I was listening to the talk by Lama Rod Owens on Cultivating Anger: The Path of Healing and Deepening Compassion for Ourselves and I found myself thinking about some ideas that I wanted to share.
Anger is labelled as a “negative” emotion. This is a misunderstanding. Anger is an emotion and emotions are what they are. They are neither good nor bad. We have a picture in our minds of anger that is connected with violence and being aggressive towards the other. Violence is usually the result of continually bypassing or suppressing our anger and allowing it to accumulate over time and not the result of anger per se.
My own experience with anger informs me that anger appears between me and my environment. It usually has to do with a need of mine that is not being met. The thing with anger is that in many occasions it is not clear how I am contributing to the situation and I might get trapped in this grey area of not knowing where to “put the blame on”. Usually, we think that somebody is at “fault” for us not having our need met. If we can’t attribute or put out our anger to our environment, we will keep it in as anger towards ourselves.
By being angry towards my environment, I will become a “perpetrator” and put my anger out to the world – “it’s their fault”. Another possibility here is that the anger will be kept inside – I am not allowed to show that so I will pull it back and push away the person I feel angry towards. That is more connected with what is termed “passive aggressiveness”. There is also an extreme third solution – I become angry towards myself and become self-destructive.
How can I work with anger?
The important thing with emotions is to bring awareness to the emotion and our body. This has the potential to transform emotions. But we need to allow our emotions to be in order to become aware of them. The main questions here are the following:
- How can I allow myself to be aware of my own anger?
- How can I allow something of what’s going on inside me out to the environment (without hurting anyone physically or emotionally and not becoming violent)?
The tricky thing here is that if we try to be “too careful” with our anger we might make it disappear in some way. So the need for a balance of not making our anger disappear and not expressing it in unproductive ways is there.
Finding the trigger of anger
Understanding the source of anger is beneficial. The following questions might prove helpful:
- What is triggering me?
- How come?
- How this might be connected to my wound?
- What might I be sad about?
I particularly like the idea that anger is the protector or guardian of our woundedness. Am I avoiding something that is hurting me then?
Working with anger in our relations
Anger can potentially harm important relations in our lives. By suppressing and bypassing anger, we might become resentful of or dismissive and contempt towards the person we are angry with.
Voicing what we are feeling is important. This question comes from the book “Saying what’s real” by Susan Campbell.
I am getting triggered by something. Can we talk about our feelings?
The difficulty here is that we have consistently learned to suppress, bypass or bury the emotions we are feeling. Especially those that are labelled as “bad” or “negative”.
However, if we allow anger to be, observe it as a phenomenon, we can also potentially see what it has to teach us. Additionally, we might become more aware of our own boundaries and how we might be betraying our inner core; how we may not pay attention to our woundedness; and finally, how we don’t allow other emotions (for example our sorrow) to be expressed.
Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash
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