As I reflect on the past 13 years I reflect on the stages of my own evolving consciousness that I have had to go through – sometimes once, sometimes over and over and some right now. I hope what I have learned may help you.
Anger is a natural and mostly automatic response to pain of one form or another (physical or emotional). Anger can occur when people don’t feel well, feel rejected, feel threatened, or experience some loss. The type of pain does not matter; the important thing is that the pain experienced is unpleasant. Because anger never occurs in isolation but rather is necessarily preceded by pain feelings, it is often characterized as a ”secondhand” emotion.
The definition of whether someone’s anger is a problem often turns on whether or not other people agree with them that their anger, and the actions they take in the name of their anger, is justified.
Angry people most always feel that their anger is justified. However, other people don’t always agree. The social judgment of anger creates real consequences for the angry person. An angry person may feel justified in committing an angry, aggressive action, but if a judge or jury of peers do not see it that way, that angry person may still go to jail. If a boss doesn’t agree that anger expressed towards a customer is justified, a job may still be lost. If a spouse doesn’t agree that anger was justified, a marriage may have problems.
With the increasing occurrence of such phenomena as road rage, drive-by shootings, high school and post office killing sprees—in short, with the prevalence of violence in America today—the attention given to acting-out, out-of-control anger may never have been greater.
Paradoxical as it may seem, anger—even though it destroys any true peace of mind or sense of well-being—can yet help us to soothe ourselves. For our anger potently serves to invalidate whoever or whatever led us to feel invalidated. In adamantly disconfirming the legitimacy of the menacing external force, we self-righteously proclaim the superiority of our own viewpoint. Thus is our critical need for emotional/mental security restored.
Although we’re hardly left in a state of inner harmony—and may actually be experiencing substantial turmoil—our defensive anger still permits us to achieve a certain comfort. After all, we’re not wrong, or bad, or selfish, or inconsiderate; it’s our spouse, our child, our neighbor, our coworker. Granted, this desperate reaction may be self-soothing of the last resort, but it’s a kind of self-soothing nonetheless. In short, if we can’t comfort ourselves through self-validation, we’ll need to do so through invalidating others. And people who suffer from chronic depression typically have not learned how to avail themselves of this potent, though ultimately self-defeating, defense.
If anger can help us self-medicate against all sorts of psychological pain, it is equally effective in helping ward off exasperating feelings of powerlessness. A person or situation somehow makes us feel defeated or powerless, and reactively transforming these helpless feelings into anger instantly provides us with a heightened sense of control.
Anger doesn’t feel good. It makes our hearts race and our palms sweat. It makes us feel anxious and scared. We grow up in a society driven by the “pleasure principle”––the instinct to seek positive feelings and experiences and to avoid pain. If there’s a feeling we don’t like, we try to get rid of it. This overwhelming urge to bury our anger––or to let it erupt into intense rage—is terrible for us.
Our own anger can also be frightening. Sometimes the rage we feel at our children can be deeply upsetting and guilt-inducing. Because anger is so uncomfortable, it’s incredibly difficult for us to sit with our feelings––to set aside distractions, mindfully examine our sensations and emotions, and find out what our anger might reveal. However, anger is too important and can reveal too much to us for us to dismiss it.
Anger is meant to make us uncomfortable. That’s how it gets us to pay attention to it—and we need to pay attention. Each of our emotions, including anger, plays an important role in our lives by providing us with information. To fully experience and tap into the wisdom of our emotions, we must learn how to experience discomfort. Without discomfort, there is no change and no growth.
Kevin T. Cahill is an award winning sales professional and consultant specializing in the art of managing change and achieving great results. As the founder of The Change Revolution, this international best selling author and speaker inspires men and women alike. As someone who has mastered the art of resilience and hope, Kevin’s philosophy as a clarity builder is strategic and results driven. Kevin’s passion is to equip individuals and organizations with a renewed sense of clarity and excitement, knowing that positive change will bring about positive gains. His exciting creation The Change Revolution offers a winning blueprint for navigating through change and achieving success.
Speaking inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 519-836-7989.