Let’s face it, anger is the most unwelcomed emotion.
It has copped a bad rap for the longest time, causing us to shove it down, lest we be deemed unstable, unsafe, or worse yet, unlovable. Its potential for destruction evokes fear, rather than understanding. For this reason, it is the most misunderstood human emotion and in many ways, the most undervalued too.
I’ve honestly lost count of how many times I felt shamed for expressing anger. This led to epic self-denial—to the point that it turned into an anxiety disorder. I was in a “damned if I do and damned if I don’t” scenario. The repression and shame eventually ate away at my self-esteem, causing me to feel misunderstood and devoid of femininity. The worst part is I lost my capacity to defend myself.
Growing up I witnessed anger often spiral into rage and this was reason enough to understand why I buried it for so long, and why I had so much unresolved anger stored in my cells and soul.
Spiritually speaking, we tend to avoid feeling anger and we are often told our spiritual practices should focus on transforming any anger into blissful compassion every time.
I remember how triggering it was when professionals would tell me to just “let it go and just forgive and forget.” Well, that just led to further denial of my pain and the little girl inside me went unacknowledged for years. She was traumatised, exhausted, and majorly pissed off for never being validated.
So I continued to build layers of shame around my feelings of anger, as though anger itself was the root of all evil. But as I spiritually matured, I came to understand that anger is not the enemy, but the denial of it was.
Denying and suppressing this primal emotion is one of the most common acts of spiritual bypassing which is actually much more dangerous and destructive than anger itself.
We have essentially demonised a natural and necessary human emotion, leaving us with greater mental, emotional, and spiritual consequences to deal with. We see this reflected in the rising rate of relationship breakdowns, violence, addictions, abuse, mental health challenges, and illnesses. Our body indeed keeps the score as all our unresolved issues remain buried deep in our psyche, until love pays a visit.
We avoid embracing our anger in healthy ways out of fear of being deemed bad, negative, or even spiritual frauds. We are so afraid of judgment, shame, or punishment for our anger that we resort to suppression, submission, excessive justification, and rationalisation of people’s attitudes and behaviours, self-blame, or worse yet, self-harm.
Repressing anger will, without doubt, later resurface in destructive ways. Unexpressed anger often mutates into aggression and rage. Rage is essentially the mismanagement of internalised emotions that people have confused for anger.
Muting ourselves is as destructive as rage. Both compulsions are born of fear. The conscious expression of anger, however, is a quality of truth and empowerment.
Our patterns of repression usually starts in childhood. Perhaps growing up, emotions were overexpressed. Intense arguments and chaos between parents or family members could have caused the child in you to perceive anger as dangerous—in particular, if there was violence.
On the other end of the spectrum, you might have grown up in an environment where expression of negative emotions was shut down and shamed. Either way, this leads to deep denial of our sacred right to express our truth.
Continually denying and suppressing anger cuts us off from acting from our blueprint of survival and can lead to developing a personality based on passivity and submissiveness. This can leave us vulnerable to ongoing mistreatment or injustice, and further diminish our sense of worth and wellness.
To understand this further, we must first recognise that anger is a backup response to primary emotions such as hurt, frustration, and fear. Anger’s primary purpose is to protect us from being violated or treated unjustly and alerts us that our needs are not being met.
Anger not only alerts us to put up boundaries, if harnessed correctly it can mobilise us into inspired action toward more equality and justice and even help us break new ground by overcoming obstacles. In this way, anger can actually be an expression of compassion, a willingness to uphold boundaries that are sacred, or stand up for self or someone who is being oppressed.
Aristotle offered a wonderful view of anger, stating that it is necessary “to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way.”
In my experience, there are two types of anger. There is what I call “Conscious Anger,” which is a stable and grounded expression of inner truth both for self and others. It is rooted in your innate human values and is based on the virtues of truth, goodness, honesty, and human rights. It is clear on its purpose and has the motivation to act upon it in a positive way. This kind of anger is also rare as it requires intimate understanding and knowledge of Self—including the compulsions and influences of the ego.
On the other hand, there is “Impulsive Anger” which is a byproduct of our wounding, conditioning, and unresolved experiences.
This type of anger perpetuates more pain but it is simply trying to find a way to heal.
In many cases, I see clients who present with the symptoms of self-directed anger. It manifests as depression and anxiety, self-harm, self-hate, self-blame, self-abuse. If people do not feel safe to direct their feelings outward, then they direct them inward.
There are many ways to stop the cycle of inward and outward destruction and that can only occur by starting to take the shame out of anger. All emotions are valid and in fact, embodying anger is often a powerful practice that leads you to the light.
If we ignore our feelings of anger, we risk slipping into the shadows of silence—abandoning ourselves, our truth, and what it means to be governed by our conscience. And yet, if we are too impulsive and do not act with conscious reflection and self-responsibility, we risk slipping into the shadows of aggression and perhaps making errors where the perceived violation is a lie conjured up by our own ego.
We must reinstate our spiritual and human freedom to acknowledge our hurt, needs, fears, and frustrations. We must dedicate time to resolving old imprints in a spiritually constructive way. We must stop old hurt from manifesting into more hurt, both for ourselves and the world around us by radical self-honesty and accountability.
It’s so important to determine if the triggers that continue to provoke automated feelings of anger are in line with our deepest truth and values. Those triggers may be remnants of outmoded past beliefs and experiences that are no longer relevant to the present.
The best way to encourage healing and empowerment is to manage anger with both our head and heart.
Pausing is the most vital tool of all. Pause to look within, pause to allow emotions to be accepted, pause to reflect, pause to assess, and pause to make a conscious choice. In this way, we allow time to consider inwardly and outwardly the most appropriate course of conscious action, rather than submitting to the force that can often possess us without thought of consequence.
More importantly, the pause and breath allow you the spaciousness to get in touch with your innermost values regarding how to respond in a way that is for the highest good, not only of you but of all involved.
Beyond this, below I have outlined a suggested approach to effectively communing with yourself so that you can better manage the protective power of anger.
Validate your inner child
Develop a safe and loving relationship with yourself. Get to know your own inner child. Develop a connection inwardly so that you can understand yourself, your triggers, thoughts, and reactions from a place of loving-kindness. Tell yourself that all your feelings matter and all your experiences are valid. In this way, you will be able to allow core emotions to surface and get to the heart of the matter faster.
Give your inner child a voice to vent
Sit in loving awareness and direct kindness toward yourself. Get curious about what remains unexpressed. Give all past versions of you a voice to vent. Permit yourself to express the unexpressed in healthy ways. This might be uncomfortable. Start by writing things out then speak them out loud.
Observe and witness with love
Observe your inner world of thought and emotions regularly. By practicing inner watchfulness, you will be able to determine if the anger is rational or irrational based on the current issue at hand. This will allow you to isolate what may be unconsciously influencing your reactions and causing a false alarm.
Attune to the message
Presence and stillness are vital to ensure you can effectively receive the message that your anger offers you. Ask what boundary has been crossed, what value system has been violated, or what need has not been met. Create space to talk and dialogue with your emotion. Honour all that you feel.
By connecting with your anger in a conscious and accepting way, you can allow it to animate itself in a constructive way. Offer yourself unconditional understanding just as you would if a child was speaking to you. Anger may seek to blame as a first stop, but seek to be understanding toward its needs while also remaining understanding of other person’s views and opinions.
Is your anger promoting you to take some form of action? Is it calling you to honour yourself or stand up for a cause to honour others? If the anger is impulsive in nature then consider what inner healing is required to dissolve this old wound. It may also be calling you to upgrade your beliefs and values. If the anger is Conscious Anger, then examine if you need to take a stand, express your thoughts, set a boundary, or make a change.
True spirituality calls us toward wholeness. This is a process of making the unconscious conscious so that it no longer holds us captive in a lower state of being. There are many things in reference to this topic I have not covered in this article. However, I do hope that it allows you to positively reframe your relationship with yourself and reclaim your anger so that it might lead you toward achieving a greater level of healing and wholeness within.
The road to reclaiming our right to feel is a long one. We have been conditioned over many generations to avoid expressing anger, so be patient with yourself as you begin to relate to your anger as more friend than foe.