When I think of anger, I imagine drama – yelling, people getting upset, maybe even becoming ‘physical’ by throwing things, or hitting out.
It’s fair to say that I engage in none of these things. Being a witness to anger in my childhood, as we all are to some degree, I always tried to avoid it rather than copy it. As a child, anger frightened me. I was terrified by seeing loving people transform with anger, and hurting everyone around them in the process. When I could, I sought sanctuary in places of calm – riding on my bike, creating imaginary worlds with art and toys, or spending time with peaceful people.
During these years I only remember actually getting angry on a small handful of times, and these were moments when I was simply unable to hold back the emotion that swelled up within me.
Consequently, the image that I had of myself, and that others had of me, was that I was a very calm and peaceful person.
In more recent years, I have only just begun to recognise that all this time I had succeeded in storing all my anger rather than acknowledging it and finding resourceful ways of letting it out. One of the keys to this discovery has been through my own experience of chronic pain.
For over 10 years now I’ve dealt with physical pain. Until recently doctors have been unable to find a physiological explanation for it. In fact, it’s really a case of chicken and egg. Physical pain and mental distress go hand in hand, each perpetuating the other.
Through therapy and coaching I have devoted considerable energy to understanding and changing the psychological aspects – developing greater awareness of my own power to direct my life – to make choices that will lead to suffering, or others that will lead to growth and life.
In spite of this, I have usually resisted when anyone has described me as becoming angry. In the last few weeks though, since beginning network, a lot of ‘stuff’ has been coming up, and one of the most surprising of all, has been the feeling and awareness of my own accumulated anger. Coming through pain, I feel peaceful but I can now see the anger that has been there all along – the anger that I couldn’t see – or, that I tried to block out.
I am still very close to this, hence it is much more difficult to write about. I am sharing this with you though in the hope that others learn to let go of anger before it becomes toxic; before it harms life.
You see, what I understand now is that anger is not the problem. The problem is created when we refuse to acknowledge the real emotion, and when we push it below the surface. When we do this consistently, of course it is going to be expressed through our bodymind in other ways to make us pay attention that something is wrong – pain.
Of course, I am not saying it is ok to take your anger out on other people – this just succeeds in transferring pain from your body to another. Pain remains and even grows when this happens. Really, it has more of a multiplying effect because at a deeper level, through making another experience pain, you will also be hurt – some call this guilt, or karma.
The creative challenge is to find outlets for this emotional energy. It is different for everyone – it might be running, or painting, or just yelling. I did this the other day and shocked myself. No one else was there. Yelling is pretty powerful actually, but in our culture it is seen as innapropriate.
Here is my first attempt to break this down for you. It’s a very simple 5-step process.
1. The first step, is to always acknowledge the emotion – don’t judge it – just in a matter of fact way announce it – “I am angry” or however you want to say it. Know that it is absolutely natural to have this emotion.
2. Write it down. Write down what you are feeling and thinking. What has triggered this feeling? What do you believe about this emotional state?
3. Talk about this with someone who loves you and listens to you. Just doing this will help to let out some of this energy.
4. Don’t forget to breathe, and make them big deep breathes. Breathe deep into your stomach, not your chest.
5. Often when we are angry we will feel a surge of energy. This is a very primal physiological reaction to fear. We, however, have the power to choose how we want to direct this energy – how we want to express it. So, the next step is deciding what to do with all this energy.
After this, is it important to acknowledge the steps you have taken towards emotional mastery.
Doing this, the energy of our emotions can be harnessed and used for any creative purpose thereby helping to transform the quality of existance.