Recently I signed up for the Gottman Institute’s Marriage Minute email. Most mornings after reading it, I find myself forwarding it to my wife and close friends. If you haven’t heard of it or haven’t signed up yet, I encourage you to do so here:
Yesterday this truth arrived from the Marriage Minute:
In The Dance of Anger, Dr. Harriet Lerner writes,
Anger is neither legitimate nor illegitimate, meaningful nor pointless. Anger simply is. To ask, "Is my anger legitimate?" is similar to asking, "Do I have the right to be thirsty? After all, I just had a glass of water fifteen minutes ago. Surely my thirst is not legitimate. And besides, what's the point of getting thirsty when I can't get anything to drink now, anyway?
Anger is something we feel.
It exists for a reason and always deserves our respect and attention.
We all have a right to everything we feel—and certainly our anger is no exception.
Anger simply is.
Labeling anger as “Good” or “Bad” interrupts our possibilities of growing from the feeling. The feeling is going to happen whether we want it to or not. It’s more important to understand what to do with it when it arrives.
All feelings exist for the reasons of protection and connection. If we learn how to identify our feelings we gain the opportunity to gain gifts from each of them. If we seek to avoid or view them as illegitimate then we experience some type of curse from the feeling.
Anger, if identified and utilized can provide us with strength. On the other hand, when we delegitimize anger we fall into the curse of resentment.
When feeling angry, I encourage you to pause and allow yourself to identify the feeling, then get curious with yourself; “How come I’m feeling this way?” Once you can identify what is driving this feeling you have the opportunity to utilize it. With anger, when its driver is identified you gain some strength to speak into it.
The feeling of anger has been used to provide strength in difficult conversations throughout my life that have led me to closer connections. I encourage you this week to identify times of anger as they arise and to pause, get curious, then respond rather than react.
NOTE: This post is discussing anger, not rage. Rage happens when anger, and other feelings, have been suppressed for a period of time. The body then forces these feelings out through the visceral reaction of rage.
Friday, January 24, 2020