What is really going on when we feel angry? How can we deal with anger in our life?
What we expect from life, is one of the big stimuli of our emotions, of how we feel. When we expect certain outcomes in life, certain behaviors, certain reactions of other people, … we create a recipe for disappointment, for frustration, for anger.
Neale Donald Walsch* describes it so beautifully when he says: ‘Anger is fear announced. When you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to be angry about’.
When you want something, you can get angry when you do not get it. But when you simply think: ‘this would be nice to have but it’s no necessity’, then you will not be angry when you do not get it, as you simply saw it as a possibility but not as a necessity.
The same goes for when somebody is rude to you, or hurtful: when you do not expect them to be nice, when you do not need them to behave in a certain way, in order to feel inner peace, they can’t make you angry as you have decided you do not need them to act in a certain way, in order to be happy yourself.
As you do not fear anymore, because you have no fixed idea of how life should unroll itself, people can’t disturb your inner peace any longer. The moment you decide that outer circumstances are not important to your inner well being, to your ‘feeling good’, anger falls away, frustration subsides the moment it arises.
This knowing, this understanding, is the ultimate way to live in harmony, to live in peace, to be just happy being you. No more expectations of:
how others should behave
how others should react
what others think of you
what you need to have achieved
what you are entitled to…
Not needing things to be in a very specific way, not having a very strict idea of how you want things to unfold in life, not needing certain stuff, not needing approval from others, … frees you from anger, form frustration, from all kind of negative emotions, that are not helping you anyway.
Brené Brown** also sheds a very interesting light on anger. 91% of all emotion experts claim ‘anger’ to be a primary emotion, but she found through lots and lots of research that when people talked about their anger, their stories always unfolded in stories of betrayal, fear, grief, injustice, shame, vulnerability and many other emotions. She found that anger is a secondary or ‘indicator’ emotion. As a catalyst, anger sparks change, but is not the change. We have to learn to see the spark for what it is and use it to make the change we want to see in our life. Holding on to anger makes us exhausted and sick. We need to change the emotion of anger into something life-giving such as love, compassion, courage, change, justice. As long as we only feel anger, we are still believing someone or something else is to blame. It’s imperative to our mental and physical health that we take a closer look at our anger as it is either masking other emotions, or it is an indicator that we need to check things out and make some changes. “As a car has indicator lights that tell us to pull over and check out what is wrong, anger is our indicator light that we need to check things out and see what needs to be done”**.
I know it’s easier said than done but I think it’s absolutely worth trying. Knowing how much stress, discomfort, illness even, comes from frustration and anger, I think we owe it to ourselves to know what we are dealing with:
is there another underlying emotion that we can’t name or deal with?
is it an experience of injustice that invites us to act upon?
It’s something we can train, as I’ve been writing about before***. The moment we start training our mind, our mental muscles, we can replace all the ‘old files’ of wanting, needing, fearing, … all the things our Ego is so sure of is the only way we will survive, …by new anger-free files, fear-free files, positive action files. Just take a close look at how ‘being angry’ really makes you feel and decide now you are going to change it into something positive. You either start recognizing the underlying emotion and deal with it, or you start seeing the situation that made you feel angry as an indicator, an invitation to act, instead of just feeling angry and raging about it.
Has anybody ever made you less angry because you wanted them to? No, you only feel less angry when you recognize why they make you feel angry and when you decide to not let yourself get angry by them, but feel the true feeling and own it. It’s the same with all kinds of emotions, you do not stop them from popping up, you just decide to take an honest look at them and deal with it, own it, take responsibility for it. Susan Jeffers talks about owning up, taking responsibility for your own life, for your own feelings, in her many magnificent books****. She says: “Stop blaming others and take responsibility for how you feel. Start taking life into your own hands, start taking action towards change and then trust that you can handle it, trust that all will be fine.”
Train yourself to re- act differently in situations where anger, fear, frustration, … are taking over control of your actions, of your life.
Whenever you feel an emotion taking the lead, ask yourself:
‘Is, me being angry, me being scared, …going to change anything?’
‘What can I do to feel more peaceful?’
‘Why do I feel the need to control, what am I truly afraid of?
It really is something you consciously have to train yourself to do as your Ego will always keep you acting in your old ways, thinking you need this or that, thinking you deserve this or that, believing you have a right to, thinking there is only one possible outcome….
It’s only in thinking and acting differently, that you will start feeling differently.
Try it with little annoyances at first. See how it makes you feel when you can let go of this need, of this belief, of this fear, which manifests itself so often in anger.
Just breathe and tell yourself you can have inner peace whenever you decide to have it. Practice one of the mantra’s Gabrielle Bernstein teaches*****: ‘Peace Begins With Me” and while saying these words -out loud or silently-, you tap your thumb and index finger on the word ‘peace’, your middle finger and thumb on the word ‘begins’, your ring finger and thumb on the word ‘with’ and your pinky with your thumb on ‘me’. That’s a little, but very effective, exercise you can use as an ‘emergency’ quick fix whenever you experience a sudden uprise of negative emotions.
Tell yourself time and time again, you decide how you want to feel and say ‘I choose peace’.
Whenever you get upset, ask yourself:
Why is this upsetting me? What’s really going on?
Whenever you feel you want something, ask yourself:
Why do I want this? What do I need this for? How do I hope this will make me feel? And will it do so?
Whenever you are afraid, ask yourself:
Is my being afraid, going to change the situation?
When has any amount of worrying ever changed a situation?
Susan Jeffers**** describes how fear can steer your actions. She was always afraid of flying and whenever the plane experienced some turbulence, she used to pinch the armrests so hard hoping to make the flight less bumpy. As if she could manipulate a plane by squeezing the armrests… But that is how we act when we live in fear, we do irrational things, it does not change a thing AND we remain living in fear. Whereas the moment she understood it was her fear talking and making her act this way, that was the moment she surrendered to the circumstances, that was the moment she let go of the armrests, and that was the moment she could finally start to relax. She just let the plane do the flying and did not focus on trying to change its course any longer.
The letting go of fear, of the need to control, of the need to have a certain outcome, brings you peace.
My invitation to you all is:
Whenever you feel an emotion arise, define it as just that: an emotion: energy-in-motion. You have the power to change the direction of that energy!
You have the power to change that emotion! Recognize the true emotion and own it. You need to be aware of your true feelings before you can use them as a spark to act upon. Once you know what you feel, you can work with it.
Whenever you are ‘hit’ by a seemingly overpowering emotion, KNOW you can change it! It’s just an emotion, DECIDE you want to feel differently and you WILL feel differently.
It’s all in your hands, that’s the beauty of it!
Train yourself in recognizing your feelings for what they are, take a deep breath, know why you want to change the way you feel. Ask yourself the questions I mentioned before and then let the adrenaline of the feeling fade away and feel peace coming over you.
The more you do this, the better you’ll get at it. It’s all up to you. The moment you take responsibility for how you feel in life, you will see a whole new world opening up to you, a world of opportunities, a world full of joy, a world where you are the creator instead of the victim. As long as you believe others are responsible for how you feel, you will stay stuck in your emotions. The moment you take responsibility, the moment you live up to what you want to see happening in your life, the moment you start taking action, that’s the moment you’ll see your life changing and that is the moment you’ll feel you can make it happen.
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*”The Wisdom of the Universe” by Neale Donald Walsch.
**”Atlas of the Heart” by Brené BrownPhD, MSW.
***”The Trouble Is, It’s All Up To You, The Good Thing is, It’s All Up To You”, by Katrien Degraeve on Medium.
****”Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”, “End the Struggle and Dance with Life”, “Embracing Uncertainty”, by Susan Jeffers Ph.D.
*****”Miracles Now” by Gabrielle Bernstein.