Anger is a deeply misunderstood emotion.
It is a rare person who wants to be angry. Most individuals are discomforted with anger—from others and from their own self. Who doesn’t want to respond with calm serenity to difficult challenges, to float about stress with grace and dignity?
Life happens differently than expectations. Anger has a purpose and remains a natural response to situations, environments and people who have or are causing harm. Often times this anger can be subconscious, not clearly seen or understood.
The effects of anger are held up for observation, and the cause remains unaddressed. All who experience anger become discomforted, and the one who is angry often feels shame, guilt and regret after the anger subsides. It’s a murky emotional environment, and is challenging to navigate and see clearly.
People who experience anger also experience intense criticism, judgement and misguided helpfulness from others.
When somebody becomes angry their, often valid, points are immediately discarded. The causes for anger remain unaddressed, and the person is punished for faltering further with something that is already providing difficulty. The person is made wrong and invalidated for having emotions. This adds fuel to emotional fire, and has nothing to do with compassion, grace or love.
This is a regular tactic experienced in emotionally manipulative environments.
It is common to try and control an environment so the effects of anger are not expressed or experienced. Similar to capping a volcano, unexpressed emotions eventually erupt. The ability to express emotions and relate in subtle ways is a matter of trust and safety.
Anger is not a free pass to be rude, hurtful or hateful. Anger is often the cause of regret. Time is wasted on amends. It is easier to cut off the source of fuel for a fire, than to fight a fire being constantly fueled. Anger needs to be addressed at its roots for the flames to subside.
This means a person needs to be informed about what is really happening and address reality, to set aside the fight against the dramatic visible effects of anger, and address the invisible, root causes of anger.
The obligation an angry person has is to forgive and understand themselves. Generosity, compassion and recognition for the causes of anger is self-liberating. Then the effects of anger are no longer experienced.
This demands a revolutionary internal dialogue, and the ability to release resentments, set aside the past, and forgive oneself. When what fuels anger is gone, then anger subsides.
Ironically, people who are angry treat and judge all anger the same, their own and others.
Most individuals have no idea how to relate to anger, and simply want it, and the person, to go away.
Spaciousness and allowing anger is a learned skill. Discovering how to be present and listen to the message behind hurtful words takes time to develop. Any parent worth their salt has done this with a child.
The kind of anger able to hurt the deepest is often involved with loved ones.
Since we are all children of a creation beyond comprehension and imagining, why not give an angry person some grace and understanding?
It may be a colleague, loved one, or yourself.
Some actionable steps while facing an angry person, or being angry:
1. Listen without judgment.
2. Remain aware of subtle feelings and emotions arising in the presence of anger.
3. Honor the physical feelings, emotional sensitivities and humanity.
4. Relax body muscles and breathe slower.
5. Make no assumptions and ask questions.
6. Do not criticize the anger or person.
7. Set aside spiritual expectations and stories.
8. Be patient.
9. Maintain respect.
How we deal with anger is based on reactionary patterns of behavior. Working with these steps, little by little, will result in new, more skillful patterns that will be of benefit to ourselves as well as those we are interacting with.
Author: Keith Artisan
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Shawn Chin