It happens to everyone. Out of the blue something takes place (or maybe you saw it coming) and you are triggered, bringing up feelings of anger (or one if it’s “cousins”; frustration, exasperation, irritation, dissatisfaction, etc.). This is the “anger bus” and once on it, there are limited opportunities to get off (it’s a fast moving bus). When anger happens at work it can be incredibly difficult to sort through the flood of body responses (tense muscles, facial expression, increasing heart rate, etc.) and the mental chatter (“NO! You can’t do that to me!” …your favourite expletive here…). It’s a challenge that arises unwelcomed in our day, and even if we anticipate that something may make us angry, our feelings of vulnerability can be made worse by our own failure to be unaffected by our anger. Consider this - anger is not an emotion we have a choice in receiving, it’s just going to happen (whether we see it coming or not) so be deeply compassionate with yourself in your anger and know it’s what you do with that anger that counts and shortens this agonizing “bus trip”.
The first step is admitting to yourself that you are angry – this takes some practice. Depending on the circumstance, you may let that anger rip lose and alert those around you to the fact that you are angry (possibly alerting yourself as well). You may deny you are angry (“Oh no! I can’t be angry…that feeling is not allowed!”) and then have it wreck havoc within you, making you feel a whole series of other emotions you’d rather not feel (shame, sadness, vulnerability, fear, anxiety, etc.); or you end up somewhere in between (remember, you didn’t choose to get on this particular bus, but you are there now). Recognizing that you are angry is the first step to being able to do something constructive with it; but it takes practice to be able to build for yourself a reliable signal (like the indicator button you find on buses) that says “this is my stop, I will be getting off soon”. This step requires that you intentionally name your emotion (I am angry) as soon as you recognize it. Learning to do this for yourself is worth pursuing, being able to name this emotion is incredibly freeing (just like being able to signal when you want to get off a bus is freeing). Naming it gives you choice; not acknowledging how you really feel robs you of that opportunity (one only we have the power to give ourselves).
When you are angered it is the way you act on those emotions that will dictate both how you feel about yourself and how others experience you on this ride. There are really only two options, to respond or to react. In a situation where you are choice-less about feeling something unwelcome (like anger or it’s “cousins”) reacting is an incredibly human thing to do. This happens when we are not aware of our emotions; we are hopped up on adrenaline and unmet expectations (a potent combination). Examples include being verbally un-thoughtful or becoming silent and withdrawn. Rarely do you feel good about how you handled something when you’ve reacted to it. However, the “anger bus” puts us in a place where we have to make a decision about what we do next – hit that signal button or stay on for the whole route. If you are able to give yourself the few moments you need to acknowledge that you are angry it provides the choice needed, and it is the only way to get off this particular bus. In response mode you can ask for more time (to process your feelings), you can let someone know you are feeling angry and calmly introduce them to your concerns, you can be more objective about why the other pers