When the Volcano blows...
Anger is an interesting emotion. Unexpressed, it can turn us to stone; unchecked it can destroy our lives. What’s actually happening when we get angry? – In my experience it can be like a surge of energy that sometimes makes us lose control. It can be like the eruption of an inner volcano that swipes away all reason, and it can feel as if we were possessed for a while, spitting out everything that we held in with so much effort. But I think there are different kinds of anger. We get angry when we witness injustice, when we see somebody abuse a child or an animal, and we want to go and stop them.
We get angry at politicians when their decisions seem unreasonable, and we shout at the TV. We get angry if we feel attacked or criticised, when somebody “pushes our buttons”, in order to defend ourselves. Anger can also be used to dominate someone else, to bully them, to scare them into submission.
Or sometimes we feel overwhelmed; it’s all becoming too much, too much pressure at work, too many demands at home, and we finally blow up in desperation. We can feel it in our bodies as well: the heart races, adrenalin rushes into our system, the eyes become cold and hard, or they seem to shoot lightning bolts, and we even might want to attack the other person physically, hit them, hurt them or even kill them. It seems to be a primitive energy that can override all our values and morals, and sometimes we turn into wild animals.
I think that anger is connected with our survival instinct and can be healthy and useful; it jolts us into action, it gives us the energy we need to change things or stop something bad from happening. But anger can also become a problem. If we try to force our will on somebody else we’re probably not very good at relationships, and this will cause us endless misery.
If we suffer in silence until we can’t take it anymore and blow up, we are probably not very good at expressing what we need, and we don’t have enough knowledge about how to communicate effectively. If we are very easily hurt or offended, we are probably quite insecure and need to boost our self-confidence and feelings of self-worth. If we like to blame everybody but ourselves if things go wrong we don’t know enough about the concept of “taking responsibility”.
A friend once came to me with sparkling eyes and awe on her face and said: “I have discovered the Secret of Life!!! I realised that I can’t blame anybody else and that I’m one hundred percent responsible for myself! What a liberation! Why has nobody told me this before???” And she grinned at the irony. Anger can be like a Rottweiler out of control and needs a strong handler: us, ourselves. Anger can be healthy and appropriate if we learn constructive ways of expressing it. But the more it comes from fear and insecurity, the more savage it will be in its expression. In this case we need to become aware of the fear and desperation behind the anger, so that we can find out what we actually need and how to get it. And that’s where counselling comes in!
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