Anger is by far one of the most feared emotional states we experience. Both it’s passive and its aggressive forms of expression are discouraged socially because anger is notorious for creating social conflict. But our fear of anger, only causes us to resist anger and anything that we resist, persists. What is anger? Anger is an emotional response that arises in response to the perception that you have been threatened. Think about that for a minute, anger always comes as a result of feeling threatened. That means anger comes in response to the perceived infliction of pain, injury or damage either done or not yet done to you. If we are angry, our survival mechanism has been triggered. Remember that I don’t mean just physical survival mechanism; I mean emotional survival mechanism and mental survival mechanism as well. This emotion is partly responsible for the fight or flight response. Anger is an aversion. It is an impulse for self-preservation. Anger is the emotional response that results from being threatened into a state of fear usually about pain that has been inflicted on you of that you think is going to come.
Anger becomes the predominant feeling behaviorally, cognitively, and physiologically when a person makes the conscious choice to take action to immediately stop the threat of another outside force. Anger distances you from the threat. This is the real reason why anger hurts people; it puts distance between yourself and them. It is opposing oneness and love. It is the opposite of social cohesion. It separates us.
When we perceive a threat, we feel powerless. We either feel like we did have no control over being hurt or that we have no control over being hurt. This scares us. There is no lower vibration on our planet that complete powerlessness. And so the soul has imbued us with a self-preservation impulse. The self-preservation impulse comes in the form of what I call a cover emotion, an emotional state that exists to keep you from experiencing or staying stuck in the emotional state just below it. Anger and hatred are cover emotions. Anger is an emotion that covers hurt and fear because fear and hurt are powerless states. It covers them so that we do not stay in those vibrations and become a match to the many survival risk experiences that are a vibrational match to us when we are in a state of powerlessness.
Obviously anger feels better than powerless states like fear and sadness because it is a higher vibration. But what about the people who feel like they feel better being guilty than angry or better being depressed or sad than angry? If this is the case, what has happened is that your social group (usually growing up) has made anger so wrong and so bad that you have a belief that anger makes you a bad person. You have perceived that anger hurts people and that hurting people makes you a bad person. And that bad people do not receive love. It is a holdover from the punishment and reward style of parenting you were raised with. People are relationally dependent so love equals survival. As a result, every time you feel angry, subconsciously your fight or flight mechanism is triggered. You begin to feel powerless because your core belief is that you will be abandoned or hurt and alone if you are angry. In other words, anger has become a trigger in and of itself for you. This is especially true if you have been raised in a religious environment. The various world religions, (even the core scriptures of such religions) are littered with warnings about the personal and spiritual implications of anger. This is not the dark ages anymore. Most of us are no longer living in caves and stoning our wives and sacrificing goats to the gods. So let’ catch up to the times. Anger is not wrong. Anger is not bad. Anger is not evil. Anger has been critical to our survival. Anger pulls us out of powerlessness and the pain of being hurt and being afraid. This is why people say that anger can be used as fuel. It makes dangers feel smaller and confidence seem higher and it is a huge burst of energy. It means we are taking our power back. It is motivating. Anger means we think we have a choice to make. And choice is freedom. This is why anger shows up in the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain during neuroimaging studies. Now as I said before, anger is enemy number one in society. Which is sad because the person that does not let themselves feel anger, is perpetually stuck in the lower vibrational states than anger. This is serious business when you consider that we live in a universe governed by the law of attraction. When we are angry, we are not a vibrational match to good feeling experiences. We are a match to things like fender benders and altercations and annoyances everywhere we turn. But if we are in a state of powerlessness, we are a match to much worse things, such as losing love, being victimized, and tragedies. It is better to be enraged than to be powerless because of what you are a match to when you are powerless. It is also serious business socially to resist anger. When people feel anger or rage or revenge and they are discouraged from feeling anger (in other words their anger is disapproved of, squelched or invalidated) they will immediately sink into a lower vibration than anger such as guilt or helplessness or victimization. And the energy of those emotional states keeps building until they have no choice but to act out to save themselves from those emotional states. This is when the world experiences things like murder. A person who is able to allow themselves to approve of and flow through their anger, is a person who does not have to take action on their feelings to feel better. They do not end up taking their anger out on other people. We spoke earlier about anger as a self-preservation emotion. It’s easy to see then just how much anger has to do with boundaries. Anger warns that your boundaries either have been violated or are about to be violated; yet another reason why it is such a valuable emotion. But what about the people who are angry at themselves? If you are angry at yourself, your emotions are telling you that you have violated your own boundaries. You have given yourself reason to fear yourself and not trust yourself. If you hate yourself, your emotions are telling you that you have hurt yourself. You perceive the threat as being you! I cannot go further without saying that if you are a chronically angry person, it is not a personality defect. You have every reason to feel the way you feel. It means there is omnipresent threat in your life. And it’s about time to take a look at your life and figure out what that omnipresent threat is. If you are chronically angry, you have been viewing yourself and your life in a way that makes you feel powerless so you pull yourself back to anger and you keep doing this over and over again. It is a vibrational holding pattern. What is it that is making you feel powerless? The people who feel powerless are angry people. The people who are the most afraid are angry people. But self-preservation is about more than just physical survival too. It’s about the intactness and integrity of yourself as a person. When we are disapproved of and loved conditionally, we cannot stay whole; we fracture. The people who are conditionally loved and who are invalidated and who do not get to be themselves are therefore very angry people. This is the real reason that teenagers are so angry. We need to stop using the cop out that teenagers are just angry or depressed because of hormones. This is grade A BS. Teens are angry because of the increase in social pressure. They have threats to their integrity coming at them from all sides. They are being pressured to violate their own boundaries by parents and teachers and peers every single day. The things that were acceptable in them as children are no longer acceptable. They must become only what is acceptable to society now and you had better expect that it will result in rebellion. But what is that rebellion? It is the rebellion to being told that the totality of who they are is unlovable and that they must dissociate themselves from that part of themselves that is no longer ok. We are asking them to conform to what we want of them and to make us feel good and proud, even at the cost of their own happiness at the same time as telling them they must become independent. It’s crazy making stuff. Conformity breaks a person’s heart. We are breaking our children’s hearts and we are making them powerless and then blaming it on hormones and punishing them for their rebellion.
If you are angry, that anger is right to feel. Nothing is wrong with you. You have valid reason to feel that way; otherwise you wouldn’t feel that way. You may not be conscious of why you are so mad, but once you realize why you are so mad, you will see just how right it is that you are mad. It doesn’t mean you have to act on the emotion of anger. In general, it is a good rule of thumb to not take action on our negative emotional states. So when you’re angry, it’s not a good idea to go punch a wall or get in a fight or to kill someone. But we also can’t deny, suppress or disapprove of our anger because that anger will never go away; instead it will result in an explosion or a physical ailment. We don’t have to suppress or deny anger we also do not have to take action on our anger. So what should we do about our anger?
1. Do not distract yourself from your anger. This is a popular suggestion that I disagree with completely. We must recognize that we are angry and name it as such. I am angry. 2. We have to care that we feel that way by seeing it as valid and important. We should never seek to control our anger; we should seek to take care of our anger as if it were a crying child. We have to acknowledge and validate our anger in a way that affirms that we have every right to feel the way we feel. The feelings are correct for us given our perception of what happened. We have to understand the real reason why we are angry. Understanding anger is actually quite easy, but it requires bravery because it requires that we are willing to feel vulnerable.
If we are angry, it means we feel as if we have been threatened. We need to ask ourselves “what do I feel so threatened by?” Once we figure out what it is that we feel threatened by, we need to ask ourselves “why do I feel so threatened by that thing?” And once we have answered those questions we need to ask ourselves the three most important things we can ask relative to anger the first is “what about that hurt me so bad?” The second is “what am I really afraid of in this situation?” and the third is “what need do I have in this situation that is not getting met?”
If we feel threatened, we feel vulnerable. The question is to what? For example, I might be super angry that my boss promoted the guy who sits next to me in my office but when I look for the vulnerable root of the anger, I might find that it hurt me because it made me feel like I’m not good enough and made me afraid that I’m going to be working at this same level, not succeeding or advancing for the rest of my life. Listen to you anger; listen to what it's telling you about what's wrong with your life and what you need to do or change in order to create a life that feels better.
You will find that just the awareness of the pain that is hiding underneath your anger, will take the edge off the anger. You will also notice that you are now able to deal with the real root of the problem, which is where real healing can occur. Also, the willingness to consciously feel the powerless feelings your anger is trying to keep you from is the opposite of resistance and anger cannot maintain itself in that atmosphere of allowing. 3. We need to be unconditionally present with the feelings, such as anger or hurt or fear that arise as a result of the previous step by sinking into and being unconditionally present with our feelings. We must integrate the feeling. For anyone who wants to understand this process refer to my video titled “How to Heal the Emotional Body”.
Once we have done that, here are some other techniques to try.
4. Now, I’m not one for breathing techniques and counting to ten. To me, it feels a bit like trying to carve at a glacier with a grapefruit spoon. But there is one technique that I have seen calm the hyper arousal of the brain very well and that is to breathe in for the count of four and breathe out for the count of eight. If you want, you can hold your breathe for the count of 6 in-between the in breath and outbreath. Continue to do this for at least 12 times before breathing naturally. 5. Put your pen to the paper. Write about your anger. When we are angry, we often get confused. Writing down our anger, helps us to get clear about our anger. Writing can help our mind and emotions to unite. Also, if we fully express the anger, we will find that we can access the hurt and fear underneath, much like scooping oil off of the top of water to get to the water. 6. Catharsis. There is a debate raging about whether it is a good idea or a bad idea to channel or express anger. Anger itself doesn’t necessarily have to be expressed in order to not be suppressed as long as we become completely conscious of the anger by dealing with the real hurt and fear beneath the anger. A lot of the study results involving catharsis and anger are not favorable towards channeling anger. Many of them find that if you redirect your anger, it only maintains or increases your state of hyper-arousal and can even make you even more aggressive than before. But this is because they are studying the act of catharsis when it is done alone, without the addition of cognitive therapy.
Catharsis is not healing unless it is done in tandem with addressing the real cause of the negative emotion. And indeed, when we do address the real cause of the negative emotion, we do not feel the need for catharsis.
People often channel their anger to avoid their anger and the hurt beneath their anger. For example, I could distract myself from it by exercising or playing a violent video game or punching a wall or working towards a goal or something of the sort. This kind of channeling can be very damaging because it never allows you to address the real cause of the anger and so healing is unavailable to you. It’s just a way of temporarily sedating the feeling. I have released energy but done nothing to resolve the underlying problems that are causing my anger. People, who are addicted to catharsis of emotional states like anger, are using catharsis to avoid directly dealing with the feelings of hurt and fear underneath the anger. To truly improve the negative emotional state, the underlying cause of the emotional state must be addressed. So don’t even bother with catharsis unless you plan to also address the underlying cause of your anger and create a cognitive change.
Catharsis in and of itself does nothing for long-term anger resolution. But let yourself decide if it is a good accouterment. There are ways to let anger out without avoiding or distracting oneself from anger. Art is an example. When we channel our anger in this way, we offer a vibration that calls other people who are powerless into higher vibrational states like anger. I am quite sure I would have died in my teen years in the states of powerlessness I was in were it not for bands like Limp Bizkit and Tool.
Some popular ways to channel anger are to scream into a pillow, go running, go to a place where there is no risk of harming anything else and throw rocks, make angry art, buy second hand plates or cups and smash them in a place and way where you and others wont be harmed, punch a punching bag, wrestle with a person who is willing, talk, dance, stretch or move our body in ways that release the energy, or cry. Remember you are looking for a release. When you are clenching your muscles or behavior, you are trying to control anger, and this only makes the situation worse. Don’t obstruct this energy. Anger wants to move, it wants to flow, it wants release, so let the energy flow. When you channel anger, make channeling the anger your only goal. Don’t channel your anger towards a goal. Think of it almost like bleeding yourself clean of the poison of the heated, buzzing, desperation of the feeling. Only you can know based on how you feel if you are channeling anger so as to avoid the anger and distract yourself from it, or whether you are deliberately letting the anger flow somewhere in a cathartic way. My observation is that catharsis works particularly well for people who have been chronically inhibited and who inhibit themselves. Only you will be able to tell if catharsis does in fact work for you with regards to anger. And we must remember that if we change our underlying perception, the emotional state of anger will not even be there anymore, so there will be no need to express it.
One popular idea is that we can turn anger into motivation. I’m not a fan of the idea of turning anger into motivation for one main reason; anger is a state of resistance. It is a state of resistance to lower vibrational states. Resistance clouds our judgment and intuition. We tend to make super crappy choices from a space of pain. If we are pushing forward from a space of anger, our forward movement is motivated by insecurity, fear and pain. Obviously with that kind of vibrational root, the results will not be great. We are just using the rush of our anger to run upstream towards our goals. We need to act on inspiration, which is the result of positive emotional states. Constructive action is not actually a vibrational match to anger. It could be that something that angers us makes us aware of a really good idea and that idea causes us to feel inspired. In that case, we are not acting from anger, we are acting from inspiration, we have moved up the vibrational scale. But channeling anger itself into constructive action is a contradiction in terms.
7. Develop empathy and compassion. Recognize aspects of yourself in others you are angry with. Try to identify with them. Look for the pain and fear behind what they are doing to make you angry. Compassion cannot be faked, but when it is real, when we really understand others and thus have empathy for them, it dispels our anger like nothing else. Another great thing to do is to become aware of your projections. To explore the concept of projection further, look at my YouTube video titled “Projection”.
8. Music. Music is pure vibration. By listening to it, we are forced to entrain with the vibration of the music we are listening to. If you are angry and you want to move through anger, listen to super angry music. If you feel like you are ready to move past anger, listen to music that makes you feel empowered and inspired. This kind of music counteracts the powerlessness of fear and hurt.
9. Seek out water. Water in its various forms, whether it is a lake or a stream or an ocean or a bath or a shower or a trickle from a faucet, is notorious for caring for anger. Think of anger like a fire, which is what it feels like in the body. What is the antidote for fire? Water holds one of the closest vibrations to source energy. It heals and balances and purifies. Put yourself in it and around it and watch what happens to the way you feel.
10. Pick something that feels better to focus on, especially things that cause you to feel safe and things that cause you to feel empowered. This can be as simple as watching the food network channel, or writing down positive aspects about the situation you are mad about or thinking about an aspect of your life that is actually going very well; something that makes you feel inspired or motivated or empowered. Figure out what the unwanted thing behind your anger is causing you to know that you want. Then begin to think and speak and act in the direction of that wanted thing. Negative emotion is the indication that you feel the deprivation of what you want and need, so what is it that you want and need? Take the direct route towards those things.
11. Sometimes we need to honor our boundaries by learning that it is ok to express our anger to people. Especially if we are doing it for ourselves to prove or demonstrate to ourselves that we will be there for ourselves. But we need to be clear about why we want to express our anger to other people. Ask yourself, what do I want to get out of expressing my anger to them? That is how to know if it is a beneficial thing for us personally to do it or not. If we want validation, chances are that they are not going to validate us for feeling that way towards them.
If we have decided that our goal is to become unified with other people, we should not be silent when we are angry. Instead once we discover the vulnerable pain and fear beneath the anger, we need to express that to them instead. We need to deliberately give them our underbelly. Yes, it requires as much bravery as it sounds like it requires. But you will be amazed at the results. This is the difference between swearing at someone who cheated on you and calling them names and saying that you hate them or are angry at them and telling them that cheating on you made you feel bad about yourself and like you aren’t good enough and betrayed, just like you were as a child. Let the other person know your needs, especially what need is not being met in this circumstance as well. This makes it easy to find ways to get your needs met in this circumstance. 12. It’s a good idea if the anger is so intense that you don’t feel like you can handle it on your own, to bring in someone else to help you with your anger. Be sure to choose someone who is comfortable with anger and who sees anger as valid and not wrong or bad. If you’re in an angry conflict with someone, involving a non-biased a third party is a good idea. There is beauty to anger. There would be no anger without free will. With anger, there is an acknowledgement of choice. And the best choice in the face of anger is to address the vulnerability hiding beneath the anger. But anger isn’t wrong and anger isn’t bad. It is just the reminder that something about your life experience is out of alignment and needs some unconditional loving care and attention.