Let's normalise replacing reactivity with vulnerability.
Showing others what is going on internally, when it is done with intention, is a sign of self-regulation and emotional strength. It helps others to understand you better. And who doesn't want to be understood?
If we can find ways to express healthy anger, we can become more emotionally literate, regulated, self-assured and less reactive. Let's start with how to express healthy anger, and then we will look into how to you could communicate the next time you feel reactive...
Anger is a natural, healthy emotion. It triggers our fight or flight response so that we can make a positive change or so we can navigate conflict.
Many of us have observed unhealthy ways of coping with anger that can include repressing it (denial or internalising the emotion). Or, reactive anger (externalising anger in harmful or destructive ways).
Some of us also use anger as a distraction or secondary emotion from feelings of sadness, unworthiness, or fear. These feelings can be vulnerable and expressing anger is subconsciously deemed as 'safer.' In this way, anger becomes a coping mechanism. Or, a way to protect us from deep pain.
It's also important to understand that if you're feeling chronic anger this is usually an indicator that you should pay more attention to your own needs.
When we lash out, scream, or damage property what we are actually doing is trying to avoid anger. High reactivity usually comes from people who fear anger and don't know how to cope with it. (Please note, this excludes abusive relationship dynamics).
How to respond to anger?
Move the body as it helps to move emotional energy.
Journal or free write all your feelings.
Learn when you need time out, and when to communicate.
Be compassionate to yourself and honour your needs.
Don't make decisions. Anger takes us to a survival mode way of thinking.
Remember to honour your boundaries
Practice pausing before responding
Notice if your anger comes from a pattern of self betrayal
So, the next time you feel reactive, try saying this...
"I want to listen to you, but I'm starting to take your feedback personally. This discussion will be more constructive if I have a chance to calm myself first."
"I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. It would really help me to hear you're on my side and that you care about me."
"It's hard for me to understand 'you statements' because it sounds like I'm being attacked. Can you try using 'I statements' when giving me feedback?"
"I'm noticing myself becoming defensive. Can we re-start this conversation? I'll try and be more mindful of my words this time."
"I'm feeling angry right now. I'm going to take some space so I don't say anything hurtful. Can we return to this conversation in 20 minutes?"