What is Anger Telling You?
Everybody experiences it. It is hot like lava and boils up from your belly with an unexpected surge. Unpredictable, powerful and fierce, anger can be either a humble teacher or cruel lover, but never both. You can either learn from anger in humility, or get seduced by it to end up hurting yourself and others. How you respond to painful emotions and things that trigger you is entirely up to you. You always have choice.
You have likely given into anger in many ways. You may have blown up and dumped the swelling heat on someone you liked or loved, only to feel badly about your knee-jerk reaction after the fact. You may have sat on your feelings, trying to quell a growing beast within, only to find yourself feeling depressed, listless and complaintive. Neither is a healthy response to anger.
In this blog post, I would like to explore with you the hidden gifts of anger and how you can work with this powerful emotion to live a more fulfilling life.
THE FEAR BENEATH THE ANGER
Our anger shows us the ways we believe we are separate; the ways we don’t feel loved or supported; the ways we don’t believe love exists. Where there is anger, there is fear. If you are angry, you have forgotten love. In Marianne Williamson’s words, “What is not love is fear. Anger is one of fear’s most potent faces. It does exactly what fear wants it to do: It keeps us from receiving love at exactly the moment when we need it the most.”
When you look within, you find that anger, like all emotions, offers you insight into what you value. It provides you with an opportunity to act with discernment and wisdom. For example, you may feel irritated because your roommate is watching TV late at night. You need to sleep because you have an early start in the morning, but find the noise keeps you awake. Your irritation tells you that you value your health, your sleep, and silence. It may also signal that you don’t yet have good communication with your roommate and that you need to invest in greater understanding. Or it may be letting you know that this living arrangement needs to change.
Looking more closely, maybe you are afraid of not getting enough sleep. Perhaps you feel disrespected and unconsidered.
Perhaps, deeper still, your roommate is giving you an opportunity to realize that in fact, you never really felt safe – anywhere. Maybe you have felt low-grade anxiety your whole life, like a slithering pulse that moves beneath your heartbeat or a knot that pulls in the depth of your belly. When you touch that pulse and befriend the tension in your gut, you see that your deepest fear is your fear of not being loved.
Should you allow anger to get the better of you, you might throw off your bed covers, storm out of your room, grab the TV remote and hit the off button while yelling at your roommate for being insensitive.
When you take a few deep breaths and look within, you see that the roommate likely meant no harm with his late night entertainment. It was just a simple oversight. But even if he was annoying you intentionally, that would be an expression of his ignorance. His actions and choices are no reflection of you. The problem could well be quickly resolved when you calmly say what you are feeling and what you need.
Any emotional baggage you carry distorts the lens through which you see the world. Perhaps you had a controlling or absent parent who was insensitive. Perhaps you grew up feeling unsafe expressing what you needed, so you don’t really know how to do so as an adult. Whatever the story may be, we all tend to pull our past forward into the present unconsciously until we have come to peace with it. Painful emotions such as anger provide one such opportunity.
When you meet a seemingly straightforward life situation that deeply triggers you, you can be assured that you have touched some of your emotional baggage. If your roommate inadvertently pushes one of your buttons by playing the TV late at night and you storm out of your room to confront him, you are no longer in the present moment. In effect, you are not going to talk to a neutral person sitting in your shared living room. You could be on an unconscious crusade to confront a difficult parent or caregiver from your past who you felt didn’t give you the love you needed. If so, you have allowed your past to overtake you. Until you come to terms with that, you no longer are in the here and now.
When you let go of trying to change the parent of your long-gone childhood, and come to see your roommate as just your roommate, you see this moment – and everyone in it (like your TV-watching roommate) – as a gift of discernment and compassion. It provides you with an opportunity to lighten your emotional baggage and live with greater presence, power and freedom.
ANGER ADDICTION AND THE WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE
Anger can become addictive, like a bad habit on overdrive. Seduced by its surging heat as angry thoughts swirl through your head, you feel like a mighty king. But you will not find in it the happiness you seek. In a quote often attributed to the Buddha, the 5th century commentator Buddhaghosa says, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
When the heat of anger arises, it takes humble willingness and profound courage to release the notion of againstness and open to love. No good comes from blaming and judging. When you understand this, anger is no longer attractive. You see life from a broader vantage point, rooted in love, trust and interconnection.
Anger is born out of a judgmental, divisive mind which hurts both you and others. Be kind to yourself when you feel the heat of anger rise. Learn healthy ways to self-soothe and remain calm. Remember that you are love, you are loved. When you feel safe, you can find the courage to relax, go within and get to your most core feelings. When you express your true, vulnerable heart, everybody wins.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Breathe through anger and find your deeper truth.” quote=”Breathe through anger and find your deeper truth.”]
Behind the heat, beyond the knee-jerk reaction to attack, you find in anger a guardian of your truth that can keep you honest and on your path. It can motivate change, help you hold healthy boundaries, and give you a safe space to grow and evolve. When you better understand what feelings lie beneath your anger, you can act with greater clarity and integrity. When you respect yourself, you are more likely to be kind and respectful of others.
GAUGE THE RAGE
Physiologically, anger is characterized by hot constriction. You can feel it easily in your body when your fists clench, your jaw tightens and your blood begins to boil. If you are committed to managing your anger, you must learn to notice the signs of it rising, and take steps to defuse it, before you do something you regret.
The first stage of anger is irritation. You sense that something is dissonant with what you may want, as though it goes against your grain. Irritation increases to a mild sense of anger where you begin to feel more kinetic and agitated. That active energy may be thwarted for a variety of reasons such as personal judgment, fear, shame, or pride. If it is thwarted, you then feel frustration. Once you move beyond frustration, anger can quickly escalate, as though the lid you had put on it has blown off. In this state, your actions, words and thoughts can be extremely explosive. In the process, you can hurt yourself and others. When you become blinded by this heat and can see nothing else, you have entered into rage. The stages of anger are:
- Mild sense of anger
- Escalating anger
As you move through your day, notice when irritation creeps in. It is the earliest sign along the anger gauge. Take a few long breaths. Remember that when you are feeling hard done by, you are feeding your ego. This means that you are buying into the notion of feeling separate and that somehow life is happening to you, as though you were a victim to it. You are giving away your power and have entered a primal state of reactivity. Remind yourself that you will not find the happiness you seek by feeding these limiting beliefs. Instead of moving into greater constriction, see if you can allow your whole being to soften. Open courageously to the possibility that your irritation offers you a chance to reconnect with the moment and your whole self.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Breathe in the reality that you are loved beyond what you can imagine. ” quote=”Breathe in the reality that you are loved beyond what you can imagine.”]Breathe in the reality that you are loved beyond what you can imagine. You have all the love you need. Then lovingly ask yourself: “Is there anything I need to say or do right now?”
If the answer is no, take a few long deep breaths and thank yourself for your wisdom and compassion.
If the answer is yes, then make sure you speak or act on it only when you can do so from a quiet and calm place. Remember, where there is anger, there is fear; and if you are angry, you have forgotten love. Keep a healthy perspective: everyone at any given time is doing the best that they can with what they know. Look for the good in others and practice kindness. Whatever you do, make sure it is not about trying to change anyone. You can only change yourself, and do so to honour the beautiful, budding flower that you are.
As you make decisions and act from self-love and self-respect, your life blooms in lasting joy.
Until next time, remember,
Love our world.
We are one Earth family.