My clients often ask me what to do when they get angry with their partner or children.

Anger manifests itself in relationships for a number of different reasons, and especially in intimate relationships, anger is unavoidable. In fact, anger can often show us a trigger point, both in ourselves and in the person we’re angry with. Of course, even though anger is completely normal, it isn’t an emotion you want lingering between you and your loved one.

Although it has taken a lot of learning the hard way for me, I’ve come to believe that it is almost always best to take a break when we feel ourselves growing angry with another person.  Of course, because fear compels us to fight when we are angry, taking a break in the midst of anger can be one of the biggest challenges we face.

Taking a break gives us a chance to cool off, and once we’ve given ourselves the space to calm down, we can take the next steps necessary for overcoming resentment and then approach whatever difficult conversation needs having without fear and anger controlling the course.

The first step towards overcoming resentment when we are angry is to understand that what we are usually wanting is love and attention.

This is not something the other person can give us when they are also triggered. It is often triggering to have someone else be angry at us.  Of course, it is possible to learn to hold the space for a loved one when they are angry with us.  But this takes a lot of practice and patience and awareness, and the ability to hold the space for someone who’s angry at us is usually only accessible after we have experience holding the space for ourselves.

The next step is to have an anchor.

An anchor helps wake us up and steer ourselves out of the situation when we feel triggered.  One major reason why it is difficult to take a break when you’re triggered is that usually when you’re angry, it’s as if your true self, your inner teacher, your Love Warrior, has fallen asleep.  It’s hard to awaken when you are sleeping, so designate a physical object or develop a habitual pattern that serves as an alarm clock to wake you up during triggered moments.

For example, many of my clients keep a quartz heart in their pocket or next to their beds to wake themselves up when they feel triggered.  And when I feel triggered with my son, I automatically go into ujjayi breath from my yoga practice.  If I stay triggered, I take a break in my bedroom.

Once you are awake, it is important to compassionately speak to the part of yourself that’s triggered and assure them that while you need to take a break, you will give them the love and attention they need.  Just as we teach our children not to lash out, we are charged with the responsibility of lovingly saying no to the part of ourselves who feels the urge to lash out.

You can tell this part of yourself, “I know you are scared, and I know this is hard, and I love you even while you feel this way.  I love you so much that I will not allow you to lash out in rage.  It’s time to stop and take a break.  I will give you the attention you need right now by listening to you and paying attention to how you feel.”

One way to offer the triggered part of you the attention they crave is to get out a piece of paper and a pen and invite this part to write down everything that he or she is thinking and feeling.  Your task is to bear witness to this part of yourself without making it wrong or becoming wrapped up in its stories.  Ask this part of yourself, “When you are raging and feel so justified, what are you afraid of?  What do you need?”

If you cannot take the time to write or give yourself the attention you need, promise this part of yourself that you will take the time later in the day.  And remember, only make promises to yourself that you truly will keep.  To gain the ability to take a break when things get heated, and to truly overcome resentment, you need to slowly gain the trust of the part of you who becomes angry.

Finally, beware of making yourself wrong for staying in the argument.  Anytime “you” say that you “shouldn’t” act in a certain way, please know that this is your Inner Judge speaking.  The Judge often makes us feel wrong or bad for staying and fighting, but this only makes our fear of not being loved and heard greater.  And when our Judge is active, we are actually more likely to become triggered later on. If the moment becomes heated, and you cannot take a break to step away, please know that there is nothing wrong with this response. Overcoming resentment and dealing with anger is an ongoing process—each argument, each trigger can be different—and there is no reason to make matters worse by staying angry with yourself.

The work is to practice taking a break over and over and to revise as necessary.  Perhaps the first time, you will remember a half hour into the fight.  As you gain strength, though, you will remember and be able to take the break you need earlier and earlier and sooner and sooner.

If you’re tired of the anger and resentment in your life, and are ready to take the next steps toward embracing your authentic self and living from a place of deep fulfillment, I invite you to check out our professional coaching programs and then to apply for a discovery session when you’re ready to talk. All the best to you!

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