I am continuing my exploration of the different emotions we experience and how we can allow ourselves to experience them without being overwhelmed by them or destructive, as in the case of this post’s focus-anger.
Anger is a very physical emotion. It is felt in the body and experienced when we feel something or someone impinges on our own sense of what is right. There is a range that runs from mild irritation all the way up to blinding rage. Behaviour is often the means through which we display this emotion, however it may also be turned inward and experienced toward self. There is also the very prevalent and powerful passive aggression which anger can engender.
Anger has great energy and if identified and owned can be applied very productively. The key is to learn the stages of anger we experience along the range and to separate out the differing points where one can know what belongs to the self and what belongs to the other; thereby guiding one to action or not.
I often meet people who are very angry and their anger is founded in a sense of helplessness. Through working with people who are consumed by anger, there is a sadness that informs the hurt from which the anger springs. This is particularly true for young men, who still find expression of hurt difficult to communicate if not to feel. For many, how one is held among one’s peers is so important, that one needs to be almost bullet-proof, the armour strong. There is often little outlet for the expression of hurt; it can very easily transmute into an energetic force such as anger, and can be contained through sport or lead to destructive patterns either to the person themselves or to another.
Hurt can mean fear and fear can lead one to react; cognition or the rational which essays to makes sense decreases and our visceral senses heighten, we are primed for action. Understanding the effect our anger can have on ourselves and those around us can be a very significant path towards learning the healthier engagement with anger. If we can venture to explore what lies beneath the expression of anger, it’s antecedents, we may learn that we have a choice in how we are heard. Through this discovery we may assert our own self-determination and take responsibility for our own feelings, not have the opinion that our wellbeing is swayed by the design of another.
This of course is not easy and when I write this I think of the anger that I can feel at the injustice meted out to fellow humans by individuals, movements or states around the world. Anger in this regard is all externalised and is almost akin to shouting to the void. If I can learn to be with my anger, to accept it’s emergence, to understand it’s roots and mind it, learn compassion for it, perhaps I can use it effectively.