Most of us struggle with anger in one way or another. Anger is a force for enormous change and is meant to be a positive tool to help us live fully. We’re born into a world with conflict. Our well-learned patterns of how we respond when we’re angry are deeply rooted in us. It’s these internalized patterns that are the problem. So often, since we dislike these we try to change our behaviour, but find this very difficult to do. For our automatic, visceral reactions come from a place that is not easy to access.
Our anger response frightens us and others so we tend to judge it negatively. If we try to put ourselves against our anger, it actually becomes harder to engage with that part of ourselves. For it is part of our survival mechanism that comes into play when we feel threatened. If we try to get rid of anger, it simply goes underground and we empower it. For it’ll always come out again when our buttons are pressed, usually when we’re least expecting it.
We become angry when we feel that someone has more power than we have, and seems to want to disempower us. We get pushed to a place where we can’t cope, so feel justified in taking power back somehow. When we were children, we were more vulnerable and we couldn’t properly defend ourselves. Someone with more power could hurt us. We came to believe that we had no power. We were overwhelmed, pushed beyond our ability to control or manage a situation, and reacted in anger- out of our fear (the other side of anger). No one taught us a more appropriate way to be acknowledged and to allow our own authentic voice to be heard. Rather, we’ve learned patterns of stress management from our parents and others which now have become automatic in us.
Reflection Question: Who taught you how to manage your anger?
It’s pointless trying to change our behaviour on the outside. We need to listen to and dialogue with the internal dynamics where we are held prisoner. We’re no longer that five year old child that has no power. We have the power to hurt, and we know what it’s like to be wounded. Difficult things have happened and will happen again in our lives, but we needn’t still be victims of our reactions. We do harm when we blame someone else for, swallow, or lash out with, our anger. It’s like we use a huge hammer to smash, without care of the consequences. Instead, when we use anger to stay with and resolve an issue, it becomes a positive, appropriate tool.
As we get to know our patterns in conflict and understand where in our youth these developed, we become aware of what we are carrying within. We listen to our own voice of what we need, and stand for what we believe, as well as to the voices of authority which are saying what they think is needing to happen. Giving value to both of these warring sides of our story empowers us. Slowly, and with practice, we can learn to change the ways we’ve habitually reacted in anger. We can demonstrate new patterns which will give us meaning, and will bring life and change to difficult situations.
Anger Books from Sergio’s Shelf: