“I’m going to be voted off the island,” she wailed. Most of us know she is referring to the TV show, “Survivor.” On the show, team members are made to leave when they do not live up to expectations, or are seen as a threat by the other contestants. No matter the reason, a line was crossed, intentionally or unintentionally, and the situation could not be fixed. The contestant had done something wrong, and the mistake was large enough that they would not get a second chance.
In this case, we need more details to determine what happened. We know she is feeling that she was wrong, and that she had done something bad. She was afraid she could not repair the situation. Could it be repaired? Did it need to be?
Unlike the show, it is possible that she had not done anything as bad as she believed and was not going to be kicked off the island. Her Harsh Inner Critic might be giving her messages about the situation, causing her to misinterpret the event. She was voting herself off the island before she knew the facts.
As we examined the situation, she decided to use this painful event to learn more about herself. She had reacted in anger. Anger was her way of protecting herself from other feelings: hurt, fear, and a sense of betrayal.
Discovering this information was the first step in finding ways to express her anger that felt more under her conscious control. It is necessary to understand what feelings are running the show so that new effective strategies can be developed.
The woman in our example decided to learn how to deal with her anger, rather than stay in the loop of anger and blame. She learned to pause, stop her angry thoughts and address them constructively. In the process of learning these skills, she began to listen to herself in a deeper way and identify the feelings the anger was covering up.
ANGER IS NOT A PROBLEM
Strong feelings are not a problem. As I have said in previous articles, anger is not a problem. It is an emotion like any other; its purpose is to help us understand what is happening and how to respond. It gives energy we need to take action. The problem comes when we cannot identify an emotion, and the meaning of what we are feeling gets misinterpreted.
Unprocessed anger will cause us to respond before we can think. In many cases, it causes us to behave in self-destructive ways. We are not able to resolve conflicts because we are not addressing the issues effectively.
In the next few weeks, we will be looking at anger in greater depth. Stay tuned and let me know how you struggle with anger. 919-881-2001.