What’s On the Other Side of Anger?

Anger.  We've all experienced it. Perhaps it isn’t always accepted as an appropriate emotion to express, but it lurks in our being never the less.


I grew up in an environment where anger was how people expressed themselves. Throwing words and throwing things. We lived in an unhealthy place with anger.  Anger ruled us, and yet is was accepted, and honored. Oh that "Irish Temper," it got the best of us, most of the time. 

When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.
— Mark Twain

As I got older and started to live in the bigger world, I started to see that anger wasn’t accepted by most.  Yelling to express myself, typically shut people out or turned people off. Thinking that I would be heard resulted in a major disconnect from my friends, and put strains on my relationships.


It took a very dear friend to sit down with me and tell me that I needed to look at the role that anger played in my life, and get my temper under control. She was right. It was out of control, and I could see how it was affecting my relationship with others, and myself. So I spent time looking at this emotion and trying to figure out why it was such a big player in my life.


Why anger? How is it that some people default to anger so easily? Simply, it makes us feel powerful. It gives us the false illusion that we are in control of the situation. 


I believe that anger shows up when we feel threatened in someway. We have been slighted, or our beliefs and values and have been disrespected.  


Anger is the outer emotion we wear and express to the world, but there is always something else below the surface.


For example. Put yourself in the driver seat of your car, headed into work during rush hour traffic.  A car swerves in front of you, cutting you off as you slam on your breaks. You react with rage, laying down the horn. Yelling and cursing at, well, no one, since they can't hear you.  


Anger.  Or so it appears. What it really is? Perhaps it is disappointment that someone could be so careless and put you, and them at risk of injury or insult.  You feel small and threatened so you respond by making yourself bigger, louder and more powerful.


But that isn’t always the case. For some people when threatened, they become smaller and cower, instead of getting larger and fighting back. Ideally we want to find a place in the middle.  We want to be seen, heard and respected, without hurting another, nor allowing our pain to go unnoticed.


Our relationship with anger can vary greatly from person to person.  It can be an emotion that is accepted, and therefore flamboyantly expressed. Or it can be an emotion that we were taught wasn’t tolerable, and therefore it has been deeply suppressed.


The important fact is, emotions don’t just go away, especially the unexpressed emotions.  Emotions do, however, shift and change shape.


You see emotions aren't black and white, nor bad or good. They aren't constant, as nothing in life is.  


How do we shift our relationship with anger so we can learn to hear it’s hidden message? 


As with any aspect of change, it starts with awareness.  You have to notice that you’re angry.  Feel it. Don’t share it. Not yet. Put yourself in an anger timeout. Close the door, close your eyes and tune in to your anger. 


Feel the heat, and the expansion. Where in your body do you feel it? How does it feel in your body? Give it a color, give it a name.  Your anger needs a voice, but it needs a space to speak out of honesty not reaction.  Allow your anger to speak to you first before you share it with someone else.  Does it tell you its fed up with being ignored? Perhaps it tells you that this same person and same situation is getting really old, and your tired of being disrespected.  


Then, the most important question of all is to ask yourself, “What am I not doing for myself that I am expecting out of someone else?”


That’s right, check in, what is it that you need to do for you?


So your pissed off at your partner for not helping out more with the kids.  You feel that your time and efforts are going unrecognized and under appreciated. For the fourth night in a row they come home, turn on the television, and shut you and the kids out.  You are tired of cooking dinner, cleaning up the kitchen, putting the kids to bed, running a load of laundry and packing lunches for the next day. As you cut the sandwiches in half you can feel the rage bubbling up inside you. “Why do you have to do it all? Why can’t he pull more weight?” Yes you do it without complaint, but you also yearn for an evening for yourself. A bubble bath, candles, soothing music and peace.  You want time for you, just like he gets time for him.


Do you use your voice to ask for what you need?  

Have you told him how you feel? Does he understand that you yearn for his help? That you want to be a team of two, not one. Have you told him that you feel that he is taking advantage of you? That you feel undervalued? Or… have you kept this bottled in? Day after day the same thoughts ruminating. Perhaps you have said something, but he still isn’t contributing. You feel unheard, and still disrespected. You want to be recognized dammit!

Transformation is my favorite game and in my experience, anger and frustration are the result of you not being authentic somewhere in your life or with someone in your life.
— Jason Mraz


Holding back your voice, is holding back your emotions.  

You can hold back those feeling for a finite period of time.  Those emotions have an expiration date. And then what? What happens when they expire? They either explode or implode.  Explode into yelling, screaming, crying, throwing, and punching. Or they implode into apathy and depression.

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.
— Mark Twain


This is the good side to anger.  Anger is energy. It has movement and action. It is a fuel. It is driving you to express yourself, feel the other emotions, and try and instigate change. 


It’s when we constantly suppress anger that it can start to ooze into our lives like a dark, heavy, sticky tar. Covering everything, drowning out light, suppressing the voice, taking all strength, and numbing all emotions. 


This is why it is so important to feel the emotion. To feel all the emotions as they arise. Be the emotions in that moment.  Anger! Frustration. Rejection. Disappointment. Sadness. See them all. Feel them all. They are are different colors in the same painting. Together they create the whole beautifully detailed scene. The rain, the thunder, the sun, the clouds and the rainbow. You need them all, they all have their place.


It’s okay to be angry.  Anger is passion.  What happens when you allow the anger to transform into passion? Passion can drive freedom and change. 


The key is to be all that your anger is. Don’t just wear the armor, feel the pain of the warrior.  See your heartache.  Love and accept all that it is, not just the initial reaction.


Once you are able to see and feel the depth of emotions that are attached to the anger, the fire shifts. It is no longer reaching and dancing flames, it is an ember.  It is the heat that keeps your voice box warm.


When you feel the heat of anger rise up, hear what it is asking for. Chances are, it has something to share with you, and something for you to share with someone else. 


Shared, not out of rage, but out of concern.  Anger that is the voice of disappointment. The voice that is to ask for what you need.  It’s okay to need respect. To need recognition. To need love. To be heard.


You deserve those things.


You deserve to feel all of your emotions.

They are all valid.


Believe it or not, they are all good.

Each and every emotion serves you.


Let them fuel you. Let them fuel your passion. The underbelly of life. Let it feed your choices, let it be the force behind your voice.  The true inner guide that tells you that you want something more. That you deserve something more.


You are more than anger. You are more than apathy. You are a swirl of all colors. Life and death. Bubbling to the surface and drifting away. Here then gone. See them. Know them. Love them. All of them.  They are not meant to hurt. They aren’t meant to be words of weapons, but rather words of your inner truth. Your deeper desire.  


What do you really need? What is it that you yearn to say?