As I was listening to one module of my friend Uma Girish's Clear Your Heart for True Healing on-line course, her description of the physiological response to anger sounded very similar to the physiological response to stress, e.g., breathing quickly, stomach muscles tightening, dilated pupils. The reason for the similarity is that both anger and stress are the same base psychological response.
Both anger and stress trigger the reptilian survival brain. Healthy anger, like healthy stress, is an alert that we need to protect ourselves. When anger appears, it is alerting us to when we are not being treated correctly, how we need to approach things differently, or when something in our life is not working. Anger is an awareness tool which provides a light on injustice and provides us with the insight to make changes.
I consider myself a very accepting person. I look for peace and contentment. I easily forgive others. But sometimes I suffocate my own anger for the want of peace. This is not healthy. Anger is necessary and helpful when used correctly. When anger surfaces, our unconscious is bringing our awareness to something in our lives which needs to be addressed. If we stifle the anger, we remove the opportunity to make positive changes in our lives. Anger should not be dismissed but investigated, thanked and released. Anger is a trigger to uncover what is not right, and then fix what is not right.
Along with the Spanish translation of Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility, I am also currently reading some light chick lit from an Irish author. I would like to strangle one of the characters in the book, probably because I can see myself in her. She is a doormat to her friend. Putting her dreams, ambitions, and needs on hold to take care of her friend's child. Her friend is a lying narcissist who is taking advantage of her. When the doormat finally releases her anger, it is short-lived. She goes back to overcompensating for her friend instead of creating healthy boundaries. Ignoring the importance and validity of her anger is keeping her from the necessary confrontation with her friend. This character, and many of us, need to recognize our anger is trying to help us address needed changes in our lives.
On the other hand, some anger is not helpful. Unhealthy anger, like unhealthy stress, can cause issues to us emotionally and physically as well as to those around us. When anger is continually fed, revisited, and held on to, without taking steps to release the anger and act upon its message, just like continuous stress, continuous anger takes a toll on our body.
Anger also hurts us when we focus on the painful symptom of the anger, instead of fixing the true cause. A friend of mine is always angry at one company or another. He could spend hours detailing how the company wronged him, how they are evil to the core, and how horrible things should happen to the company because of this. None of this information makes a change to the company or his experience with it. To move into healthy anger, my friend needs to move past the awareness of injustice and uncover the actions he can take to fix or remove himself from the situation.
Anger hurts us and others when we lash our anger onto the innocent when we feel disempowered to address the real cause. When we are angry at our boss and instead of confronting him we come home and yell at our spouse, our anger is misplaced. When we are unhappy about our current life and instead of having the courage to make a change, we blame an unrelated group of people, our anger is misplaced. Not only does this misplacement hurt those on the receiving end, it does nothing to change the true cause of the anger.
What is your relationship with anger? How is it helping or hurting you?
For more on Uma's course which provides insight, answers and exercises to manage anger, guilt, fear, and forgiveness as a road to finding healing through releasing emotional baggage, click here. The course is set up on a pay what you can basis. Please note that I receive no compensation in return.