The first time that I had a long-term relationship with a counselor (how can I write that so it doesn’t sound romantic?), at one of our first meetings, he asked me to buy and read the book “The Dance of Intimacy” by Harriet Lerner, PhD. I asked why I had to pay for counseling AND a book. Couldn’t he provide the book for free, or lend it, or tell me what’s in it, if it was so important? He said that I didn’t have to buy the book, but it would save time, and give us some common vocabulary as we discussed issues.
I bought the book, read it, and the following week, I reported that I did so, and asked “What’s next?” He looked stunned, and asked if I had any questions about the material covered. I said, no, I’m a good reader, and that it was all familiar concepts. I was eager to move on with this counseling process. He asked me to buy another book: “The Dance of Anger” by the same author. I rolled my eyes, bought it, sat down to read it cover to cover, and went “WHOA!!!!!” after just the first few pages. This book was completely over my head. I spent years reading and rereading sentence fragments, trying to make sense of the material. I never realized how angry I was, and how poorly I handled my anger.
The core lesson that I learned from the book is that anger indicates that I’m not saying how I feel or what I want. I remember that lesson often now.
Twenty years later, I am participating in an Anger Management course. I am continuing to learn how to recognize my anger, and to plan strategies for dealing with it in constructive ways. Here are some highlights so far:
Feeling angry can distract me from what I want
Anger can make me blame others instead of taking responsibility for what I want
Recognizing that I’m feeling angry can bring an important issue to my attention
Feeling angry can move me to do something constructive
How do YOU turn anger into your friend?