By exploring your anger, you are able to uncover what the underlying emotion is and address that instead of just patching up the surface emotion
I want to talk about anger. I specifically want to talk to the ladies about anger. Men, you are more than welcome to join in, as I know anger is just as relevant a topic for you, but I am going to aim this at the females in the house, because women have a different kind of relationship with anger.
It can be more subtle and hard to detect from the outside. We have been taught to hide it well, but it is there. I see it on our faces. There is a specific hardening around the eyes and mouth that happens from holding it in for too long. Even when masked with a smile, it usually isn’t hidden too far underneath.
For some of us, anger exists as a subtle, yet constant undertone usually only noticeable to the individual. We can become so habituated to its humming we might not even notice it’s there anymore. But then it pops up in a snappy tone, an outburst of tears, an overwhelming desire to throw/hit something—often times in situations that do not fit the scale of our reaction. Then we feel shame that we behaved poorly and frightened of where it came from.
We question our sanity. We recoil. We blame. We criticize.
Does this sound familiar? What is your relationship with anger? Have you noticed its existence in your life? How does it show up for you? How do you usually handle it when it does?
Anger can be a slippery and elusive, or it can be thick and apparent. Whatever the case, ignoring its existence seems easier than facing it, but I assure you it is not.
Avoiding anger or holding on to it will eat you up from the inside.
So, let’s do what we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. Here are a few ways to better understand your relationship with anger and begin the process of freeing the grip it has on you.
1. Acknowledge anger exists. In my experience, even though a client has come to me for something seemingly unrelated, the topic of anger usually comes up at some point. Many are too afraid to say it out loud. They fear that if they acknowledge it they will lose control of it and it will consume them. I have seen people consumed by anger. It is heartbreaking to watch. But I have never seen anyone who identifies, owns and faces their anger become lost to it. I have only seen them release it. And, what a lovely thing to witness!
2. Remove yourself from repetitive impact. Once you have identified an external source of anger, remove yourself from it. Perspective is greatest from a distance. If there is a particular relationship or situation that you are running up against that is a big source of frustration for you, do what you can to remove yourself from it. With enough space, you will be able to see your role more clearly. It is the understanding and addressing of your role in the situation that will bring you the most peace.
3. Own it. The first step after identifying that your anger exists is acknowledging that it is yours—yours and yours alone. No one gave it to you. I know, it doesn’t sound right. You may feel as though you have been cheated, deceived, let down, put down, violated, neglected, disrespected and dumped on. Someone has done you wrong and it is not fair.
Still, it’s yours.
The Dalai Lama said holding on to anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. This statement could not be truer. Whoever did you wrong, no matter what kind of revenge you can come up with in your mind, if you were to act it out you would feel no less angry than you do right now. You might lessen the anger for a moment, a day maybe, but it wouldn’t last for long. Because even if the person were remorseful enough to want to take it back from you, they can’t. The rage isn’t theirs. It’s yours. It’s in you. And the only way to get it out of you is to first admit that it’s yours.
This is good news! This step alone loosens the grip anger has on you because by fully owning it, you take control of it. When you blame others and try making it theirs, you have no control of it. They will never be sorry enough, or feel the anger enough to satisfy the hunger of your rage, so when you make the anger about someone else you commit yourself to always be in battle with it. By owning it, you eliminate them from the equation. You eliminate someone completely uncontrollable by you, giving you the opportunity to finally work with it so you can release it.
4. Explore the anger. Where does it come from? What is it trying to tell you? What is it that you need that you aren’t getting? What do you think will make it better? The key to this step is to understanding that anger is not the base emotion. It is the result of another emotion: hurt, judgment, not feeling heard or seen, feeling underappreciated … the list goes on. By exploring your anger, you are able to uncover what the underlying emotion is and address that instead of just patching up the surface emotion, which is anger. Deep wounds only handled on a surface level are sure to become infected.
This is where the approach can become customized. Working with an experienced third party to help you come up with a process that works well for you can be quite helpful. One of the best tools I have come across in my own exploration of anger is understanding my inner shadow. Anger is often a symptom of our shadow selves at work. By using a process I call “The Trigger Trail” our anger then becomes a tool to our own shadow discovery!
Ah, the silver lining!!
Now, instead of being held down by the terrible grip anger once had on you, you turn the game around and now you are using it as a tool. You are making use of its existence. And, by doing that, you continue with the motion we set in place in step 1 of freeing ourselves from it once and for all.
5. Notice how anger feels in your body. Acupuncturist and Practitioner of Chinese Medicine, Carrie Murphy, explains: In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the central role of the liver is to conduct the orderly flow of qi (pron. “chee”) through the channels. It rules the tendons too, to power motion while remaining flexible. The liver also governs eyesight, giving us the ability to not only perceive our world visually, but to imagine our future and make plans, and have the vision to anticipate and solve problems that may arise as we enact our plans. In all things, our capacity to be flexible in mind and body is conferred upon us by the liver.
When an impediment arises, the wisdom of the liver guides us to be flexible, to bend, to envision a solution, to go with the flow. But over time, this energy can turn stagnant and sour. If we are unable to voice our feelings or change our situations, we become frustrated. Frustration is an expression of stagnant liver qi. “Why is everything such a hassle? Why is everyone such an idiot?” When we find ourselves asking these questions, it’s a sign that our qi is stuck, seeing only impediments rather than their resolutions.
Because of the pathway of the liver channel, this can physically manifest as shoulder tension, chest tightness, frequent sighing, and an explosive loss of temper that feels like an eruption of lava. When anger is released peacefully, the smooth flow of qi can be restored, and life feels easier. If you are feeling overwhelmed with the physical manifestations of anger, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help you free up stuck energy and return to a more relaxed, comfortable way of being.
6. Get physical. Get on a bike. Go for a run. Take a long walk. Hike. Play a competitive sport. Physical exertion gets the blood pumping, opening up pathways to a fresh perspective. For a more calming, gentler approach, yoga is one of the best tools for releasing anger. There is a series of poses you may add to your daily practice offered by the Kundalini tradition that is specifically designed for releasing anger. You may find details of that here.
These are just a few of many practices available to add to your tool box for working with anger. Seeking the help of an experienced third party, a coach let’s say, is quite helpful when you first start exploring your anger, because everybody comes to anger from a slightly different direction. A coach can help you determine what yours is, so that you can learn the tools to self-identify and self-correct—making you the master at exploring and eventually freeing yourself from your own anger.
Catherine la O’ is a Certified Integral Life Coach, blogger, yogini, and music lover. As a blogger, Catherine offers self-exposing personal insights gathered from her own journey of self-discovery. She hopes her writing will inspire and support other women on a similar path. As a coach, she believes the center point of positive personal growth comes from understanding one’s own inner shadow and works with her clients using tools from that philosophy. If you are interested in connecting with Catherine you may find her through her website: www.liminalspace.net or through Facebook at: Facebook.com/LiminalSpaceCoach.
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Assistant Ed: Stephanie V./Kate Bartolotta