Anger is up for me at this time in my life. It’s up for me because two months ago I endeavored to peel another layer of the onion of personal development—revealing an additional layer of emotional trauma from childhood, and what I found was anger at the injustice of my childhood. I won’t detail the injustices of my childhood, but only to say that anger is a human emotion.
It’s as natural as a summer’s breeze or the laugh of a baby. It’s perfectly natural, and yet is most commonly avoided and denied given how destructive and scary anger can be when expressed in less than responsible ways.
Growing up I was not free to express anger, and so I learned to stuff it, which became a habit that extended well into adulthood. The problem with stuffing anger is that it never really goes away; it just burrows deeper into our psyche and infects everything we do in subtle and often unseen ways.
Releasing stored anger is one of the most important things we can do, but there is a way to express anger that is destructive, and a way to release it that is healing. Discovering the constructive and healing method for releasing stored anger is a much bigger topic than I could possibly address in a short blog format as this, so I will offer just a few thoughts from the path of one traveler on the road to inner peace.
Anger is most commonly a mask for underlying fear. In the space of our anger we can begin to access the underlying fear in ways we could never do if we did not allow ourselves to feel the anger.
When we find the underlying fear, we can more easily re-direct our anger away from the person or situation we feel has harmed us, because we have just discovered that the intensity of our emotion has more to do with this underlying fear than the person or situation. In this way, we can develop compassion for those we think have harmed us.
Anger can be used as a controlling mechanism, and again, if we look to the fear beneath the anger we can see why it’s so important for us to control a person or situation. Knowing this enables us to let go, even just a little.
Anger is a gateway to deeper understanding of ourselves. It’s a gateway because if we’re feeling it, it is often times an indication of a deeper wounding we have yet to address. So while it feels crappy at the time, it’s actually a gift in disguise because of how powerfully it enables us to discover deeper truths.
Anger can also serve as a powerful tool for expressing things we are most passionate about, but only when we can express it without judgment or an intention of hurting others—think Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi. Think of the anger of a mother intent on the protection of her children, or the slam poet with a message to evoke our deeper passions and sense of righteousness.
Yes, anger can be scary, very scary at times. It brings up so much for us. We tend to think there is something wrong with those who express it, or wonder what people may think of us when we let too much of it out. We want the anger to stop—the anger in us and the anger we feel from others. We want it to stop because it’s too painful.
Yes, indeed. And yet, it is also one of our greatest gifts, as it has the potential to open the door to our deeper selves.
Anger is also important in organizations, as it can either destroy the fabric of culture or galvanize our resolve to accomplish the seemingly unattainable. It affects every aspect of our lives, and how it affects our lives (constructively or destructively) depends on our willingness to explore what lies beneath it.