have heard. Positive anger is often associated with motivation, determination, and empowerment. For example, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King were incredibly angry people. Anger can help you stand up for yourself, fight for your beliefs, and make a difference.

Positive anger can be used to fuel positive change in your life. “Boy, I am angry at myself! I really screwed up last night, isn’t that interesting. I am never going to do that again!”

Positive anger can be a powerful force for good. However, it is important to express it healthily. Even yelling, screaming, and cussing can be a safe and constructive way to express your feelings when it is not directed at others.

Most people have no idea how to be yelling, screaming, and cussing mad constructively. Positive anger brings people closer to you. Destructive anger scares people and pushes them away.

The following is an example of how I learned to express anger positively.

I AM ANGRY AT YOU BECAUSE I LOVE YOU AND CARE ABOUT YOU, AND IF YOU WERE NOT SO DAMN IMPORTANT to me, I WOULD NOT GET SO UPSET. I Got So Scared When You Did Not Come Home Until One in The Morning. I want to get this anger out so I can feel close, warm, and loving towards you again, and so I don’t lay in bed shutting down, becoming depressed, and thinking that bitch did it to me again. And I want to yell at you so remember to call me if you are going to be late.

How would you feel if your mate yelled at you this way? If you and your mate agree to express anger positively, you will draw closer to each other and feel safer in the relationship. Or is any kind of anger unacceptable to you?

It is not what you say,

it is how you say it.

Notice how the intensity of my voice goes down as I express my angry feelings. There is a concept called The Verbal Rule. It says, “Feelings expressed verbally, as strongly as they are felt in your body, will reduce in intensity and are free to change.” You cannot be yelling, screaming, angry for more than 15 minutes. Except:

  • When you try to manipulate somebody with your anger, you can stay angry until that person changes to meet your expectations.
  • When you are using anger to force yourself out of a situation, such as getting a divorce or setting up your independence, then your anger will continue until you feel safe.
  • Or when you have certain types of brain damage.

People who use destructive anger believe the opposite of love is hate or anger. They let their anger build up until they exploded, dumping it on everyone around them. This is when the guns, knives, and fits come out.

When you are angry at your children, does this mean you do not love them? The opposite of love is not hate or even anger! Look at yourself and be honest; you will notice that you get angriest most at the people you love the most.

The opposite of love is Indifference.

My client had recently gone through a divorce and was now living with his girlfriend. But, it was not going well with his visitation with his children. He told me that whenever he met his ex to exchange the kids, she would blow up and create a scene in front of the children and the neighbors. I responded, “Wow, she must still love you.” He sat there with his mouth open. I continued, “If she did not love you, she would be indifferent to you and glad you are no longer in her life.”

Have you ever gone through a divorce in your life? One person is often angry, and the other wants to get on with their life. Which was it for you? If you were the one who felt hurt, confused, and angry, was it because you did not love the other person or because you did?

What makes destructive anger destructive is how you express your anger. If you express your anger as hitting, putdowns, sarcasm, judgments, controlling, demanding, threats, and silence, you are manipulating and will not get the desired results. The other person will either get angry, shut down, leave emotionally or physically, or become passive-aggressive.

If you get angry, it is important to step back and consider how you will express your anger.

Positive anger can be a powerful force for good in your life. Learning to express anger healthily can help you stand up for yourself, fight for your beliefs, and make a difference in the world. You can reduce the threat of violence by venting your anger so that it reduces in intensity.

Here are six tips for expressing anger healthily. Before you attempt to express anger positively, it will be important that you and your partner agree on the importance of positive anger. Then, agree to practice (role-play) and express your anger in positive ways. When your feelings go up, your logic goes down. Practicing being angry with each other can keep you from reverting to old destructive patterns.

Identify your anger. The first step to expressing anger healthily is to identify what is making you angry.

  • Is the person not living up to my expectations?
  • I am not living up to my own expectations of myself.
  • Am I experiencing unexpected physical pain (my body is not doing what it’s supposed to do)?
  • Do I believe that the other person should do what I think they should do so I will not be angry?
  • Do you believe people should drive how you think they should? Do you believe your boss, the government, and the politicians are making you angry? (They are doing it to me.)
  • Do I need my mate so I can be okay? You need food, water, and air. Compared to, I want my mate. Nothing is forever! Every relationship will end. Live each day as if it were your last.

Once you know the source of your anger, you can start to address the issue. Start comparing what you were looking for in a marriage (expectations) and what the other person was looking for. How are they different? Where are they the same?

Express Your Anger. Expressing anger does not have to be at the person you are angry with. You do not want to express your anger at the judge, small children, a senile person, or a police officer.

You can express your anger while beating on a pillow, with or without having an observer. However, if you choose to have an observer, they must understand, encourage, and be able to support you through your anger. Remember, you cannot be angry for more than 15 minutes.

Talk about it. After expressing your anger, talk about it without judgments (I’m stupid; you are stupid), guilt trips, and putdowns. Replace your judgments with the phrase, “Isn’t it interesting. . .” “Isn’t it interesting that the boss seems to need to yell at me?” “Isn’t it interesting that my children seem to need to fight with each other?” “Isn’t it interesting that my mate and I seem to get into fights over dumb things? I wonder how long I want to keep doing that?”

Write about it. For some people, writing about their anger can also be a wonderful way to release it and clarify whether you are the actor or the reactor. You can write in a journal or write a letter to the person who made you angry (did not meet your expectations). Who said people should live up to your expectations?

Take a break. Taking a break from the situation is important if you feel overwhelmed by anger (your own or the other person’s anger). Go for a walk, listen to music, or do something else to help you calm down. If you are in a relationship and express anger to each other, and one or both people start reverting to your destructive expressions of anger, then it is important to take a break. The break should not be more than 15 to 30 minutes long.

Avoid destructive behaviors. It is important to avoid destructive behaviors when you’re angry. Destructive behaviors include putdowns, judgments, sarcasm, controlling, demanding, blaming, threats, and silence. (These are called the dirty eight.) Destructive behaviors include physical hitting, slapping, pinching, spitting, and throwing things.

One final tip: it is said that the American Indians would use the “talking feather” to make sure everyone got heard. Whoever held the feather got to talk for as long as they wanted. No one can interrupt or ask questions. (Again, you will find that you cannot keep talking about your feelings for more than 15 minutes.) If one or both of you are going over the 15 minutes, this tells me that you are not talking about feelings; you are making judgments.

When that person is through talking, he would give the feather to someone else, and they would say their piece without interruptions. This would continue until everyone felt that they were heard. I would use a Nerf ball or a Kleenex in staff and family meetings.

Once everyone feels that they have been heard, you can start with the problem-solving. Over 80% of the conflicts are settled by listening to the other person’s feelings!

These tips are a terrific way to release anger and improve relationships. You can talk to a therapist if you feel uncomfortable talking to a friend, family member, or even your mate. However, make sure that the therapist you have chosen is okay with their own anger and yours. (Some therapists are afraid of anger, their own and others too.”)

Positive anger does include yelling and screaming! Anger only becomes destructive when you add the dirty eight and physical violence to the yelling and screaming.

If you are still confused about the difference between destructive and constructive anger, reread the example of expressing anger constructively.

Seek professional help. If you struggle to express your anger healthily, seeking professional help is important. Some therapists can help you understand and accept your anger and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Or, find a group that specializes in anger and the positive expression of anger.

Are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?

Contact Myron Doc Downing PhD

Email: [email protected]

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