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What Anger Teaches us About Ourselves

Why do we get Angry?

We have all experienced some form of anger, whether as a mild irritation or as a wild, uncontrollable rage. We can become angry for almost any reason no matter how miniscule the trigger is. Our anger can be due to some situation that is actually happening at the time, whether it directly affects us or not, or simply because of our thoughts. Often those thoughts are about some past event or some person we think of. Or we might be angry over some future event that is perceived as troublesome for us. Clearly, the human mind can conjure up boundless, endless reasons for getting angry.

Here’s an example for you:
Someone cuts in front of you in line at the local coffee shop. Immediately you react. You look at this person as if some huge injustice was just done to you and the rest of the people in line. You judge that person harshly and throw daggers with your eyes. You might even huff and puff out loud, shake your head in disapproval or even engage others around you to really gang up on the poor soul. But, if you knew the person had been up all night at the hospital with a loved one who was fighting for their life and just needed a cup of coffee before heading back to the hospital, would you still be angry? Probably not. You might even buy their coffee. The thing is, our anger forces us to make up stories in our heads about people and situations that are almost always untrue and then we get angry about them.
But, why do we do this? Isn’t anger necessary in life?

Although anger is part of our natural fight or flight system of survival, we were taught to think of ourselves and the world in a way that tends to overuse anger for everyday life. This is unnatural and highly destructive. Our childhood training by parents and society showed us how to react to anything that made us unhappy or didn’t go our way. But, these are just triggers for anger .¨ like taking things personally or being challenged in an area where we don’t feel competent. So, just what is anger anyway? It’s fear.

We get angry at others or ourselves because of fear – our own fear. In fact, you can’t be angry without being afraid of something. And the main fear we all share is that of being unworthy .¨ the fear of not being good enough. We think there is something missing in us and we are set up to find ways to overcome that. However, many of the avenues we choose to alleviate the pain of feeling bad about ourselves just aren’t pretty and they aren’t all that helpful. Anger is one of those ways.

The problem is that our fears create misperceived threats to us and then we react based on those misperceptions. Because of this, we rarely experience life as it truly is. Much of our life experiences are lived solely in our heads, living with our thoughts rather than with reality.

Anger is Never about the Other Person

Anger is never about someone or something else- it is always about you. Our issues can never be someone else’s issue and vice versa. How could they be? No one was raised exactly as you were except you. The same goes for everyone else. We grow up and go out in to the world with our issues and often feel defensive based on our misperceived inadequacies and fears.
These inadequacies and fears are the filters we use to view the world. So, we get angry because of our point of view of a person or a situation based on our training when we were growing up, not because of the person or the situation. And anger based in fear is always a misperception. So the threat is never real, but we react anyway.

We are continually blaming others or the situation for our anger. We say our anger is because of something they did or didn’t do or something they said or didn’t say. “She makes me so angry when she says that!” When we get angry we are defending perceived threats to our safety, our reputation, feelings or whatever else we take personally, whether the threat is real or not.

We think we need to defend our idea of what the world looks like and who we think we are in order to feel as though we are good enough and in control. These are additional misperceptions based on our training. You are already good enough and you are not out of control. Only your thoughts are out of control. Maybe we can use this information to learn from each other and get angry less often.

We Are Each Other’s Mirrors

What we see in other’s that we don’t like, that we criticize, judge, berate, belittle, hate, mock, have no patience for or would kill over is about us. It’s not about the other person, group or country- it’s about something we don’t like, something we think is wrong or something that makes us uncomfortable. It’s all about us. In fact, the way we react to others is like we are 5 year old children in adult bodies. We kick, scream, condemn or get quiet and clam up – just like when we were little. We haven’t grown up much emotionally compared to the growth of our body. We haven’t learned to control our anger .¨ instead we let the anger control us.

As humans we reflect our inner self back to others.
So, our reactions to others are a way to shed light on thinking that is unbalanced in us. When people say, “Opposites attract”, this is not exactly correct. What really happens is “Like attracts like”- this is one of the spiritual laws of the universe. It’s easy for us to see traits in others that we don’t like. But, we can also see traits in others that we do like. Either way, we are seeing in others what is going on in us. The habits, attitudes and behaviors in others are closely related to our unconscious and unresolved issues.

So, what is the silver lining here? We can use this information to assist us in reducing our anger, getting closer to loved ones and improving our health. If we watch to see what makes us angry with others and know that there is something in us creating that anger, we can find patterns of thinking that do not work in our favor. Once these patterns are noticed, we can make a conscious choice to shift our thinking about the anger trigger.

For example, when we are angry at someone for not supporting us, it can show us that we aren’t supportive of ourselves. Alternatively, when we see the goodness in another, it is because we recognize it in us, too. Ever notice how being nice to someone else brings it out in them and they are nice back? And, being nice is healthy, too!

The Detrimental Effects of Anger

Anger is part of our ancient system of flight or flight which is meant to protect us in the event of imminent danger or real threat to our survival. When we are not being threatened with bodily harm or threatened for survival, there is no need to use that intelligent system that was set up to protect us. The issue for us is that we are living a good part of our lives in threat mode, but we are not actually being threatened with bodily harm or threated with survival.

When a real threat occurs, every major function of the body goes to work in an exaggerated fashion and the jobs that are performed are done in an inefficient, wasteful manner. The body goes into action pumping adrenalin throughout to give you the energy to run as fast as you can or to stay and fight for your very survival. Breathing gets shallow, our sympathetic nervous system is invoked, pupils are dilated and muscles become tense and contracted. Smaller blood vessels contract to produce a higher blood pressure which means an increase in heart function. In fact, in this state the heart is overworked, digestion is interrupted and elimination is interfered with. A lot is going on inside. All of this is a major stress on the body, but if it rarely happens, then we are not damaging our bodies because of it. However, in our case, where we are getting angry at the smallest of issues on and off throughout the day, seven days a week, the level of stress created by our training and subsequent misperceptions, has detrimental effects on the body. This contributes to the degradation of our overall health.

There are other detrimental effects of anger including being separated from our loved ones or driving a wedge between us and our lifelong friend. All of our relationships suffer because of misplaced anger. Sometimes they are permanently damaged beyond repair.

We also are separated from ourselves. When we are angry at ourselves, which we often are, we aren’t able to think of ourselves as worthy or valuable. This is a major diversion from the truth about us. We are worthy and valuable- it is only our training that tells us otherwise. We deserve better.

Let go of Anger for More Love, Health and Happiness

In the past, we have been told to let anger out- let it fly! However, some people have used this as a license to hurt others, which was not the purpose of the original advice. This method doesn’t do much to resolve the anger trigger either. However, scientists today tell us that this isn’t really the best answer to anger. It is better to find out what triggers your anger using what I will call “the mirror method”.

If you want to resolve anger, look for the underlying fear in you- not the other person, group, situation or event.
Use anger as a signal or a red flag to say, “Hey, I’m angry. There must be something I’m afraid of” and then develop strategies to keep those triggers from pushing you over the edge. Once we have taken note of the anger issue at hand, we can practice letting go of the anger. Imagine what your life would look like with lots less anger in your day or week or fewer arguments between you and your honey-buns.

Another strategy we can use to help keep anger at bay is relaxation techniques. Breathing deep sets us on a path of the parasympathetic nervous system which is our relaxation system in our body. This helps our organs function properly at a healthy rate.

When we are angry, we are not in a problem solving mode. We are in attack mode. In order to solve whatever you think is making you angry at the time, you must unplug from the anger. Count to 10, use your relaxation techniques and then talk about the issue when you are not up in arms about it. That way, you can move on to bigger and better things for your life.

There is a lot to be said for good, solid, adult communication if you feel angry at someone or something.
Talk to the other person as an adult when things arise. Don’t let them fester, allowing your mind to make up things that aren’t true about the person or situation. This contributes to the anger getting out of hand. Talk to each other without taking things personally and collaborate on a solution. I like collaboration better than compromise. With compromise, each party gives up something or concedes something. With collaboration, you work together as a team to find a solution that works.

Finally, throw some humor in on the situation and make light of it. You will see that it’s not as important or as bad as you first thought and there is really no reason to be angry. So, go out there and use your mirrors to help you improve your life. Reduce your anger, be relaxed more often, make more love connections and get healthy, too. I know you can do it!

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