Understanding Emotions: Anger

Every human emotion has a purpose in our mind-body-soul system of protection, regulation, balance, and growth.

The following is an exploration of one of the most commonly misunderstood emotions – anger (rwar!) – which I hope will help you listen more closely to what this powerful emotion has to tell you, and more fully enjoy it's fiery presence in your life. 

Note: this post draws heavily on Karla Mclaren's book, 'The Language of Emotions,' as well as the teachings of Leza Danly and Jeanine Mancusi from Lucid Living.

Anger

The red hot energy of anger lets us know when our boundaries have been crossed. It provides messages about who we are, what is important to us, and who we are wanting to become. 

What does anger feel like?

Like all emotions, anger shows up differently for everyone. For me, I feel anger as a powerful rising heat around my head, face, shoulders, and hands. Sometimes it can literally make me see red! How does it show up for you?

What does an unhealthy relationship with anger look like?

When we ignore or deny our anger, we end up feeling powerless, depressed, isolated, apathetic, and passively resentful towards the world.

When we let it rage, on the other hand, we do and say things that strip us of our personal dignity and negatively affect those around us.  

How can we express the energy of anger in a healthy way?

Pent up anger can sometimes feel so overwhelming it's hard to know what to do with it. Finding healthy ways to express the energy of anger in our lives is an essential life skill that we should all develop. Examples of healthy ways to feel/express anger include:

  • Physical activity – dance, run, box, play sports, clean the house.

  • Giving voice – expressing opinion, writing a letter, sharing with a friend.

  • Vocal expression –  sing, yell, growl, scream (note: Do this in a safe space and not at anyone).

What other ways work for you?

What does healthy ownership/channeling of anger look like?

Once we have a basic understanding and connection to the energy of anger in our lives, we can then choose to channel it into our own personal convictions, beliefs, boundaries, and sense of self. It can sometimes help to imagine a white boundary around you which represents who you are and what you believe. Anger can be actively channelled into strengthening that boundary. Anger can also provide fuel for taking action in the world – for example: starting up new ventures, making amends, or saying no. 

For example …

A perfect example of anger exists in the relationship between a parent and an adult child. When kids become their own adult selves, the boundaries in the parent-child relationship become unclear, and anger often flares up when they are overstepped.

A healthy relationship with anger for the child is to channel it strongly into upholding your sense of self e.g. I strongly believe it's OK to take a year off work, even though my parents tell me it's frivolous and stupid. 

A negative relationship to anger would be directing that anger towards your parents (either actively in the form of arguments, or passively in the form of resentment), while still continuing to let them influence your beliefs about what is right or wrong.

When you are willing to take full ownership of who you are, the energy of anger can be used to fuel your conviction. I.e. You get to say what is right and wrong as an individual, and what your parents say gets to exist outside your boundary instead of within it.

Of note: Part of holding your boundary with your parents might also mean actively maintaining the kind of relationship you want. E.g. It is important to me that I have a loving relationship with my parents. An incredibly valuable life skill to develop around anger is in learning how to actively own, process, and shift its powerful energy into loving kindness towards the person who caused the anger in the first place (life goals :-P)

When you are in a healthy relationship with anger it will help you: Make decisions, maintain dignity, define and repair relationships (through authentic communication and intimacy), identify and heal emotional wounds (in yourself and others), make new choices, and feel energised and empowered. 

A note on anger and other emotions: Anger will often rise up on top of other more vulnerable emotions such as hurt, fear, worthlessness, or powerlessness. In this way, it can often act as a pointer to (and protector of) deeper emotions that are asking to be acknowledged and explored. 

Powerful questions to ask when you feel anger rising up: 

  • Where do I feel powerless/unseen/unheard? What is the hurt that needs to be addressed?

  • What is important to me that is being threatened?

  • Am I willing to ask for what I need?

  • What boundary needs to be upheld (e.g. between you and the other person)?

  • What is the most authentic way for me to behave right now (regardless of what the people around me are saying)?

  • Am I ready to take a stand for what I believe in?

  • How might I courageously step into my own power and choice as an individual?

What is your experience with anger? How has it shown up in your life in the past?

When you are willing to own it and see it as energy that you can channel in many different ways, what new options open up for you?

If you would like any support in connecting with your emotions and using them to enrich your life, sign up for a free 'Get Connected' coaching consultation today. 

 - Liz Busch