September 9, 2013

Befriending Anger. ~ Tawny Sanabria

Anger has been given a bad rap over the years.

Of course, we’ve all experienced its damaging physical expressions—what, with all the yelling, hitting, swearing, name-calling and physical aggression that appear to often accompany mad feelings. And all the conflict and misunderstandings that it creates, not to mention all the hurt feelings left in it’s wake.

And, often times, bad things—terrible things—happen when people are angry. People get hurt. Animals are harmed. Property gets destroyed. People are killed. A great amount of damage is done when anger shows it’s ugly head. And by ugly head, I do not mean the emotion itself—I am talking about the actions that are taken in the midst of the emotion.

Just like any other emotion, anger is just that—an emotion. It is not a behavior or an action. Unfortunately, though, hitting, yelling, name-calling, and the rest—harmful behaviors— are justified everyday as a consequence to feeling angry.

“Oh, he was just angry when called me those names.”

“I was so angry, I just saw red.”

“She doesn’t mean it when she does those things, she’s just had a hard day.”

However, these hurtful actions are consequences to misunderstood anger, not anger itself.

Half the time, we don’t even know what we’re so mad about.

We hear about anger management techniques and the need for anger control. Again, the behaviors that are the extensions of misunderstood anger are the problem. Controlling the emotion of anger might be better described as understanding anger which, ultimately leads to changes in the behaviors that come about as a result of our anger.

Let’s try to think about anger as simply a warning signal. That’s all.

A warning that there is an emotion in your heart, mind, and body that is not being given the attention it needs. You, see, anger is a secondary emotion—meaning, it does not hang out by itself. It needs a buddy. It needs another emotion from which to draw its energy.

Anger acts as a mask to another uncomfortable feeling.

You name it—doubt, anxiety, shame, fear, guilt, sad, worry, disappointed, powerlessness, hopeless and more—all being shielded by anger.

Anger can hang out as long as these underlying emotions are not being processed, recognized, and dealt with. And, the umbrella of anger can run from annoyed to mad to furious. Low level to high level—it’s all anger. And it’s trying to tell us that we have to take care of one of these more silent emotions. It’s tired of doing the work.

So, at the onset of annoyed or irritated, ask what might be hiding underneath. What is not being tended to? Do you live in doubt or hopelessness? Are you a constant worrier? Do you find yourself disappointed by someone close to you, but unable to express it? Do you feel powerless in your life?

So, begin to appreciate what your anger is telling you. Use it as a warning sign. Let it help you to notice and tend the feelings being neglected.

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Ed: Sara Crolick

{Photo: via Varga Attila}

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