As I sit down to write the second part about how we can heal our anger, I find myself entangled in the middle of a long-standing complex family discord. Over this past weekend, at different times, I observe within myself feelings of anger, fear and sadness. So, it is totally fitting that I am writing and sharing that which I need most to hear as well. 😊
Anger is hard. It feels like sitting on top of embers. At any point, just the passing air can fan the flames. There can be small crackling sparks that are mere annoyances to huge, swirling flames that can literally engulf us.
What makes anger doubly difficult is that nearly all of us really want to be the most loving, healing presence we can. Yet this current of anger can seem to obstruct the very Love and Peace- that we know we truly are- from shining through.
No one can take our anger away
We often wish we could dump the feelings of anger somewhere. That’s not to say that we should not release the anger in a safe space where we will not harm ourselves or others. Screaming and yelling- in a closed room or inside the car with the windows rolled up- as well as punching a pillow or some other object- can be therapeutic. Especially, if we tend to hold our feelings inside. Or if we have judgments about anger- that it is not ‘right’ or beliefs such as ‘kind people should never get angry.’ Or that because I am on a spiritual path- that it is ‘unspiritual’ to get angry. We want to honor ALL our feelings- including anger- and release them as it feels good for us. However, release of anger often still does not get to the root of why we are angry.
I am willing to be wrong
I see anger (and any other emotions) as a byproduct of a deeper set of thoughts and our core underlying beliefs. It is to this place inside our minds and hearts we need to go – if we are to find a true healing of our anger. But to make that journey inward, we must be willing to be wrong. Not wrong about being angry. Our emotions are not right or wrong- they simply are. But to heal anger, we need to be willing, just even a tiny bit 😊- to be wrong about the reason why we are angry.
However, in the middle of an upset, and even afterward, we often feel just the opposite. We often feel very justified and ‘right’ in our feelings of anger; moreover, we feel 100% certain about the cause.
‘I’m pissed off because that red car just cut me off.’
‘I am so angry at her for not listening to me when I was talking.’
‘Look at the way he’s treating me! It makes me so angry!’
And so on and so forth.
The ego mind- the mind that lives in a space of separation from our True Self, the Core Place of Love and Light within- convinces us that the cause of our upset is outside us. When we listen to the ego’s voice, it tells us that anger is like a ‘hot potato.’ We then tend to project and displace the cause of our anger outward – onto our partner, parents, children, boss, the government, and so on and so forth.
Are you addicted to being angry?
The roots of anger lie deep. So, if you are reading this, and you have struggled with healing anger, don’t lose heart. Anger can be addictive just like sugar. Think about this. Many of us feel a draw to eat sugar. You start with one bite of cake, and if you are not mindful, you can end up finishing much more than you intended. 😊At first this may feel good. The sugar rush may provide you with some comfort, even an energy boost for your day especially during that afternoon slump many of us experience. But soon afterward, your energy plummets as you negotiate the inevitable sugar crash that follows. And usually you are left feeling more depleted and tired then when you took that first bite. ☹
Anger can feel like a powerful sugar rush especially if previously we felt helpless or powerless.
Let me illustrate with an example from my life.
About 15 years ago, soon after my son was born, I found myself negotiating a very painful divorce that I initiated. I needed to release a marriage that was not healthy- not for my then husband, for myself nor for our then infant son. It was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make. Yet it was clear that there were no other options.
During this time, I felt very angry for all that had transpired during the marriage. In the marriage, I had given away my power to my husband, so being angry felt like a step out of feeling helpless and powerless. The current of anger provided me with a surge of energy which pushed me out of an unhealthy situation.
But you see, anger does not discriminate. We cannot compartmentalize our anger. It spills over to the rest of our life. I found that soon, not only did I feel angry toward my then husband, but I was angry with the lawyers, with my family, and my parents- all who were there to support and help me.
It was time to face the roots of this anger. I had become addicted to anger and it was literally eating me up inside. I am grateful for my mom who helped me to see this. Somehow, she always managed to provide me a safe space to vent. She also would not get upset with me about being cranky or irritable with her. She intuitively knew that this anger was coming from a place of deep pain inside me. With skillful patience, she helped me to see that this anger was now hurting me. It was unhealthy for me to continue this way.
Are you ready to go deeper toward healing of anger?
If you have read this far, let us review so we are on the same page.
- You are willing to be wrong about the cause of your anger.
- You also admit that you may have what my friend David Hoffmeister calls is a ‘perceptual addiction’ or a ‘perceptual problem’- meaning you are addicted to thinking a certain way, seeing things a certain way which can give rise to upsetting emotions such as anger. Maybe you can even admit that at times you enjoy the adrenalin rush that the feeling of anger provides.
See, my friend, if you are not willing to admit that you have a perceptual problem and that you could be wrong about how you see things, then healing cannot happen.
My invitation as a coach for inner peace
If you are willing to admit all that I shared above, then please skip to the next section. But if you still feel not willing, then I want to offer you an exercise for self-reflection.
Allow yourself some quiet time and space where you can go deeper within. Ask yourself these questions:
What am I gaining in being angry?
This is what you can say to yourself:
There is some gain that anger gives me and some value that I have for it, else I would be ready to let it go. Maybe I just enjoy that adrenalin rush that often can accompany anger. Maybe in a weird sort of way, I feel more alive and more powerful when I am angry. (This may be the case especially if you are negotiating feelings of depression, helplessness or powerlessness.)
- Be honest. Journal about this and allow whatever comes up to come up. Write out why feeling angry is ‘justified.’ Why you feel right about being angry. Allow everything inside you to pour out.
- Remember, you are never wrong about your feelings and you are not being asked to suppress any emotion. But we want to go deeper and expose what is underneath this anger.
- What value does this anger have for you?
Please give yourself all the time you need. I recall a client who took a few hours on a Sunday morning and filled pages and pages with why she felt angry at her parents. The next day when we met she was able to make a huge breakthrough.
When you feel complete, ask yourself this:
How does this anger feel inside me? Does it feel good? Do I feel well? Do I feel happy? Do I feel at peace?
The choice for healing
Jerry Jampolsky MD, a psychiatrist now in his 90s, created a system of healing called Attitudinal Healing – based on the teachings of A Course in Miracles. His work inspired me to create Coaching for Inner Peace. He once said something that was very powerful.
Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?
So, I ask you the same question.
Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?
Being right, entitled, righteous, or insisting on anything cannot allow for peace and happiness. It’s like saying you want to really visit California but insisting on driving east from NYC. You will simply not be able to reach your destination. The two states of being- anger and happiness-like oil and water- simply cannot come together.
I am never upset for the reason I think
This is one of my most favorite lessons from A Course in Miracles. If you truly want to be happy and heal your anger, by applying this lesson, you can find a way to free yourself from the gripping tentacles of anger.
My friend Raymond, who is a volunteer/business mentor for Coaching for Inner Peace, was really struck by this lesson. The word ‘never’ is what caught his attention. It is like stating a law. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. It never rises in the west and sets in the east.
But how can I never be upset for the reason I think? Surely there are exceptions to the rule? How can I not be upset about poverty, and all the suffering and injustice in the world?
But this lesson is not saying that you ‘should’ not be upset. It is saying that the reason you think you are upset is not what it seems to be.
Let us look at this lesson together.
Opening to door to healing
These days, whenever I get upset or angry, I will use this lesson to lead me back to peace, clarity and happiness.
I am never upset for the reason I think.
This lesson invites me to do the following exercise which I want to share with you. Here are the steps I take inside my mind:
Step 1: Seeing this event or person or situation as a trigger
Because I am never upset for the reason I think, then this situation/person/event is simply a trigger. I am willing to be open to the possibility that this trigger and this person can be a teacher to help me see ideas, beliefs and concepts I have about myself. Without this trigger, I would not have been able to see these ideas and beliefs because they are so deeply buried in my subconscious mind.
Step 2: Turning inward
This situation/person/event is helping me to turn inward and find the cause of my anger within myself.
Step 3: Inviting my Inner Wisdom
I invite my Inner Wisdom to light my way. I am willing to be wrong about what I see, how I see this, and why I think I am angry. I am willing to do this not for this other person and not because I am wrong in feeling what I am feeling. I know I can honor all my emotions, feelings, and thoughts- no matter how dark they may seem to be. I am willing to be open to my Inner Wisdom because I want to be at peace. I want to feel happy. I want my healing and I don’t want this person/situation/event to have any more power over me any longer. I join with my Inner Wisdom, so I can claim my birthright to be free from pain and suffering. And this state of anger is creating suffering for me. Inner Wisdom, I want to be free. Please guide my mind and help me to see this in a way that brings me peace.
Step 4: Allow for the healing
This can be the trickiest step because we must let go. Here is where we simply need to be. Find a way that you can spend some time in stillness. You may want to keep a journal handy and jot down insights that come. Or simply just put this all away and trust that new awarenesses may come later in the day or the week. Pay attention and stay open. Trust that you have done your part and now you can allow the Inner Wisdom to do the rest.
I would love to hear from you about your safe passage through anger. I am feeling there is more emerging so stay tuned for future posts sharing more tools to support your healing.
I love you all for being with me in this journey.
If you feel inspired to write and share, feel free to post on Coaching for Inner Peace Facebook page or email me at [email protected]