Laurie Patrice, MS, LPC, BCPC, CPCS
When anger speaks we sometimes recognize the voice as anger. Sometimes we do not. Anger speaks to us through our bodies as they tense or ache, as a heart beats out of the chest or as we drag our bodies through a day so fatigued we can scarcely move. Sometimes Anger speaks through our self-sabotage, through our self-destructive behaviors, through addictions, through self directed animosity, and through negative self talk.
Sometimes Anger sneaks in through the back door, tip-toeing in as anxiety, depression, or sadness, hiding behind the skirts of ritualistic or neurotic behaviors.
Then there is the voice of Anger that speaks as a thunder clap: loud, booming, powerful anger. It takes us over and moves our mouths to speak in toxic waves we scarcely recognize and certainly regret…mostly regret after it subsides and slinks back into its den where it will lie spent and subdued until it builds in strength for its next release.
However Anger speaks we rarely understand it. We’ve been indoctrinated and intimidated into seeing anger as the enemy. We’ve been taught that Anger is ugly, scary…something to be ignored if possible and avoided at all costs. We’ve been taught that if not careful, we can be subjugated…controlled by anger. So from the earliest of ages we are taught that our anger is a force to be feared…unacceptable, ugly. We are often punished, rejected, and shamed if we allow our anger to speak.
As children we observed how those with more power than us interacted with Anger and we learned. We saw how they pushed Anger down, denying its presence, denying us access to our own anger and its messages. We saw how adults consistently stuffed their anger into a secret, internal container…how they snipped at each other in passive-aggressive laughter until the pressure finally built into massive explosions. We saw the quiet satisfaction felt by those who were smugly able to coax the uncontrollable anger out of another. We witnessed combustible anger and felt fearful as it exploded in unbridled power. We saw how people could be hurt by anger… sometimes it was someone we loved. Sometimes we were the injured.
We learned…Anger is bad, not to be trusted. It must be shut down, stuffed away or mastered…holding on tight to it, riding the power of it like a bucking bull until the adrenaline is gone and we are left broken on the ground.
So… what if someone told you that Anger has been gravely misunderstood, unjustly persecuted, unfairly imprisoned, rejected, denied, and suppressed. What if someone…what If I told you… that Anger is not a monster, not the enemy… but is instead your friend and ally?
There are countless scientific studies that support the mental and physical health risks that result when anger is suppressed and carried around inside us. Our relationships, jobs, education, and sense of self are all jeopardized not by Anger, but by the poor relationship we have had with anger. When we mindlessly, continue to stuff anger and have it pop out like a pressure valve, it is not Anger that hurts us, it is our failure to listen and understand it.
Anger speaks when we believe we’ve been disrespected. Anger speaks when we witness injustice. Anger speaks when we’ve been abused. Anger speaks to us when we see a competitor take the admiration, attention, love, business account, parking space, etc. that we want. Anger speaks when our boundaries have been violated. Anger speaks when we’ve been objectified. Anger speaks to us when we have given too much of ourselves away and have too little left. Anger speaks when we long for peace and cannot find it. It speaks when we are ill, tired, disappointed, and feel disempowered.
Anger is a natural response to threat. Our brains are wired to respond to that threat through fight, flight, or freeze. Anger is a physiological response to the body’s chemical preparation for fight…a fight, that at some point in human history may have been necessary to keep us alive.
When Anger speaks it is not as an enemy to cause us harm, but as our friend to help us thrive. Our relationship with Anger allows us to listen, to learn from it. To use its messages to activate us toward self care and in the care of others. When I tell you anger can be your friend, you have information that offers you new choices. You can continue to view Anger as an enemy to be feared or conquered…or you can begin to listen to Anger’s messages.
So… what do you do if you decided to change your relationship with Anger?
Part 2 : (A New Relationship with Anger) will be posted next month.