For many years I have been noticing how people are being told by family or/and the helping profession to engage in mindfulness, meditation, yoga, etc. when they experience the fiery force of the feeling called anger. Often I meet clients who have been told all their lives to be helpful, nice, responsible, sensible and not giving anyone else grief. They are required to learn to “manage” their anger and some people get very fearful of their anger “where might it end?” Lots of effort goes into controlling people’s anger. Most people who have what they call “anger issues” when they arrive in therapy, have a real insight into this creative and honest emotion called anger and when someone else is interested in it.
Anger is not violence. Society usually gets the two forces mixed up. Anger is an emotion, in contrast to violence which is a behaviour and acting on the feeling is dangerous, which cannot be condoned.
Most people have never been allowed to work through a tantrum in a safe and supported environment. Children who are having a severe temper tantrum for example may get an embarrassed and sometimes abusive response from their carers, causing them to receive hostile looks and comments from onlookers. Anger disturbs the peace. It is noisy and demands attention. And that is exactly what anger is there for. Anger is a secondary emotion and is called upon when words or non-verbal communication about an issue are not being received by the addressee. Without addressing the reason for anger, sitting on it and managing it turns anger into something unrecognisable, some people call it “the monster inside” themselves. Passive aggression, rage (the unhealthy mixture of anger and fear) or overt violence are on the spectrum of that not-received communication.
It is impossible that someone can safely support someone else with an expression of anger when she/he has not met his/her anger before. Since anger is a very physical activity, body work is needed to welcome anger into life. Because anger is very physical it gets easily confused with violence. However, violence is when someone or something gets damaged or hurt and that is not alright, in fact it is forbidden by law and rightly so.
Anger is a sign of a person being alive, holding one part of the life drive. In psychodramatic practice (after J. L. Moreno) we can invite a person’s anger into the room and have a good communication with it. The boundaries are set between safe expression of anger and forbidden violence in action. What messages does raw anger have to bring to the person? What has not been heard? In order to work with anger, the client has to really plug up her/his courage. The worries are on the one hand to be overwhelmed by it and on the other to be rejected when the anger is expressed and thirdly, the self-image of the pleasing person is jeopardised.
So, anger is just as a valuable emotion as others. Welcoming it into the psychotherapeutic work is essential if a person is to get to know her/himself and the things that are not allowed to say. Let’s invite anger and allow the client to integrate this vital life force.
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- Anger: It's better out, than in!
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