Haven’t we all dealt with a flushed face, a clenched jaw and piercing eyes, ready to pounce on anything that moves? Signs of anger in somebody, aren’t they? Sometimes, though, it’s surprising when that “somebody” is our own self! It’s not uncommon to be surprised by yourself after you find yourself angry.
Anger – a Valuable Emotion?
Anger is probably one of the hardest emotions to manage, and one that can wreak a lot of havoc. Poorly channeled, it can devastate our universe and professional relationships. It is with good reason that we fear violent behavior. At work, explosive reactions, such as unwarranted sarcasm (a form of disguised anger) can harm your record and impede your professional progress. At home, unpredictable moods and loud voices make children insecure and can scare away one’s partner.
Yet, as frightening as it may seem, anger is positive energy; one that is necessary to the overall integrity of a person.
Anger, a Valuable Barometer
The problem when it comes to rage is not anger per se, but rather its effects when translated into angry behavior. Channeled constructively, anger provides the power to defend ourselves and others by enforcing our basic needs.
Anger is a natural and healthy experience when one’s power is challenged. As a child, your anger is the tool that gets you attention.
Moreover, the energy that develops when we’re angry can be used to improve the knowledge and the appreciation of the Self (“I know my choices better now”), to show us the way forward (“I know better what to do now”) and to facilitate the expression of oneself in a unique way (“Here I am”). In this sense, anger is a valuable ally.
Parents must continue to listen to the truth that lies beneath the anger of their children long after infancy. Not in order to fan the flames of their range, but to recognize and listen to the truth behind the needs wanting to be fulfilled. Parents thus encourage their children to trust their own feelings and to give validity to their point of view.
Demystifying Some Beliefs
Emotionally difficult to bear, anger is conducive to disempowerment. It accuses the other party involved, it causes guilt, it feels justified. Some myths about anger need to be reviewed.
“Look how angry you make me!”
In reality, nobody and nothing external can make you angry: it is an emotion that arises from an unmet need, a frustrated desire, a feeling of helplessness, the interpretation we make of events. Often, situations that arouse our anger are based in our childhood, which explains why it has such an influence even in adulthood. As children, we were vulnerable. To survive, our legitimate needs had to be supported by key people such as mom and dad.
In most cases, your adult needs are now handled satisfactorily. However, the needs of an infant, and then a small child, are so numerous and compelling that it is impossible to fill them all. Some needs remain unmet. It is inevitable, inherent in the human condition. Now as adults, we are the sole owners of our inner self and the needs therein. It’s our own responsibility to fill the vacancy.
“I don’t want to hear another word out of you.”
Some parents or partners cut you short. However, rather calming or avoiding confrontation, this sort of prohibition on speaking adds fuel to the fire of anger, which often originates in the feeling of not being listened to in the first place. Encouragement is much more effective; say, “I’m listening. Tell me what’s wrong. It’s important to me, I want to hear.” It takes maturity on the part of adults, but helps relationships grow.
“It’s time for me to assert myself.”
Often the concept of “assertive” is not true self-expression, but a pretext to unleash aggression. Rather than bringing a sense of increased personal power, aggression takes us into a position of weakness. We then feel guilty, lose our credibility, and ultimately, drive our allies away. Assertiveness is not “exploding” or “giving it good,” but rather to tap into one’s center, to build on one’s core values and express them firmly but calmly.
“I need to get it out of me.”
Yes and no. Repressed anger is bad, it’s true. But mere ranting and screaming to relieve the overflow (or engage in behaviors such as impulse buying) is not helpful. Our desires are essential to leverage our growth.
To fill them, we must get moving, go to, or seek what is lacking. From this we develop new skills and abilities. In this sense, our needs are precious and must be honored. To free ourselves from anger, it is important to get in touch with, inside, what got us into such a fury in the first place, and to especially identify what important personal value here is involved.
When anger turns into rage
Rage is anger pushed one step further. We can say that rage is a psychic agency in the same way that infection is to the physical body. It is the result of unconscious repression of aggression. It can produce mood swings, anger, irritability or hate.
When it comes to rage, our first instinct is to repress it, ignore it and hope it dies a quiet death. However, this is an unrealistic challenge. Though unconscious, huddled in the shadows, “badly treated” rage will remain active even in adulthood. Whatever its face, this emotion needs to be coaxed out by the conscious mind, or it may manifest as illness – mental or physical.
For rage that goes back to childhood, the visualization technique of “routes of entry into the unconscious” allows dramatic results in untying knots woven within the family of origin.