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Calling Anger by its Real Name

Calling Anger by its Real Name
Calling Anger by its Real Name

Agitated Aggravated Annoyed Bitter Boiling Brooding Contemptuous Disgusted Displeased Enraged Frustrated Fuming Furious Hateful Heated Ill-tempered Incensed Indignant Inflamed Infuriated Irate Irritated Livid Mad Miffed

Offended Pissed off


Ticked You can feel it coming. Maybe it starts in your gut and boils into your chest. Old-school cartoons would depict an angry character with their face turning crimson red and steam spewing out of their ears. When this happens, do you wish you could magically and immediately feel better and get back to calm?

Well, the good news is, you can, and most likely, no one has taught you this trick.

The trick is called Naming the Emotion. The process only requires that you be precise and that you access a list of emotions to refer to. We have provided a list above; it is not all-inclusive. You should expand your emotional vocabulary. Anger can be a catch-all word for all things angry, just as Fear and Happy are catch-all for those emotions as well. Learning to be impeccable in describing what you are experiencing is good practice.

Instead of getting hijacked by the Anger, simply ask yourself to name the exact emotions that exist "behind" that all-inclusive "umbrella" emotion we call Anger. Are you "annoyed" or are you "pissed-off"? Or, are you feeling a more extreme feeling like "enraged"? Perhaps you are "frustrated" about a situation rather than "livid". Whatever you feel, sitting with it in the moment to gauge which word will fit is important.

Naming emotions requires our left brain to engage to sort and match the feeling with the right word to describe it. This process seems to bridge the gap between thoughts and feelings. And it also reminds you that the emotion is temporary. Going through this process can disrupt the emotion just long enough for you to get to calm.

Other benefits of this process are:

  • You will remember that you are greater than the feeling, and that will bring in a sense of peace.

  • By examining the feeling with the goal of being exact in the naming, you will begin to listen to what that emotional data is trying to tell you.

  • While processing, you will take a lot of the energy out of the original sensations, so that feeling won't be as intense as it was a few minutes prior.

The result sounds like this:

"I am agitated."

"I feel furious."

"I'm so sad, and it makes me frustrated and confused."

As you can see, there isn't just one type of Anger. Anger, like all emotions, isn't one-size-fits-all. What makes you angry, and the kind of Anger you feel, can be traced from your present life back to childhood experiences about Anger and other emotional experiences. How your family dealt with emotions such as Anger also impacts how you experience Anger.

Yale University psychologist Maria Gendron suggests coming up with new names for types of Anger and then using those words with your family and friends. There's already a new one in popular culture: "hangry" to describe irritability caused by hunger. Or another one is "Dawn Anger" to name the feeling you get when you must wake up early and it irritates you. Do you and your family have code words for Anger and other emotions?

The Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Nguyen, talks about "taking care" of your Anger in his book Anger, Wisdom for Cooling the Flames. He tells us that Anger is a part of us. When we feel angry, we need to pay attention to that which triggered the emotion. Anger is sending a message to our hearts about how we feel and what we believe about a situation.

To magnetize the relationships you want, you must learn and accept all parts of yourself. If you ignore, generalize, or reject your emotions, the people around you will do the same. Becoming a connoisseur of emotions is an important part of this growth. Learn to identify, name, and appreciate the uniqueness of each of your experiences, and other people will do the same.


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