What is your relationship to anger? Does it burn you out? Does it flare up when you feel pushed on? Does it dissipate as quickly as it arises, or does it smolder and linger as a burning resentment?
Anger is one of the most misunderstood emotions. It falls for many into the category of “things I don’t want to feel,” or “things I’m not supposed to feel,” which means there is a tendency to try to avoid it, suppress it, or divert it inward.
We are all familiar with the negative expression of anger, when it is used to blame, control, manipulate, or cause harm. So many of us don’t know what anger’s presence really means or how to deal with it well, and have only seen it work badly.
We all have anger. It is a naturally arising emotion. So when we can’t work with the anger we have, it can wreak havoc on our emotions and bodies, creating confusing, harmful, & complex patterns like manipulation, resentment, self-righteousness, or self-hatred.
How we understand and employ our natural anger a key aspect to look at in health. Inward directed anger or chronic anger can cause major inflammation, anxiety, burnout, and auto-immune issues.
In this article we’ll explore instead what anger’s positives are, and how to get out of damaging anger reactions that wreak havoc on our relationships and inner peace.
First, The Positives!
What is the positive use of anger? How do we allow it in our lives and reap the benefits of it rather than just getting burned by it?
1. Anger is a Boundary-Setter
When anger flares, it is an indicator of your inner sense of boundary being crossed in some way. That is a good thing! Anger is there to give you the energy to set a boundary for yourself. It helps you to put your own needs first rather than allowing something that doesn’t feel right into your reality. This is one of anger’s best qualities.
If you can’t access your own assertive energy, and are accustomed to stuffing or suppressing your own needs, you will find it hard to set boundaries that keep you safe and happy. In this case, anger can guide you to leave behind patterns of passivity where you usually give your power away. To be assertive means that you can create your life in a way that actually works for you. Otherwise, you’ll end up living a life that you don’t actually like.
2. Anger is a Catalyst for Change
When the intense “No!” of anger arises, it has the potential to catalyze change in your life and in the world. We’ve been seeing a lot of this lately on a large scale! And rightly so. When something in your personal sphere feels off, icky, unfair, etc, to your system, anger’s presence lets you know that you do not agree with what is happening, and will not allow it to continue. Sometimes it takes becoming angry about a person’s behavior towards you in order to do anything about it.
Anger lets you know that the status quo isn’t working, and that it is time to take a stand for who you really are, and what you truly want. If you can let the anger empower you to stand up for yourself, you will find that you have the power to make deep changes.
How else have you used anger as a positive in your life? Has its presence inspired you to make a needed change? Let me know in the comments!
Part of becoming more mature with our anger is also to recognize the ways that we use it to harm ourselves and others. Even though the intention to set a boundary for oneself is essentially positive, for example, we can still distort the energy and use anger in an unclean way.
The following show some of the ways in which anger goes off the rails (and does more harm than good)!
1. When there is a demand
(that life or another person meet your preferences or expectations.)
This is a pattern that is easy to fall into. “If things go my way, I’ll be happy,” is the underlying belief. However, life is inherently mysterious, imperfect, and messy, and when you’re stuck in a desire to control it, you’re for sure headed for unhappiness.
We have expectations all of time of ourselves, our friends, our families, of life. And when these expectations are not met in a way that makes us feel happy and secure, the knee-jerk response is to get pissed off about it rather than accepting life, others, and ourselves.
When anger flares in these moments, there is a futility in it, a fighting with what is.
When I get stuck in this, I often use the serenity prayer as a healing response:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference”
You probably recognize this prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous. It is employed in the first step of the twelve steps, where they refer to acceptance as the key to happiness and sanity. Acceptance is also a principle of the 1st chakra, which means that it is the foundational aspect of life.
As shown in the last part of the prayer, healthy use of anger requires discernment. It’s important to take the time to check in with ourselves about the best path before doing whatever our normal, automatic response is.
For some, the automatic is to go into acceptance (which in this case is really submission) too quickly, rather than becoming more activated and setting necessary boundaries, and for others the knee-jerk response is to try to force change, when really just breathing and accepting what is would be more beneficial.
What is your go-to mode? What would it take for you to start to move towards the other possibility, so that you have full access to all of yourself?
2. When anger is masking deeper feelings
Usually if you look deeper at an issue that makes you angry, you’ll find that something else is going on underneath. If you ask yourself, “what deeper feeling do I feel” beneath the anger, it might be “powerlessness,” “pain,” “failure,” “lack of control,” etc.
If you just allow yourself to feel and digest that deeper feeling, the anger will melt away and you’ll start to see a constructive path forward.
3. When you aren’t taking responsibility
In this case, anger is a deflection from the real issues. This came up in my life recently when I found myself in a situation that I had agreed to take part in but wasn’t enjoying, and I felt resentful that I was “stuck” there in a role I didn’t want. I found myself becoming very irritated.
But really it was on me, because I did agree to be there. Resenting others about my choice was not going to help me. I had to realize that it was up to me to make a change.
Anger like this shows us that we need to take full responsibility for our own life circumstances, either making peace with our choices or making an effort to create something different if our choices truly aren’t making us happy.
Many people suffer deeply with a sense of entitlement, an “I deserve more than this!” mentality. To this I say, if you think you deserve more out of life, then you need to do something radically different, not just complain about what you have!
Only you can make a change in your life. Resentful anger towards your spouse, life, self, or situation will only deepen your suffering and prevent you from finding creative ways to change things up.
When you start to understand your own anger…when you listen to it, witness it, and befriend it, you will find that it is a wonderful ally that can help you create the life you long for. Within the fire of anger lies your personal creatorship, your personal power, your voice, your brilliance, and your desires.
2018 is an important year for the theme of anger, since Mars, the planet most associated with this particular emotion, is doing some interesting things astrologically. You can read more about that here or watch a video about it here. You can also contact me to help interpret this for your chart. Overall, just keep an eye out for how you are using your assertive energy this year! A strong Mars can give the opportunity to move your life forward in a strong way, or create lots of extra arguments, pain, and suffering if you aren’t handling your Mars karma well.
To learn more about how I can help you empower yourself to use your anger in a positive way, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free clarity session. I wish you all the best in empowerment and transformation.