Due to the immense losses associated with COVID-19, it’s completely normal that you may be experiencing difficult emotions such as grief, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and ultimately anger. After all, there are many things to be sad or angry about right now: People have lost their jobs, finances, normalcy, routines, favorite activities, the health of self or loved ones, the ability to see friends and family… along with having to deal with the chaos in grocery stores.
Research such as the Yale Bereavement Study suggests that, after losses such as those associated with the pandemic, disbelief and yearning often occur first, followed by anger. At this difficult time in history, learning how to manage difficult emotions like anger has become increasingly important to your happiness, and the impact, whether positive or negative, you have on others.
Everyone gets angry. Ever met a baby who didn’t pitch a fit? Feeling angry is not a problem at all. In fact, we welcome you to try to never feel angry. The problem arises when we act out of anger to either harm ourselves or others. We generally see three main categories of anger:
1. Anger towards oneself
Anger towards oneself is often a symptom of depression and may stem from deeper feelings of powerlessness. A few times during the world’s COVID -19 crisis, I have felt quite angry at myself. Upon deeper reflection my anger was caused by the powerlessness I feel in relation to this virus, the millions of people suffering and fears about economic collapse.
2. Anger arising from loss of control
Feeling out of control is scary. Anger often accompanies this fear. Similarly, we can become quite angry when others do not act in ways that we think they should. When anger arises in these situations the emotion is generally used to intimidate in order to manipulate the situation or others.
3. Anger towards injustice
We feel anger when people are victimized, discriminated against or in anyway harmed through injustice. While this anger may be natural and seemingly okay, if we in turn lash out at others, we generally make the problem worse.
So what can we do to keep angry feelings from becoming angry, hurtful actions?
- We must learn to recognize we are angry and own our feelings.
- “Remain like a log.” What do logs do? Nothing is the answer. Logs don’t move. Taking any action while emotionally charged rarely has a good result. Allow this fact to sink deep into your consciousness.
- When we are angry we are suffering. Acknowledge anger as a form of suffering that exists in you at times.
- Invite mindfulness directly into the emotion of anger. Here’s an example: “Breathing in, I am aware of my anger. Breathing out I calm my anger. Do the very best you can to breathe like this for a few minutes.
- Most anger can be resolved by gaining a deeper understanding of the situation. So often we become angry because of a misperception. Ask yourself, am I sure that I am right? The answer to this question is almost always no. If you can discipline yourself to gain deeper understanding through asking questions, deeper understanding will almost surely arise.
While these suggestions seem rather simple, please do not underestimate their power to transform anger. And finally, there are times when anger is much more deeply rooted and qualified help may be needed. Many of us still feel that seeking help for emotional problems is some kind of weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth.