4 Healthy Ways to Deal With Anger and Other Dark Emotions
In today’s world, most people aren’t in touch with their emotions. As soon as any uncomfortable feeling arises, they turn on their smartphone and get lost in the digital world of Instagram stories and Facebook feed.
What they don’t understand is that, in the process of liking funny memes and commenting on their friends’ pictures, their emotions take a backseat and don’t get the much-needed attention.
We need to breathe through our emotions, sit with them and work with them in order for them to heal and transform into healthy emotions. The same emotion that keeps us depressed can make us strong once we are liberated of it.
In this article, we present the four healthy ways to deal with anger and other dark emotions based on the work of Susan David, PhD., the author of Emotional Agility.
1. Embrace Your Emotions
According to David, there are seven basic emotions: joy, anger, sadness, fear, surprise, contempt and disgust. As you can see, five of them are negative emotions and most people don’t know how to deal with them.
The problem is that people run away from their emotions instead of being with them. As soon as a negative thought arises, they turn their attention away and tell themselves that “I have to work” or “I will watch some T.V.”.
But David says that when we try to minimize our thoughts or feelings, they only get amplified. This means if you suppress anger, you’ll build more of it. If you suppress sadness, you’ll build more of it.
So it is essential to embrace your emotions. As soon as negative emotions arise, embrace them and just be with them. Among all healthy ways to deal with anger and other dark emotions, this one is the most essential.
2. Label the Specific Emotion
The next step is to label your difficult emotions. If you feel angry, say “This is anger”, but don’t say “I am angry”. You need to separate the emotion from yourself.
David advises that you not only label it, but also describe it with two more words to know how you’re feeling. This helps in unveiling a deeper emotion buried under the most apparent one. Moreover, using a broad emotional vocabulary is essential to fully understand your emotions.
So if you feel angry, the two more words can be “betrayed” and “spiteful”. These words will show you that you are angry at someone who wronged you in some way and now you want revenge. Understanding your emotions to this level of depth is essential to transforming them.
Go a step further and rate the intensity of your emotion on a scale of 10. See how urgent and strong the emotion is. This will help you better understand your emotions.
3. Write down your feelings
James Pennebaker, a distinguished professor at the University of Texas, has done forty years of research on how writing aids emotional processing.
With his research, he found that people who write about emotionally charged life events develop insights as to what their feelings really meant and what they misunderstood about those events. They use phrases such as “I realized that…”, “I have learned that..”, It struck me that…”.
Here is the process David recommends:
- Set a timer for 20 minutes
- Write in a notebook or your computer about the emotional experiences from the past
- Let your writing flow naturally, don’t try to make it perfect.
- When finished, you can discard the document. The point of this exercise is to pen down your emotions.
Writing down your feelings is the easiest among all healthy ways to deal with anger and other dark emotions.
4. Step Out Of it
Once you’ve understood your emotion, the next step is to step out of it. You’ve processed it for what it is and now it’s time to move on. To do this, you can use one of the three ways:
a) Think Process
Tell yourself that you are on the path of continuous growth, so a minor bump in your journey is not your destiny and doesn’t define the quality of your life.
b) Use Humor
Try to find something funny about the situation. This works because it shifts your mind to positivity and you are able to see new possibilities.
c) Third Person Talk
Talk to yourself in the third person – ““John” (your name) is experiencing this emotion and he wants this…so he should do this..”. Talking in the third person will prevent you from getting stuck in your egocentric perspective and take positive action.
Managing emotions requires that we give our full attention to them, understand them and then move on when we’ve learned our lessons. If this is not done, unhealthy emotions can govern our actions and create problems for us.
Let your emotions guide you on the path of life and they will become your allies.