Anger is a Universal emotion that is included in the package of being a human being. We’ve all experienced the charged up feeling and the boiling of our blood when something or someone stimulates our anger. By itself, anger can turn us into different people and cause us to act/react in ways which most times we would regret afterwards.
What can we do to better manage and process our anger?
Who has the Power?
Whenever we get angry, it comes with such a potent force that more often than not the anger has control over us, rather than the other way around. When we are under the influence of an emotion, it parallels to the degree of us being drunk or high. This is simply because the overwhelming emotion takes control and impairs our decision-making abilities.
That is why it’s common to see people punch walls, get into a fight or even verbally abuse someone else under the state of anger. It’s the emotion that has power over us in that moment. While ‘we’ are powerless to stop it. This is not only with anger, but we can see this with other emotions as well. Take ‘Sadness’ for instance. When we’re feeling down about our life and the situation we’ve ended up in, many of us fall into unhealthy habits such as binge eating, smoking, or perhaps playing video games to numb the pain. The same goes when we feel jealous. We allow the jealousy to take power over us and wreak havoc with our thoughts.
We are not our Anger
A few years ago, I was experiencing moments of emotional instability and couldn’t really control the thoughts, feelings and emotions that masked my personality. I struggled mightily to have better control and to take power over my insecurities, doubts and fears. In my quest to find answers, I came across a book by Hale Dwoskin called “The Sedona Method”. It’s basically a technique which is designed to free us from our unhealthy emotions. I didn’t really find the method itself of too much value, but simply reading it helped to provide an empowering perspective for me.
From the book, I understood that many times, we claim to be something we are not. Take for example the statement, “I am angry”. Now on the surface, this just looks like a harmless statement. Yet, if we examine it more closely, we can see that we are actually making the claim that we ARE angry, or in other words, we exist as anger itself and that’s who we identify with. Similar statements such as, “I am Sad”, “I am Depressed”, “I am Jealous”.. etc. Now this may seem like playing with words and for me I thought the same initially. However, if we shift our perspective a bit, we come to realize that we are not an emotion. We can never exist as an emotion. As human beings, we are beyond our emotions. Emotions are simply things that we have and if we have an emotion, then we can easily let it go as well.
It’s much more of an empowering perspective to say that I am feeling angry and realize that it’s just a feeling. As quickly as it came, we can let it go just as quick.
Manifestations of Anger
As mentioned earlier, anger is an emotion that typically causes us to act or react. There are a few different ways in which anger manifests. The first is what is known as Expression. When it relates to anger, expression usually means just letting our blood boil and allowing it to erupt into violence or rage or verbal assaults. It’s similar to a pressure cooker building steam and letting the heat out through a mini explosion of sorts. Typically our breathing becomes short and rapid, we feel tension within our muscles and perhaps even clench our teeth. Enough tension and build up of anger will usually find a tipping point where a person cannot contain it anymore and eventually bursts. Expression of anger is the explosive manifestation.
The second is the complete opposite, which is suppression. This usually doesn’t appear on the surface but it simply is the means in which we push our emotions down and maybe even ignore them without coming to a resolution. Most times it’ll be when someone is angry but that person gets real quiet or pretends that they are not bothered by it. We shut down externally, but internally we create blockages and aren’t able to process our thoughts, emotions and feelings properly. For example, our manager tells us we’re incompetent. We fear that if we express our anger, we’ll get fired, so we shut up and just take in the words and perhaps even believe the things we were told. Each time we encounter our manager in the future, the experience brings those memories fresh in front of us and unsettles our mind. Suppression can manifest eventually as sleep disorders, anxiety, and even depression.
There’s one more way to deal with anger which is always available to us. That is ‘letting go’. If we remember that anger is an emotion. It is not something which we are, but rather an emotion we are holding onto. So then, why not loosen our grip on anger and simply let it go?
My wife will throw this rhetorical question at me from time to time, "If you had a hot piece of coal in your hand, would you not immediately let it go?" The hot coal can be replaced with anger, but the result would be the same. Why not let it go?
Letting go is a two-step process. The first step is usually the most tricky. During the onset of our anger, we must train ourselves to recognize that the emotion of anger is waging a war of power within us. To realize that our anger is taking over and keeping us as a hostage within our own body. The hardest part is to catch ourselves in the moment. It takes a bit of practice and conscious intent to catch this rapid takeover. How many times have we gotten angry within a split second of some trigger point? Yet, it’s OK to allow the emotion of anger to arrive. I am not saying we should stop the anger from being generated. What is important during this first step is to immediately recognize and catch ourselves in the moment it arrives.
The second step is a dialogue. After we’ve caught the anger arising, ask ourselves, “Why am I getting angry?” “What is causing this anger?” “What is it that I haven’t come to terms with internally that is causing this reaction?”
Now this sounds a bit long-winded, but the dialogue happens within a split second. This is different from suppressing our anger because now we are taking responsibility for our emotions, rather than seeing ourselves as a victim and pushing the anger away.
By asking the question, “What is it that I haven’t come to terms with yet?”, we are taking responsibility over our reactions. I truly believe that the reason we get angry at situations, objects or other people is simply because there’s a part within us that we haven’t come to terms with.
Take for example being angry at people who are liars and dishonest to us. Remember the saying, “Nobody can upset us without our permission”. The reason we get angry towards dishonesty is because there may be a part of us where dishonesty is showing up in our life which we haven’t reconciled yet. Perhaps we’re dishonest by setting a perception towards others about who we are and putting up a likeable front. It could be that we’re dishonest about our desires and we don’t really express what we want to others. Maybe we’re lying to ourselves about what our dreams are in life and simply settling for what’s safe and mediocre. No matter what it is in this case, there’s some element of dishonesty that we haven’t made peace with which causes us anger when we see it in others.
The same goes for if we’re angry with a particular race, religion, belief system or just simply being upset with what someone is wearing. How many times have we looked at the way someone dresses and said to ourselves, that is terrible, how could they wear something like that? Maybe there’s a part within us that wants to be different or wants to be daring which we’re ignoring and as a result it manifests as anger or hate towards a person. Many times anger is present within us because we don’t understand what we see. Could it be because there are parts to us which we don’t understand and as a result it frustrates us?
The idea here is that Anger is only as strong as the amount of energy we fuel it with and how much power we allow it to have over us. As long as we can constantly be vigilant and remind ourselves that we’re the masters of our emotions. To recognize that we’re in control and the reaction that we’re having is simply something we ourselves haven’t come to terms with. This in itself will put us in a place of peace, a place where we can make better decisions as we are no longer victims of a temporary emotion.
Photo Credit: https://sojo.net/magazine/september-october-2012/deadly-misnomer-fossil-fuels