“Your Anger Can Be a Gift!” Most people either scratch their heads or laugh when I say that. They just don’t understand.
I open the introduction to my book, The Healing Power of Anger: The Unexpected Path to Love and Fulfillment, with a beautiful quote from Marge Piercy: “Life is the first gift, love is the second and understanding the third.” Anger in relationships is a perfect spot for understanding to take place.
I define anger as “the natural healing energy that the body produces in response to injury.” It is energy that is meant to fix what is hurting you. By attending to our anger, we have the chance to see where the injury has occurred and to channel the energy for healing.
I also look at anger in the context of emotionally intimate relationships. Emotional intimacy is a relationship of equals who make a commitment to honor and respect each other’s emotions. This is not the same thing as liking the other person’s emotions. Whether or not couples recognize having made the agreement to be emotionally intimate, the agreement is implicit in being in the relationship. It is easy to share the fun stuff, but genuine intimacy evolves when couples take the risk to share the strong, difficult emotions, such as anger, and walk away feeling understood.
When you understand that you have made an agreement to share what you’re feeling with your partner, you begin to see that not sharing the important emotions you feel can injure the relationship. Not sharing deprives the relationship of honesty, vitality, and completeness. In an important way, sharing your anger, as well as the underlying injury, is a gift to your partner. It gives your partner the chance to attend to what you feel.
Dr. Rifkin is a psychologist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado.
We no longer offer his class at CFU, but hope that you find the information useful. Visit www.freeu.com to see what classes are currently offered.