If I Can Laugh When I’m Happy, Why Can’t I Yell When I’m Angry?
Someone recently said to me, “If I laugh when I’m happy, why can’t I yell when I’m angry? It’s the same thing. People smile and laugh when they’re happy and they frown and yell when they’re mad.” When people get very angry and start yelling at others, they often hear, “Stop yelling at me” or “Calm down”. But when people are really happy, and start hysterically laughing, nobody really tells them to stop laughing or calm down, unless they are in the middle of a class or a serious conversation with a parent or a teacher.
Teenagers, like most people, experience a wide range of feelings. They tend to feel a bit more intense and shift more dramatically from one to another when you’re a teen. Teens often describe their feelings as very intense. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to discuss how you express your emotions, what is appropriate, and what is not.
Most of us don’t say, “I’m feeling so happy right now” without a smile or laughter accompanying it. So why are we expected to say, “I’m so angry right now” without frowning or yelling? Is this a double standard? We keep on hearing that anger is not a bad thing, how we are supposed to express our feelings and not keep them bottled up inside, but then we get in trouble when we yell. But isn’t yelling really just like laughing? Actually, no it is not.
When anger leads to yelling, things can quickly get out of control and become filled with rage (intense or violent anger). This can damage relationships and cause all sorts of other problems as well. Things we say and do in a fit of rage cannot be unsaid or undone, and can cause loved ones a great deal of pain. Sometime the damage is irreparable. If you disrespect your parents or teachers, you will be the one who suffers. On the contrary, I’ve never heard of anyone being hurt by another person laughing too hard when they were happy. It is just not the same.
So, if yelling is not recommended, what can you do when you feel angry?
- Feel your feelings. No matter if you are happy or sad, scared or relaxed, allow yourself to really feel what is going on. Feel it to your core, in your body and in your mind. Recognize what is happening physically and emotionally and ask yourself what this is trying to tell you. Are these feelings telling you you’re in a dangerous situation? Maybe you’re not feeling heard. There are a lot of possibilities, so really pay attention to what you’re feeling.
- Choose your action. This is the exact opposite of just responding with whatever knee-jerk reaction surfaces. Rather, this needs to be thought out and mindful, and based on what you’ve determined these feelings are trying to tell you. If your feelings tell you that you don’t feel safe, the action is to leave. If your feelings tell you you’re not feeling heard, you can stay calm and find a way to express this. You have many choices other than yelling.
- Remember you can handle this. While it might be extremely uncomfortable and undesirable, it is actually not You are stronger than you think you are, and you can handle things that are extremely unpleasant.
- Don’t push anger away. You don’t have to push your anger away or pretend that your are not angry. It’s okay to feel angry; it is even important to sometimes feel anger. Anger is trying to tell you something. Don’t ignore that. People who push their feelings away end up with serious mental and physical ailments.
- Never insult or degrade another person. Don’t yell or scream or call people names. This is just incredibly hurtful and damaging.
- Use “I” statements and take responsibility. It is always okay to state what you are feeling, such as “I am feeling angry.” This way, you are owning what you are feeling, and you set yourself up to act appropriately.
- Do have a toolbox of coping skills. It is important to recognize when you are angry, and rather than just yelling, having some appropriate tools to use for communicating, expressing, and managing your anger. Here are tools for your toolbox:
- Take some slow, deep breaths. This helps slow your heart rate and calms you so that you can think more clearly. It really works.
- Walk away. If a situation is getting out of hand and you don’t think you can keep your cool, remove yourself. You can return when you are calm.
- Take a walk or a run. Many people find this helpful. The exercise added to the time alone seems to help with perspective. You can return to talk about it later.
- Listen to relaxing music. This has proven to help people relax and calm down when they are agitated. Give it a try.
- Read a book. Take your mind to a different place and let is settle. You will come back when you are ready to solve the problem.
- Take a bath. Again, this is another way to relax and calm yourself. It gives you a break from the argument.
- Call a friend. Friends understand us like nobody else. Vent to a friend and listen to their perspective and advice. People not caught up in the middle of something usually have a clearer perception than we do.
- Write in a journal/draw/create music. This can be really cathartic. Write whatever you want about how you’re feeling, or write a letter that you don’t ever have to send. Draw your feelings or get your feelings out with that guitar. All of it is a great way to take something that hurts inside and get it out.
Anger is really nothing to be afraid of. It is just a warning sign, like a yellow light. Take care of yourself and your anger, and it’s just another feeling. But if you try to bottle it up and then let it get out of control, it’s going to become rage, which is more like a red light. If you run that red light, the consequences can be severe and have lasting damage. Use the right tools and techniques, and you will be just fine.