Make peace with anger
In order to redefine love, you must make peace with anger. Anger is rooted in fear. Fear triggers a primal fight or flight response and whoosh! Rationality flies out the window, right along with our self-worth. So it is crucial that we learn to deal constructively with anger if we are to redefine love.
It’s ok to be angry
Culture has trained us to believe that anger is a bad thing. Therefore, when we feel anger we tend to do one of two things – we suppress it or we lash out. Both of these actions are not only a waste of time, but also a waste of a powerful force. Anger can be very motivating. Anger gives us courage to take a stand. Anger only feels bad to us because we have been taught since childhood to believe that we shouldn’t be feeling that way.
Anger leads to conflict. Similar to anger, we have been culturalized to believe that conflict is something to be avoided, when in fact it can be very constructive. Conflict is an inevitable and necessary first step to problem solving. The only way a conflict-free world could exist is if a problem-free world existed, which will never be the case.
Attempting to avoid conflict is not only a waste of time because it is impossible, but it is a wasted opportunity for growth and change. It is not the existence of anger and conflict that matters, but how we choose to manage it when it occurs.
There are entire books and websites devoted exclusively to mindfulness. It’s a very cool concept that I encourage you to study further. But for our purposes we’ll keep it brief. Mindfulness is essentially the idea of being present and aware of how you are feeling in any given moment. It requires self-talk, which takes some practice. Mindfulness is identifying your own feelings, such as, “I’m feeling really happy right now,” or “This person is really frustrating me.”
There may be no better place to practice mindfulness than when you’re angry. Identifying your feelings helps you to slow down and reflect, which brings back rationality. It keeps anger from being the boss. (You should never let your feelings be your boss!)
Make a choice
Once you have brought back rationality, you can assess the situation more objectively. You can decide if you are in danger, or whether or not this person is someone who will respect your boundaries.
If you are feeling angry, you are unable to make healthy decisions about where you end and the other person begins. You may push people away who might have been wonderful additions to your life, or you may allow people who are toxic to remain in your inner circle. Whether it is suppressed or expressed, anger clouds our judgment.
Don’t be ashamed of your anger. Don’t lash out. Don’t suppress it. Just acknowledge that it’s there and love yourself through it. Remember that the first step to redefining love is loving yourself. Decide what is best for you in the situation. Should you set firm boundaries? Should you take a stand? Or does the situation feel less threatening once you have talked yourself through your anger?
Sometimes people do really horrible things, things that are very deserving of anger (remember, anger is not a bad thing). But dwelling too long on anger will destroy you. There is a lot of talk in our culture about forgiveness that is misguided. I’m not an advocate of forgiving and forgetting. Forgetting is the equivalent of denial, which is the root of dysfunction. We focus too much time on forgiving people, and not enough on loving them in a healthy way.
Redefining love is less about forgiveness, and more about loving the person in spite of their shortcomings. If we have fully redefined love, then forgiveness will naturally follow. We can’t love someone and also harbor anger and resentment. And since redefining love involves accountability, we aren’t allowing other people to walk all over us in an effort to forgive.
Regardless of what the other person did, no matter how awful, redefining love is possible. Once we have loved ourselves through our anger, we are able to see that this person is full of brokenness. This person is full of sadness and uncontrolled anger of their own. We feel empathy and compassion for them.
Anger AND love
It is possible to feel anger and love at the same time. Sometimes people continue to behave recklessly or hurtfully even after we have expressed our boundaries or taken a stand. Sometimes we must remind ourselves repeatedly to love a person who continues with the same offensive behaviors.
The key is to stay in charge of your feelings. You choose whether love will reign or anger will be in charge. If you continue to love yourself through your anger, you will be able to keep control of your feelings. Manipulative people thrive on triggering your anger because they know that if you’re angry, they can maintain control.
By loving someone who is actively trying to hurt you, you confuse them. You take back control of your life!
Eventually, by redefining love, you’ll be able to make peace with anger, loving yourself and others through even the toughest conflicts.
Copyright © Redefining Love 2018.
The author of Redefining Love is not a licensed mental healthcare professional. The information included on this site is for general informational purposes only. For mental health questions or concerns, please reach out to a licensed mental healthcare professional.