I grew up with roaring thunder inside me. For years, I had this cycle of internalizing my anger until I would move to a peak where I would outbreak havoc in my space.
Post my outburst, I would cripple in self-judgment for I had this shameful guilty relating to anger.
I grew in a space where anger was and is tagged as negative.
Angry persons are bad persons.
Anger is equated to violence.
Imagine a child, an adolescent, a woman, roaring about violations of her boundaries and post the outburst; she is crippled with guilt and shame.
I know, we are many cycling through this right here right now.
It took me years to understand that internalized anger is self-violating and that it was less about my anger but rather my relating to anger as energy moving inside and outside my self.
Anger is probably one of the most stigmatized emotions in this world, often tagged as negative, to be avoided at all cost, spiritually connected beings do not get angry, bring in peace and breathe out anger.
For years, a stiffing intent is in operation which is that of shutting people’s voices through shaming anger as an emotion.
Women are shamed for being angry. Angry women are lunatic; angry women are hysteric; angry women are to be avoided; angry women are not good enough; angry women are to be shamed; angry women are often reminded that they are being too much.
Anger is a healthy response to having boundaries crossed.
Anger is not the same as rage, aggression or acting out. It is possible to be angry with someone or in a given context and still show up vulnerably and engage in a conversation opening up to solutions.
Most of us do not have a template for this healthy version of anger. Our relating to anger is largely influenced on how growing up we experienced and witnessed others people expressing anger; what we were told and taught about anger – ours and others; we might have learned that anger isn’t acceptable or if we express anger, we will be rejected.
Are you someone who says, “I do not get angry”?
Do you pride in being someone who is “never angry”?
Do you have a relationship with anger?
If you were to use a word to summarize your relationship with anger, what would that word be?
Whatever is our current relationship with anger, it exists. Whenever we deny and/or refuse acknowledgement of our anger, we fail to provide a healthy outlet for it’s expression. The outcome often is our anger gets channeled into something beyond our control,
Sometimes this might be explosive: where we bottle things until we can’t hold back any longer, or until something seemingly innocuous makes us hit the roof , termed by Brené Brown as “chandeliering”
Sometimes unacknowledged anger can manifest as anxiety or depression. Sometimes bottled anger can manifest under the guise of “being honest” and allowing a tirade of pent-up feeling and frustration to pour out in someone’s direction.
Exploring my own relationship with anger, I noticed, in the past I often resorted to sarcasm or barbed comments rather than expressing anger (and the underlying feelings) openly. This doing made me felt safer but also gave me a sense of over-powering the other when I felt at my most vulnerable.
Most of us are raised to believe, view, feel and hear anger as “bad.” But anger isn’t the problem, our blueprint about anger is the issue, change the blueprint, our thinking, emotion, feeling, saying and doing will change.
What messages did you receive about anger in your childhood?
Do you deny or repress your anger, or does anger cause you to get out of control?
Most importantly, what would you like to be able to tell yourself when you feel angry?
– Dr Arielle Schwartz
Owning one’s inner power calls for ownership of what one thinks, feels, says and do (see blog on Responsibility) and this is the beginning of em-powerment.
Moving self into one’s inner power calls for taking responsibility for what we feel and there is no byspassing of anger as an emotion.
The conversation shifts from “you are responsible for my anger” to “I am in a situation where I am experiencing anger. What is calling to my attention?”
How we navigate through with our anger can either make or break not only our experience of anger but also other persons’ experience of us too.
What is healthy anger?
Healthy anger is acknowledged; seated in the discomfort of emergence; noticed, lived and accepted for what it is.
Healthy anger is acknowledged as an emotion and not as an identity.
Healthy anger is greeted with a questioning process
What is really behind this?
What story am I telling myself?
Often anger masks other more vulnerable feelings like hurt and shame.
“Healthy anger always walks hand in hand with vulnerability. When we express anger without additionally expressing the underlying vulnerability, this will only build barriers. It is one thing to tell friends or loved ones that we feel angry with them; it is another to express anger toward them in a way that is frightening or threatening. We will accomplish more if we express anger in a way that emphasizes that we feel hurt. That can invite the other person to listen to us and to remedy the situation.” - Peter Breggin writes in his book Guilt, Shame and Anxiety
We long to be heard, to be seen, to be felt and to be embraced yet we hold on to standing in our vulnerability, for to be vulnerable is to show up knowing that one has to control on what will emerge. To be vulnerable is to speak up one’s heart knowing that possibilities of one’s voice being ignored exist. To be vulnerable is to feel this touchy aching part of ourselves with her/his stories, wounds, pains and much more. To be vulnerable is to let go of the masks and to reach out to self and others. To be vulnerable is to stand in the discomfort of our yet-to-be embraced nakedness.
Most of us hold on from showing up vulnerably. We intent one thing but we do something else and in most cases, we are acting from a space of protecting selves instead of acknowledging the anger and it’s ilks.
How to cultivate a healthy relationship with anger
Start with acknowledging our anger. We do not have to like it or love it but rather acknowledge the anger that is showing up. Acknowledgement is the first step to ownership and em-powerment.
2. Hold Space
The act of experiencing anger without judging, without rushing to fix it, without bypassing the emotion.
This calls for love for self. This calls for standing in the discomfort of the emotion without throwing it on people in our space.
This calls for ownership.
As we grow and learn to hold space for our emotions, especially anger, we allow space for the emotions to activate this deep process of growth and transformation.
3. Gathering my stories
Anger is a powerful catalyst for growth, opening us deeper and moving us to our most vulnerable spot.
“What is really behind this anger?”
Seek help and support. Let there be no shame for seeking and support.
And if our shame and guilt show up, hold space for them.
Meet them tenderly, they are equally deserving of our attention.
Let there be no bypassing.
4. Explore the messages and Uncovering the masks
In most of us, anger does not always manifest as anger, sometimes it is resentment; sometimes it is frustration; sometimes it is anxiety and sometimes it’s depression.
These masks veil us because they feel safer and more acceptable than anger.
Start by exploring the messages you have received around anger. Growing up, I received these messages around anger.
“Good persons do not get angry. Anger means violent.
You are as bad and mean as that person when you are angry.
When you express anger, people will leave you.
A woman better learn to digest her anger or she will love her man.
Your anger is unjustified and unreasonable.”
If we have internalized these kinds of messages, then we have crafted a blueprint around anger and how it is to be in operation or in in-operation in our life and consciously and /or unconsciously, we will channel our anger in to something that feels more acceptable.
Every emotion is valid. No emotion is our identity. No emotion defines us.
Anger is as valid and as acceptable as joy, sadness, excitement, fear, happiness or any other emotion on the emotional spectrum.
Look for the feelings underneath the anger: usually these are a combination of hurt, shame, guilt, anxiety or similar. These are the root of our anger and we need to acknowledge them to relate to and express our anger in a healthy way.
5. Re-claiming and Rewriting your relationship with anger
Anger is not the problem but our blueprint about what anger is and how it is to show up in our life.
Anger discomforts but it a response to feeling wronged and violated and it can lead to constructive outcomes when processed and responded to appropriately.
If you were to re-write your relationship with anger:
What would that new relationship look like, feel like, sound like?
What would be your new experience of your relationship with anger?
6. Practice Healthy Anger
Become aware of your anger.
Gracefully allows space for this emotion.
Take time, step out, listen to yourself, breathe, process your feelings and get to the roots of your anger.
Decide how you want to respond. Responding healthily calls for showing up vulnerably in intent.
No matter how hurting we are, if we express our anger without expressing the emotions and stories that lie underneath, we will raise more barriers in relating to the other.
By showing up with our rawness and speaking of the spectrum of our experience, we give other a change to empathize with us and this is catalytic for deeper conversing, inclusive solutions and trust.
Unless we grow in awareness of what has been violated in us, we will replay the same cycle over and over again. Unless others are given space to experience our experience of our anger in a healthy way, we will fail to own our voice fully and we will run the blame on what was done unto us.
May we dare to show up in our aching with the intent to speak up our stories, meeting our anger as a catalyst for including self and others.
May we show up, we speak our stories behind our anger, for anger is never a solo emotion, something else awaits above to be met and to be held.
Remember even the strongest and most resilient of us will go through challenges. This path of inward descend is not easy. There are bound to be dark days, come what may, do not fall in despair and if you do despair, then roll your aching on the earth, cry out and slowly gather yourself back. And if you struggle to rise then crawl your entirety, crawl like a beggar lifting your heart to life and you will be heard, seen, felt and embraced.
Love from my heart to yours