Dealing with Anger – The ‘Bad’ Emotion

Understanding Anger

I have always struggled with the idea that anger is a bad emotion.  Our emotions seem to get categorised as good and bad.  A happy emotion are considered good and an unhappy emotion are somehow considered bad.

Labelling anger as a bad emotion suggests that it is not okay to get angry.  Somehow we are supposed to keep these ‘bad’ emotions in check. Throughout our lives we are consistently told: ”Don’t get angry”, “Don’t be angry”, “Stop being angry”, “Life’s too short to be angry”.

Emotions can be categorised into 6 main types which can then be categorised as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Happy, Excited and ‘Tender’ are considered the ‘good’ emotions.  Whilst ‘Sad’, ‘Scared’ and ‘Angry’ fall under the supposed ‘Bad’ category.  Sometimes these ‘bad’ emotions are required as our very survival might depend upon it. Dealing with anger is important.

So why is it that Anger, in particular, is considered a ‘bad’ emotion?  In the main Anger is the one emotion that can, very immediately, bring out the worst reaction in people.  It is the behaviour that is displayed that is considered ‘bad’. Unfortunately this often means that being angry is considered undesirable.  The thing is, if we don’t deal with our anger then we don’t release the energy created and this wells up inside of us.  Eventually this well fills to the top and overflows.  When it does the results can be disastrous.

As a mother I want to make sure that I raise my children to be honest, respectful and decent individual’s. I also want them to be able to express themselves without fear of retribution.  Being able to do this is vital.  It is the manner in which this is done that determines the outcome.  I have always been of the belief that everyone has the right to get angry.

Dealing with Anger

My son is a sweet, loving, kind and thoughtful little boy.  He is generally a very very happy child. Most days he comes home from school exclaiming “Today was awesome. It was the best day ever!’ he is smart, articulate and very funny.  He also gets very angry.  Sometimes too easily.  When he gets angry he lashes out. I have always tried to make sure that he knows that it is ok to be angry but not ok to lash out at people.  But what I needed was to find a way to allow him to release this energy and frustration without be afraid of getting into trouble.  Solution? The cushion.

You are probably thinking “What the?” What does a soft, comfortable cushion have to do with dealing with anger?  Everything!

The Cushion

One day I took my son aside and gave him a cushion.  This cushion is a seat cushion on a lounge that resides in the front room of our house.  We don’t actually use this room much so I decided that this would be a great place for my son to go to as safe zone away from where the rest of us normally spend most of our time.  I told my son that I was giving him this cushion and when he got angry and felt like lashing out he was to go to the cushion and was allowed to punch and hit this cushion as much as he needed to.  He was not going to get into trouble for doing this. Nobody was going to get angry at him for doing this.  He looked at me like I was crazy!  Since when was he allowed to hit and punch something and not get into trouble?  Since the cushion came into his life.

 

At that point I told him to try out has anger cushion.  Initially he was reluctant.  I am sure he was thinking that this must some kind of practical joke!  Eventually he cupped his hand into a fist and started hitting the cushion.  I told him to hit harder.  I also told him to yell at the cushion. Poor kid.  I am sure he was thinking “One minute I am being told don’t yell, don’t hit and  don’t punch” and now she is telling me do it as much as I want.  Anyway he went for it. It was almost hilarious to watch.  That poor cushion totally copped it. He is very animated at the best of times and was especially so at that moment.  Eventually he stopped.  He was huffing and puffing.  He looked at me and almost begged “Can I please stop now. I am exhausted.” Perfect! I told him “You’ve done well. Good on you.”

After this I reconfirmed to him that whenever he was angry and felt like he wanted to lash out at someone or something he was go to his cushion and take his anger out on it.  He would never get in trouble and would never be laughed at. “But what if I break it?” he asked, obvious fearful of what the consequences would be should this happen. “If it breaks I’ll give you a new one” I told him (I was looking for an excuse to get a new lounge suite anyway!).

A few days after that introduction to the cushion my son got very angry. Straight away I told him to go to the cushion.  He wanted to argue with me.  I told him to go to the cushion and let his anger out and then we could talk about what was upsetting him.  Off he went.  A couple of minutes later he came back to me calm and able to talk. “Thankyou, Mum” he said.  “I feel so much better.”

Its OK to be Angry – it’s a GOOD Emotion

And we haven’t looked back.  He is allowed to get angry.  He has a safe place to release anger.  And then we talk through the problem that made him angry in the first place.  He is much happier and is proud of himself that he actually now handles his anger much better.  Most of the time now, he doesn’t need to visit his cushion.  He knows he is not a bad child and that we are very proud of him.

The down side?  The cushion is still intact and I am not getting a new lounge suite!

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