Anger gets bad press! But really what should get bad press is the denial, repression and suppression of anger. Anger is energy in motion which talks to us about our deepest longings, needs and forgotten past. If we listen to the story that anger has to tell us, we can learn a great deal about ourselves and others, as well as become empowered to make changes and renewed in our commitment to live a life committed to spiritual growth.
Nelson Mandela says our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate but that we are powerful beyond measure. Is it the power of anger that so frightens us? Rage left unattended to can be very scary and indeed damaging. We only need think of violence prompted by uncontrollable rage or road rage.
However, in denying our anger we deny a very real and sacred part of ourselves. And anger will come out in other ways. The smouldering resentment we carry or the hostility we sulkily spread around when we are “in a bad mood” can be lessened if we are truthful to ourselves and others about our anger. Then we can squarely face what it is that upsets us.
I often hear clients say “I don’t get angry”. It is true that some people have dealt with their feelings and have reached this point. However, though many people have this image of themselves they are often unaware of how their anger manifests. Some can admit to feeling frustration but not anger. So perhaps it is a matter of degree. But in truth most of us feel a propensity to anger at times. The Buddhists aspire to never feel anger. The Christian teaching is the example of Christ who we believe had righteous anger: that is anger at injustice which motivated him to evict the money changers from the temple. So we have the example of anger being used to cause a good result. Anger was a powerful force for change.
In our human relations it is often enlightening to look deeply at what causes us to have a strong reaction. We may think it is the behaviour of others who have wronged us but very often we may notice that what causes one person to react strongly has almost no effect on the next person. It can be interesting to note that the person to whom we have a strong reaction often reminds us of some part of our own history that caused us pain or some unacknowledged part of ourselves. It’s almost as if the people with whom we relate hold up a mirror to us dare, for those that have eyes to see.
Anger can be threatening for it may signal a potential loss of control. But it need not. The more we repress it the more it bubbles away underneath threatening to erupt like a volcano and then it is surely out of control! Perhaps after all it’s more honest and life- giving to take steps to become aware of what triggers our feelings of resentment and anger and to deal with them in a mature way: that is to take responsibility for our own feelings, responses and needs. To become aware of our feelings, to choose what needs to be expressed and to whom and to choose a time that is appropriate.
Perhaps it is that bearing witness to another’s vulnerability causes us to be reminded of our own fragility which is too painful to acknowledge. It may be that we are taken back to a time when we felt abandoned, alone or left out. This may influence how much we are prepared to include the outsiders in our midst. So if anger frightens us, perhaps we can try to remember what happened when we expressed anger growing up and how it was expressed by others. Was it safe? The wonderful thing is that the past does not need to be recreated in the present and we can learn to acknowledge and express anger in ways that do not cause harm to ourselves or others.
If we seek to become more aware of the hidden and denied parts of ourselves we will continue to grow. The next time you notice yourself having a strong reaction to anger in someone else, see if you can become aware of what is going on for you. Ask yourself what it reminds you of in your past, and check: can it possibly hold a mirror for you reflecting your own behaviour or fears, either in this relationship or another? Is it possible that the very thing which is now upsetting you and the attitude which it reflects, is also a belief or behaviour that you yourself have towards others?
In this hurried and frazzled world where anger erupts in rudeness and other disrespectful ways let us seek to soothe the angry parts within us, to take good steps to remedy what concerns us, and to use the energy of anger for positive growth, health and healing.
© Margie Ulbrick
If you would like some support with your relationships or creating greater happiness in your life, please contact me on 0403 814 477 for a free 10-minute consultation to discuss your needs.