Exploring The Feeling Of Irritability – Exercise
Is Anger healthy?
For various reasons, we may have learned it is not okay to express our upset, anger, or dissatisfaction, and that it is easier, safer, or more appropriate to avoid conflict or disagreements.
When we learn to avoid or ignore things that are upsetting to us, we do not have the opportunity to learn. Irritability or anger can be very useful in letting us know something in our life either is not working or needs attention. When we overlook these feelings, we often overlook the opportunity to improve our situation.
Our emotions usually have valuable information to communicate with us. Anger, for example, let’s us know when a boundary has been crossed or some violation has occurred. When we are upset, there is usually a good reason. How we choose to deal with the upset is where things can go wrong.
Anger can be expressed in constructive ways or destructive ways.
© Gareth Williams | Flickr
Models of destructive ways of expressing anger are usually readily available, like yelling at someone, snarky comments, passive aggressive behavior, damaging or destroying things. These displays and expressions of anger are not constructive. Usually, the person who is angry does not feel any better after expressing anger in these ineffective ways. These methods typically contribute to more confusion, hurt, and upset in relationship. Destructive approaches make it very difficult to experience any resolution or positive outcome.
When we overlook our frustration, irritation, and anger, it can have a negative effect on our health, relationships, and overall wellbeing.
Models of constructive anger are less common. I wish it were the opposite. I wish that we all has examples or what expressing anger looks like when it is safe, clear, and constructive. One option for dealing with anger constructively can be naming it and dealing with it.
A constructive way of dealing with anger.
Naming it: Identifying the feeling to yourself and others. For example, “I am furious right now. I cannot continue to talk about this right now. I need to take a break.” Or, “I am so upset right now. I feel like I am going to explode. I need to take a moment. ”
© istolethetv | Flickr
Dealing with it: Acknowledge, validate, and attend to the feelings, which supports the act of responding differently. Most likely, you have a good reason for feeling upset or angry. If you give yourself the space and opportunity to look at your feelings with curiosity, you may recognize that you have a need that you have not been aware of. The questions below will help you with the inquiry process and getting to a level of understanding “what is your unmet need?”
Yesterday, I was talking with a client. I used the example of walking down the street and someone bumps into me. It is likely that I would feel some level of upset. I might feel angry, thinking, “Wow, what was that about? Did he really have to run into me?” I might feel hurt, thinking, “Ouch, that hurt my shoulder and my feelings. Did he not see me at all?” Or I might feel frustrated, thinking. “Gosh, people do not look where they are going these days. It is so frustrating.”
All of these feelings are understandable and valid. How I choose to respond to the situation is up to me. This is where the opportunity and the choice point comes into play. Am I going to respond constructively or destructively?
In preparation to respond constructively, it is essential to understand what your feelings and needs are within the situation. If you have a reaction, what is the underlying feeling? What do you think my need is in this scenario?
There might be different ways of describing the need, but it has something to do with wanting to feel safe on the street (free from getting bumped into).
© Peter Harrison | Flickr
1. Validating your feelings (e.g. It makes sense that I am upset about that guy bumping into me on the street. He hit me hard. It hurt my shoulder, and it hurt my feelings.),
2. Locating the need (e.g. I want to feel safe on the street),
3. What action can I take? (e.g. How can I feel safer on the street next time?) Once you recognize your need, then you have an opportunity to take action. You can look for ways to get that need met. You can communicate and ask for what you need. You can ask for a new agreement.
Generating ideas – individually (how to get my need of feeling safe on the street met):
- I can pay closer attention when I am walking down the street. I will be more likely to spot someone who may be not looking where they are going.
- I can alert the person, if I recognize they might bump into me, by saying “Hey, watch out.”
- I can stick my arms out to protect myself.
- I can step out of the way.
- I cam walk down a less congested street, if I want a calmer walk.
Working together – Relationally (If I have a relationship with the person who bumped into me (which is very unlikely, but let’s say I did), I could talk with them about what happened):
For more information, examples, and tips on this topic, please listen to episode ERP 018: How To Deal With Feelings Of Anger In Relationship.
If we acknowledge our feelings and advocate for our needs, than we are much more likely to get what we want in life. If we can work with our partner to find a mutually beneficial outcome, then we are likely to feel closer, stronger, and more connected in relationship. You will also feel more confident in approaching sensitive topics and more effective at resolving differences with your partner.
The questions below may be helpful as you begin to explore and identify your feelings of irritability. By holding a level of curiosity through this process, you may gain some valuable insights.
How do you know when you are feeling irritable or agitated? Example: I feel less patient or annoyed. Or, I start dropping things (i.e. I am more accident prone.)
What do you feel in your body? Is it difficult to sit still? Do you feel muscle tension? Are you holding your breath? Example: I feel tension in my jaw and my neck. I constrict my breathing.
Did anything trigger your being irritable? Allow yourself to track your experience, what happened right before you started feeling irritable? What were you thinking?
Is there a preference, need, or a boundary that you are overlooking? Example: A coworker chews and pops her gum loudly during work hours, and it is difficult for me to concentrate. I have the need to be able to focus on my work.
Are you taking care of yourself? Are you getting enough sleep, recreation, nutrition, exercise, and relaxation time? Sometimes irritability can be an indication that you need to attend to one of these areas.
Is there something else going on that you may be upset about or not happy with? Sometimes, when we don’t acknowledge something that is upsetting us, it will come out in other ways.
Do you have a boundary that has been crossed or have you experienced something hurtful? If so, what happened?
Based on the above questions, is there a situation or area in your life that needs attention? If so, take a moment to write down what area or situation in needs attention.
Next, allow yourself to take note of what thoughts, judgments, fears or reactions you have in identifying this. Example: I am afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. Or there is nothing I can do to address this concern.
Bringing awareness to this issue is the first step towards identifying your needs and ultimately making decisions that are more in alignment with your needs and desires.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Please let me a comment below. What do you think about this exercise? Did you learn anything new about your irritability or frustration?
Thank you for taking the time to learn and contemplate new ways of relating to improve the quality of your relationship. Please Click Here to Subscribe, if you would like to be up-to-date on the latest posts.
Thank you. ❤
If you are interested in developing new skills to meet relationship challenges, please consider taking the Empowered Relationship Course or getting some relationship coaching.