Self

How To Look Your Anger In The Eye — And Make It Work For You

Photo: Gromovataya / shuttertock.com 
B&w woman yelling, hands to face

The idea some emotions like anger and fear are bad just isn't true.

That belief is all in your head. In other words, this point of view is merely a product of your thoughts, beliefs, and the stories they tell you.

Anger, like all of your other emotions, is actually trying to get your attention and point you toward the right path for your highest and best interest.

Sure that could mean securing your survival (for example, your fight or flight response). But, it can also relate to fulfillment and re-alignment. When you consider this, you definitely want to befriend all your emotions.

Here we'll look especially at the emotion most commonly judged and shunned — anger.

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No Emotion Is Negative

All emotions are our allies.

They play an important role within our innate, yet complex, human makeup.

More specifically, emotions are largely subconscious signals of a threshold change within your body or environment. They orient your hormones, neurotransmitters, and other bodily processes which, in turn, call forth relevant bodily responses to a specific type of change.

In other words, they're an important aspect of your embodied intelligence.

For example, fear signals uncertainty and potential vulnerability or opportunity. Through your body's internal reactions fear tells you that something has changed related to your surroundings or interactions with others.

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It tells you to pay attention and ascertain what happened as well as what action you need to take if any. The state of readiness increases the chances you survive or thrive.

These fear circuits will activate whether you ultimately determine the detected change to be threatening or beneficial.

To illustrate, let's say you sense someone apparently creeping up behind you. You become alert. You notice your hearing sharpens and your heartbeat increases.

Cautiously, you turn in guarded anticipation only to find your good friend slowly approaching, smiling and perhaps hoping to surprise you. Your whole demeanor shifts. Now you relax and welcome the change.

In other words, no matter the likely outcome, the incident induced classic signs of fear.

Your body had prepared you to act just in case.

Why Anger Is Your Friend

So, how is anger your friend? Anger bestows three main benefits: boundary maintenance, protection and a gateway to inner awareness, and a ready reservoir of energy and force.

These are not trifling gifts. Hence, befriend your anger and gain access to these gems.

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1.  Anger illuminates boundaries

We all have limits we want to enforce but, at times, are willing to compromise to some degree. And, they likely vary across personal, social, and professional contexts. You have these limits too. These are your boundaries.

Some are conscious, but others are not. For example, at times, you may sense resistance welling up within you without knowing why. This inner sense points to an unconscious or embodied boundary.

Anger is typically described in strong or negative terms such as fury, wrath, or eruption.

However, incipient anger is softer. Frustration, apathy, boredom, and detachment all indicate an aversion to an action or situation that surpasses what is deemed desirable, reasonable, or tolerable.

In fact, intense expressions of anger typically only arise when boundary-crossings have been suppressed or ignored by you or others. Think of the guy who breaks things and punches holes in the walls with seemingly scant provocation.

Pay attention to the softer signs of anger to avoid intense and triggered reactions. Ask yourself what boundary or limit is being crossed? Offer an acceptable response and navigate the situation toward a more harmonious resolution.

Be aware that anger can present as sharp self-criticism as well. This occurs when you sense that you initiated the boundary-crossing by letting down your guard or sticking your nose in someone else's business.

RELATED: How To Control Your Anger — Without Trying To Push It Down

2.  Anger is protective 

Oftentimes, one emotion stands in for another denied or exiled emotion. For example, anger might mask fear, betrayal, heartbreak, grief. 

Typically this happens because you learned at some point that your natural emotions elicited an uncomfortable or threatening response from other people while its substitute (e.g., anger) got you what you wanted or protected you. 

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Masking has a definite downside. In addition to creating internal and external confusion in your relationships and in situations of all kinds, the anger mask inhibits the expression of the underlying emotion. 

When this emotion is disregarded, the call for change and rebalance that it embodies continues unabated. This call can be sublimated with habitual behaviors, addictions, and other negative consequences to your health and well-being.

If you listen to your anger, whether subtle and soft or loud and sharp and you explore with open, compassionate curiosity what is under that mask, you can free that emotion, gain access to more of yourself, and act with greater authenticity and effectiveness.

3.  Anger is healthier than unspoken resentments

Anger is associated with defense or, perhaps is better described, a consequence of the need for defense. Therefore, it's the energy that empowers the sympathetic fight or flight response: the autonomic nervous system's natural response to a significant threat.

You can also bottle up the energy, which is essentially what resentment is.

Anger and resentment are, respectively, the outward and inward expressions of the same force. You dish it out to others or turn it on yourself.

Tragically, while resentment is a seemly gentle response, chronic resentment can rake havoc on your health and well-being.

A Downside to Unfulfilled Anger

Ignoring your anger has an additional serious and potentially life-threatening downside.

Pent-up anger can lead to a whole suite of health issues if chronically attended to or unexpressed. Some examples of common health concerns are high blood pressure, strokes, heart problems, headaches, digestive issues, diabetes, eating disorders, skin conditions, and chronic stress as well as all of its associated conditions.

Anger also impedes your ability to focus and think clearly.

Worse yet, it can result in the disruption and dissolution of personal and professional relationships.

RELATED: How I Finally Stopped Letting Anger Ruin My Life

Patricia Bonnard, Ph.D., ACC is a leadership coach, spiritual life coach, embodied practitioner, energy healer who helps people access their innate humanity. Her articles appear on Medium, Pathway Magazine, Your Tango, Linkedin, and several blog sites. See more and contact her at Starchaser Integrated Coaching and Energy Healing.

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