Anger and What's Really Going On
21st November, 2010
You got passed over, again. You were ignored, again. Someone took from you what wasn’t theirs to take. A barefaced lie. Boundaries fully crossed.
You’re annoyed. You’re mad. You’re angry.
Anger comes up a lot. It’s on the news pretty much every day. People lashing out in anger and doing crazy things once the “red mist” has descended.
The spiritual responses to anger look like this:
- It’s meant to be this way
- She was doing the best she could at the time
- He had a tough childhood, it’s not all his fault
- I create my reality
- That was an “ego” response
But anger is a healthy response. Dammit, anger is one hell of a step up from passively accepting and absorbing abuse from someone else.
And yes, you are responsible for creating your reality. Yes, your ego can get in the way. Yes, you attract the rubbish and the wonder that constitutes your life. But you are not responsible for other people’s feelings.
Making excuses for other people’s poor conduct can be a very handy way to avoid confrontation and invalidate our own pain. We make them look good to dignify our hurt.
But I believe there’s something else going on here. Something underneath the angry response.
A primary emotion is one, like pleasure or fear, that comes directly from the limbic system in our brain, the design of which is to keep the individual safe and therefore the species alive. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (famous for coming up with the 5 stages of grief) said that anger is secondary to something else, usually fear.
Think about times when you've been really, really angry. Everything from angry at the news to angry at family members or loved ones. As you meditate on your anger, it will became clear to you that underneath each angry outburst you were probably afraid.
Afraid of having the love revoked. Afraid of being confronted with my weaknesses. Afraid of failing. Afraid of feeling “bad” feelings.
Knowing that fear can masquerade as anger has helped me be more compassionate when others become angry.
The next time you're on the receiving end of an angry outburst, ask yourself if this person is afraid. Afraid of feeling embarrassed, afraid of feeling ashamed, afraid of feeling foolish and stupid. When you ask yourself that question, you realise you are just a handy target. No need for you to get angry back.
Related articles from our experts
- Anger carries a message... do we know what it is?
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- Anger management: “How do you transform a raging lion into a purring cat?”
Shane Sneyd MBACP, UKCP & BPC17th February, 2018
- Anger: the tip of the iceberg
Tania Freeman - MBACP registered Creative Arts Counsellor12th January, 2018
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