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Swimming to Manage Our Anger

When we are young, and don’t know how to swim, we enjoy playing with the water, splashing everywhere and getting everyone (including yourself) very wet. Although it is messy, it can be fun and brings pleasure into our life. However, if we end up in deep waters, we get ourselves into trouble.

As we grow and learn to swim, we do a slightly better job of staying afloat in the water. We even have a newfound confidence being in the water and think we can hang out in deep waters. However, once we stop swimming and if we don’t know how to tread water, we start to panic, eventually sink and again, put ourselves in a troubling situation.

Once we learn how to tread water, we can stay afloat in deep waters. However, we can get tired, and we eventually stop treading, start to panic, start to sink and get more tired ‘fighting to stay afloat’ and again, put ourselves in a troubling situation.

With enough practice, we can last quite long in deep waters and will start to find other fun and exhilarating ways to enjoy the water (E.g., kayaking, riding a jetski or diving into the water). One may enhance the level of safety by using a lifejacket, to further help one’s ability to stay afloat, if trouble comes. At this level, when we get tired, we can make active choices to bring ourselves back to safety (E.g., swimming to shallow waters and getting out of the water). However, if we are not careful with how we participate in these fun activities, trouble comes and we may end up hurting others around us and/or hurting ourselves. Having fun in the water requires us to be aware of our surroundings; utilize swimming aids; staying in safe places; staying focused; stop swimming when we get tired; and getting out of the water for a break.

In this analogy, learning to swim is equivalent to learning to manage our anger (emotions) and water represents life. At times, we all feel confident to manage ourselves when we get angry, yet when a truly difficult situation occurs, that is when we fully recognize how difficult it is to manage our anger, and trouble occurs. Reaping the benefits of anger (“I get what I want”) can seem to work however; there are often negative consequences that come with the utilization of anger to what we want. However, holding in our anger is not the answer either because, we will eventually get tired and may burst out in explosive ways.

In my work with people, I encourage everyone to:

  • Assess your anger, frustration and annoyance levels when you go into situations

  • Practice and develop your skills to cope with anger and conflict in your life

  • Find your life jacket (tools to manage your anger)

  • Be curious and self-aware of what is causing your anger and why you are feeling angry

  • Try to learn from our moments of anger and utilize it as a time to re-calibrate yourself to your personal goals and values

  • Take a break when you need it

I hope that bringing attention to these areas will help you improve your swimming in the waters of life. Learning to swim (and accepting our anger) will help us more effectively appreciate all the joys and better help us learn from our difficult moments. If you or someone you know would like some assistance on how to better cope with anger and other difficult emotions of life, please feel free to contact Chris at Ride the Waves Counselling Service at or call 647-456-7751.

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