By Diane Gage Lofgren
Are you steaming mad?
Experts say that when we have feelings of anger, one of the best things to do is express ourselves in a safe environment, one where we do not experience being judged or oppressed.
When your life feels out of balance because of negative emotions, who do you have on speed dial to call? Who can you text to see if they can talk or meet? Who is willing to listen to you any time of the day or night?
Our social support system is key to our mental health. Friends who will listen and not judge, who offer support without tearing down the person who caused our anger, and who hold our feelings private are some of the most important confidants we can have.
Because these kind of count-on friends know us well, they can let us be ourselves. We don’t have to hide feelings or play nice. In fact, stuffing our emotions is no doubt more detrimental to our health than letting the frustration out in way that does not hurt others. And releasing our burden with someone who is not the object of hurt or anger is probably the best place to vent. With that release, we can then create a plan to work things out with the other person, script our response, and even determine how we want to behave differently moving forward so we don’t ingrain a pattern.
We all need go-to, tell-it-all friends, but how do you cultivate the high level of trust necessary to be this real and vulnerable? It doesn’t happen without the investment of time that allows us to slowly test our friend’s ability to listen and honor our feelings, without judgment or reciprocity. We can build this kind of relationship if we’re willing to let our friend get to know us. Without a history, without context, our anger or fear just won’t make sense.
A good place to begin is by letting our friend know that that is the kind of relationship we are seeking. In fact, once we get to know someone fairly well, we can talk about the fact that this is one of the facets of friendship you most admire and desire. And, of course, the cone of silence must be a rule that is agreed to and kept.
It’s always good to start small. Share a little frustration with a friend and see how she reacts. Is she a good sounding board? Does she listen well? Does she seek to understand and not jump to conclusions or solutions? Does she trust you enough to share her feelings and disappointments?
We all have to learn to solve our own problems. Even the closest confidant cannot fix our fears or take away our sadness. What good friends do is to listen and allow us to vent, ask open-ended questions to let us hear ourselves think, offer to get together with us to dampen the sense of isolation anger can bring, and then check in on us as we overcome and begin to heal.
It’s human to feel. It’s natural to want comfort when we hurt. It’s OK to ask for help to resolve angry feelings. Friends who can do that for us and accept our love and comfort in return are the kind of friends we long for and when we find them, the kind of friends we will never let go!