The Light Side of Anger
You can’t be both spiritual and angry right?
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