Anger has coped a bad wrap for the longest time. It is the most misunderstood human emotion and in many ways the most undervalued too.
Spiritually speaking, we seek for solutions to avoid feeling anger and we are often told our spiritual practices should focus on transforming any anger into blissful compassion every time. We continue to build layers of shame around our feelings of anger, as though anger itself is the root of all evil. But what if I told you that anger is not the enemy. Denying and suppressing our primal feelings of anger is one of the most common acts of spiritual bypassing and that in itself is actually more dangerous than anger itself.
We have essentially demonised a natural and necessary human emotion and energetic force and continue to deny its presence, leaving us with greater mental, emotional and spiritual consequences to deal with as a result. We see this reflected in the rising rate of relationship breakdowns, violence, addictions, abuse, mental health challenges, breakdowns, illnesses etc.
We are afraid to admit to and show our frustration, hurt, disappointment, or assert our boundaries so that we are not deemed ‘bad people’ or worse yet, spiritual frauds. We are so afraid of judgement, shame or punishment for our anger that we resort to suppression, submission, excessive justification and rationalisation of people’s attitudes and behaviours, self blame or worse yet, self harm. We push anger so far away, suppressing our feelings into the deep dark unconscious where it later brews into the perfect storm.
Repressing anger over a period of time will without doubt cause it to later resurface in a destructive way. Anger in and of itself is not a destructive state, but unexpressed anger often mutates into aggression and rage. Rage is essentially the mismanagement of internalised anger which people have confused for anger.
What I often teach my clients and students, is that all energy works in an over or under expression and our task as conscious beings is to learn to walk the middle path. In other words, repressed anger is as much a shadow quality as is over expression of rage. Both compulsions are born from a primal fear response. The conscious expression of anger however is a quality of our light.
Continually denying and suppressing anger cuts us off from acting from our blueprint of survival. The inability to accept and healthily process anger can lead to a developing a personality based on passivity and submissiveness. This is when things become dark and destructive. If we do not integrate and feel our anger in a positive way, we make ourselves vulnerable to ongoing mistreatment or injustice, and further diminish our sense of worth and wellness.
To understand this further, we must first recognise that anger is a backup response to a primary emotion such as hurt, frustration, and fear. Anger‘s primary purpose is to protect us from being violated or treated unjustly and alerts us that our needs are not being met. Anger not only alerts us to put up boundaries, if harnessed correctly it can mobilise us into inspired action towards more equality, justice and even help us break new ground by overcoming obstacles. In this way, anger can actually be an expression of compassion, a willingness to uphold boundaries that are sacred, or stand up for self or someone who is being oppressed.
Aristotle offered a wonderful view of anger, stating that it is necessary “to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way.”
In my experience, there are two types of anger. There is what I call ‘Conscious Anger’, which is a stable and grounded expression of inner truth both for self and other. It is rooted in your innate human values and is based on virtues of truth, goodness, honesty and human rights. It is conscious, as its name suggests. It is clear on its purpose and has a motivation to effectively express that and act upon it in a positive way. This kind of anger is also very rare as it requires a very intimate understanding and knowledge of Self- including the compulsions and influences of the ego.
On the other hand, there is ‘Impulsive Anger’ which is unfortunately a lot more common. This type of anger is a product of the unconscious influences of the past, based on negative unresolved experiences. It is self serving, demanding, unstable, irrational, confused, and often followed by impulsive and impatient action. This type of anger is perpetuates more pain because it is triggered by old wounds and is a product of unhealthy ego. This type of anger is simply trying to find a way to heal but unfortunately it ends up perpetuating the original pain.
So what prevents people effectively managing their anger? In my experience, most people have not been permitted to express their anger in the past in a healthy way and so the unconscious unresolved pain prevents them effectively responding in a constructive way to their present. People are essentially irrationally reactive to their present because of a past unresolved event.
Secondly, many people are simply uncomfortable feeling their core emotions. We have been taught from young children to keep our mouths closed only leading them to internalise the energy and seethe inside. We have generally been told it’s not ok to cry or bad to feel frustrated. But keeping all that energy inside is like a pot on the stove set to boil. Just like that pot will eventually boil over, so do we!
In many cases I see clients who present with the symptoms of self-directed anger. It manifests as depression and anxiety, self harm, self hate, self blame, self abuse. If people do not feel safe to direct their feelings outwards, then they direct it inwards.
There are many ways to stop the cycle of inward and outward destruction and that can only occur by starting to take the shame out of anger. We must reinstate our spiritual and human freedom to acknowledge our hurt, needs, fears and frustrations.
We must dedicate time towards resolving old imprints in a spiritually constructive way. As they say, hurt people, hurt people and so it is essential that we become accountable for our current perceptions due to our past experiences. We must stop old hurt manifesting into more hurt both for ourselves and the world around us by radical self honesty and accountability.
It’s so important to determine if the triggers that continue to provoke automated feelings of anger are in line with our deepest truth and values. Those triggers may be remnants of outmoded past beliefs and experiences that no longer apply to your now.
The best way to encourage healing and empowerment is to manage our anger with both our head and heart. We must spiritually walk the path of truth by fusing the wisdom of emotions with the wisdom of intellect and we cannot reach a healthy state of being by neglecting neither function.
If we ignore our feelings of anger we risk slipping into the shadows of silence - abandoning our selves, our truth and what it means to be governed by our conscience. And yet if we are too impulsive, and do not act with conscious reflection and self responsibility, we risk slipping into the shadows of aggression and perhaps make errors where the perceived violation is a lie conjured up by our own ego. In this instance, I suggest that you reinterpret and reframe through the lens of love. It is therefore essential to have conscious awareness and reign over our head and heart and take a breath before we decide which is the most effective means of response.
Pausing is the most vital tool of all. Pause to look within, pause to allow emotions to be accepted, pause to reflect, pause to assess and pause to make conscious choice. In this way we allow time to consider inwardly and outwardly the most appropriate course of conscious action, rather than submitting to the force that can often possess us without thought of consequence. More importantly, the pause and breath allows you the spaciousness to get in touch with your innermost values regarding how to respond in a way that is for the highest good not only of you, but of all involved.
Beyond this, below I have outlined a suggested approach to effectively communing with yourself so that you can better manage the protective power of anger:
GET UP CLOSE - The first step to better manage your inner state is to develop a relationship with yourself. Get to know your own inner child so to speak. Develop a connection inwardly so that you can understand yourself, your triggers, thoughts and reactions from a place of loving kindness. Tell yourself that all your feeling matter. In this way, you will be able to allow core emotions to surface and get to the heart of the matter faster.
SIT IN THE DISCOMFORT- Sit in kindness with yourself especially when the feelings are uncomfortable—that’s when the magic happens.
OBSERVE AND WITNESS- Aim to bring conscious awareness to your inner state. Observe your inner world of thought and emotions more regularly. By practicing inner watchfulness you will be able to determine if the anger is Conscious or Impulsive anger. Ask yourself if this anger is rational or irrational based on the current issue at hand. This will allow you to isolate what may be unconsciously influencing your state and causing a false alarm. From there you will be better able to redirect your energy and will in a way that is constructive than destructive.
LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE- Presence and stillness is vital to ensure you can effectively receive the message that your anger brings you. Ask what boundary has been crossed, what value system has been violated or what need not met. Create space to talk and dialogue with your emotion. Honour all that you feel. Perhaps journal the answers.
DEEPLY UNDERSTAND- By connecting with your anger in a conscious and accepting way you can allow it to animate itself in a helpful way. Judging yourself for being angry only adds another unhelpful layer of guilt or shame around the experience of anger. Simply hear it as you would if a child was speaking. Anger may seek to blame as a first stop but seek to be understanding towards its needs while also remaining understanding of other person’s views and opinions.
TAKE ACTION- Is your anger promoting you to take some form of action. Is it calling you to honour yourself or stand up for a cause to honour others? If the anger is Impulsive In nature then consider what inner healing is required to dissolve this old wound. It may also be calling you to upgrade your beliefs and values. If the anger is Conscious Anger then examine if you need to take a stand, express your thoughts, set a boundary, or make a change.
The road to reclaiming our right to feel is a long one. We have been conditioned over many generations to avoid showing this side of ourselves. Be patient with yourself but not lazy. Apply yourself and be vigilant at reclaiming your anger and seeing it as your friend rather than foe. All of our emotions are expressions of truth and can turn from shadows to light or light to shadows depending on our management or mismanagement of their power.
True spirituality calls us towards wholeness. This is a process of making the unconscious conscious so that it no longer holds us captive in a lower state of being. There are of course many things in reference to this topic I have not covered in this article. However, I do hope that it allows you to positively reframe your relationship to your self and reclaim your anger so that it might lead you towards achieving a greater level of healing and wholeness within.