“You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.” Buddha
Anger is a complex emotion and can either be our greatest teacher or our worst enemy. Depending on how we perceive it, express it and cling to it, anger can be transformational or toxic. Anger is often classified as a secondary emotion because the real emotion or primary reason we get triggered is buried underneath. Finding the underlying emotion behind the anger is the key to letting it go.
We can’t control what happens, but we can choose how we will react. When we choose to feel the emotion and pain that lies beneath instead of acting on the angry impulse, we can start to heal and eventually free ourselves.
Anger is often the weapon we use when our ego gets bruised or when plans change unexpectedly or our needs aren’t met. We use anger as a sort of protection for our vulnerable, sad, anxious and fearful feelings. The more unresolved issues we carry with us, the more our old wounds will get triggered and the more likely we’ll lash back with anger, blame others and not find a solution.
Anger can be transformational because it gives us the opportunity to know ourselves better. People are mirrors for us. Often what we don’t like in others is what we don’t like in ourselves. Of course, people do horrendous things and we must protect ourselves and speak out. Becoming aware isn’t to assign blame. It’s to help us shift our perspective, find the lesson, forgive and move on. Once we work on letting go of our past wounds, it’ll be easier to set boundaries when necessary, speak out constructively against injustice, and, ultimately, have more compassion.
Anger is a necessary emotion because it propels us into action against injustice, warns us of danger and helps protect us and our loved ones. Anger isn’t a bad thing, but it’s important to understand where it’s coming from, express it in ways that aren’t harmful and, ultimately, let it go.
Depending on the infraction, it can take minutes or decades to let go, but releasing is the key. Anger can fester in our body and then turn into resentment and illness. In Chinese Medicine some forms of liver dysfunction are associated with excess anger and resentment. When we hold onto anger our fists clench, our jaws tighten, our digestion sours and we get “stuck”.
Life has to flow. We don’t have to like something, but we have to accept what is and move forward. Journaling our thoughts, seeing a therapist or creating art can help us understand and express the anger. We can’t fight fire with fire. By resolving our underlying emotions, the next time we get angry we won’t be as reactive. We’ll be able to look for solutions with our hearts and not react from our egos. Remember, how another person treats us is their journey, how we respond is ours. It takes courage to look at ourselves, but, ultimately, this is the path to freedom.