Problems With Anger
By Tony Schirtzinger
WHAT ANGER IS
Anger is a natural emotion or feeling. We feel anger whenever we are BLOCKED from getting something we want. It is good for us when it helps to protect us from threats, it reminds us that we have power to overcome obstacles, and it gives us a measure of how important it is for us to get what we want.
HOW IT WORKS
Whenever we are blocked from something we want, a part of our energy goes into feeling anger. It can range from intense anger at being blocked from something important (like life itself) to minimal anger at small blocks over slight wants.
Anger has a natural duration. In other words, we will get over it within a certain amount of time if we admit to it and express it. If we don’t admit to it (if we deny that it’s there), we can feel “uncentered” or “crazy.” If we don’t express it (if we keep it inside), it takes a much longer time to get over it.
Anger feels bad when we first notice it, it feels good as we express it (by saying we are angry, raising our voice, etc.), and it turns into guilt and depression if it’s denied. Expressing it with others is better only because they may be able to help us make decisions about what to do with all that energy.
Anger is really just raw energy. After we have admitted to it and while we express it we feel a major boost in our energy level.
We all have one particular set of physical sensations in our body which indicate anger. People feel anger in various ways and in various parts of their body. The most common sensations are probably a tight feeling in the upper torso, a “hot flash” or rush of warmth in the face and upper body, and jaw tightening. Your sensation of anger may be one of these or it may be entirely different.
FEELING YOUR ANGER
It is vital to your emotional health to know how anger feels to you in your body. So, right now, take a moment to remind yourself of the most intense anger you ever felt.
As you remember this day when you were completely blocked from something you wanted very much,
ask yourself: “What do I feel in my body?”
(Once you recognize your own “anger place” in your body, you can stop thinking about that day in your life. Notice that you are able to let go of that memory almost as quickly as you were able to remember it.)
It is very important that you admit to yourself that you are angry whenever you feel this sensation in this part of your body! As a matter of fact, you’ll need to get better and better at recognizing even very slight sensations of anger, if you want to improve your life.
It is possible to believe that you are angry when you aren’t, and to believe you are angry when you are really sad (most common), or scared, or happy, or excited, or feeling guilty.
The “Split Second” It Started:
Real, necessary, natural anger starts as an immediate response to some event. Unreal, unnecessary, unnatural anger starts in our minds, with a thought or fantasy.
If the anger was natural you will feel better as you admit and express it. If it was unnatural you might feel a bit better from the release of energy, but not much. If you don’t get relief from your anger, it probably started in your mind. It is possible to simply stop unnatural anger (once you stop believing it’s real).
If you have trouble stopping it, you are probably believing that you are angry as part of some learned strategy for getting along in the world. Some people call this manipulation, but that word implies that it’s done on purpose. It’s really a way of coping, subconsciously, with life’s difficulties. But feeling the pain of unnatural anger never works as a way of coping in the long run.
PROBLEMS WITH NATURAL ANGER
If we work and live around other people, we get angry about twenty times every day. And yet many people would swear they seldom get angry at all. We tend to be so afraid of our anger that, as a culture, we pretend it isn’t there.
Our anger is there to protect us and to help us overcome obstacles to what we want. But if we are too afraid to use it, we become our own obstacle.
ANGER AND GUILT
The biggest problem with anger is guilt. Since we have been taught that anger is bad, we pretend that we aren’t angry and claim to be “hurt” instead. This waters down the intensity of our anger, greatly complicates our attempts to get what we want, and ultimately sets us up as “victims” or “martyrs.”
FEAR OF RAGE
Intense anger is called rage. It is so intense, that it begs for a physical release. It is very common to think about violence when we feel rage, but thought is not action and violence is never necessary
(except to protect our lives, of course).
When You Have Violent Images, Remember:
The images are only a fantasy, and it is normal to have them at times like this. You do not have to act out what you imagine, so there’s no reason for fear. Violent fantasies are a measure of how angry you are. It’s good for you to know you are so angry.
The fantasies are only telling you that you want to use your body to express all this anger. Go ahead! Hit a pillow, smash some old glassware, do anything that helps you to release all that anger – as long as it doesn’t physically hurt you or anyone else. When you are finished, you will feel relief. After the relief, decide what you are going to do about the situation that got you so angry in the first place.
PROBLEMS WITH UNNATURAL ANGER
Unnatural anger occurs when we think we are angry but we are actually
feeling some other feeling (sadness, scare, joy, excitement or guilt).
MOST COMMON PROBLEM
The most common problem is using unnatural anger to cover up both sadness and fear. We all know some “grouches” or “chronic complainers.” From our perspective on the outside, these people seem to be constantly angry. They may yell, or say mean things, or simply complain all the time.
When you meet these people, know that they are not particularly angry! (If they were really angry there would be a natural duration to their anger and they would have been finished with it a long time ago.)
These people usually have suffered intense sadness and fear for years. They gave up on life many years ago, possibly after feeling abandoned by someone. They are sad because they feel they’ve “lost everything.” They are fearful because they think they have nobody to help them stay safe.
What they need is a close relationship with people they trust. But, sadly, they will fight this off very, very well.
“I’m Afraid I’d Kill Someone!”
I hear this excuse for running away from anger all the time, usually from very kind people.
When I hear this, I usually ask:
“Well, would you?”
And they say:
“No, of course not!”.
And I say:
“Then all you need to do is believe yourself….”
(Of course if you really are afraid you might kill or hurt someone – yourself or anyone else – stop reading this right now, get on the phone, and call a good therapist!)
“Who Do You Think You Are, Young Man!”
When children get angry at adults, the adults frequently respond with demeaning comments designed to “put the child in his place.” As adults, we need to overcome this negative childhood conditioning and reclaim our power.
Anger = Energy = Power
When we are angry we are feeling raw energy that is ready for use. This is our power.
The only real decision we have to make is:
“How will I use all this power?”
Your anger is like a laser beam. Aim it precisely where it will do you the most good.