Anger

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Anger is one of the most common human emotions, so if you’re not feeling it, then you’re probably unconsciously burying it. But anger that is buried isn’t actually gone. In fact, hidden or covert anger may be just as damaging as the overt, outwardly destructive kind, only it wreaks havoc, from the inside-out.  All sorts of physical and emotional problems can stem from suppressed anger: headaches, digestive problems, insomnia and many more.

Buried anger is expressed in a continuum, with rage and aggression at the top, and frustration, annoyance, irritation at the bottom, and everything in between.  Unless anger is addressed, it is impossible to overcome.

Mindful anger is about deliberately allowing physical sensations and emotions to surface so they can be examined and released, without judgment. This sort of processing of anger – fully felt in the body as it happens, moved out through appropriate expression, and let go – allows anger to be managed before it becomes unhealthy.

Author talks about her own experiences:

  • Both her parents suppressed their anger and they were “simmering volcanoes about to blow at any moment”
  • The marriage of her parents was “deeply troubled” – people avoided feeling
  • Anger came out in threats, tension, & complaints (for e.g. “after all I have done for you, you treat me like this” – “a popular theme song” of her mother’s; criticised for being connected to others instead of her; mother was too tired to connect to her due to work)
  • Achievement was the only thing that mattered to her parents – her achievements
  • Brandt became angry as well (repressed), and she felt cut-off from her feelings – instead “intellectualising everything” – she also developed elaborate ways to be passive/aggressive
  • One day, she “erupted like a volcanoe” – it startled her – its power – she felt lighter, and freer
  • However, she lacked skills to manage anger and ways to connect genuinely with others
  • She used anger as the key to emotional freedom – to learn and grow
  • Mindfulness – she believes – allows you to understand what the mind, its emotions, and the body are trying to tell you – it is a heightened state of awareness – and it allows you to break your “negative, anger habits”
  • Anger can manifest in many ways – from rage (which overtly destroys relationships and compromises success in life) to quiet, detached expression (passive/aggressive, self-defeating behaviours, habits/addictions and illness).
  • Anger can come to us in a particular situation, or when we think about the past, or when things do not go our way, or when we feel threatened.
  • Acting out anger in relationships creates distance in our relationships, can crush our children’s self-esteem, and may undermine our physical and psychological well-being.
  • All humans – give and receive these scars as part of life – all humans have anger & yet many believe it to be an unacceptable emotion.
  • She notes “out of sight” anger is rarely “out of mind” – she believes both overt and covert anger are equally damaging
  • When we suppress/repress anger, humans often find themselves accepting frustration, disappointment & irritability – although not pleasant – as being easier to accept (both personally and by others) – yet these subtler forms of anger still prevent us from having fulfilment & joy in life – such anger “leaks out”
  • If you do not feel anger regularly, you may in fact have a covert anger problem
  • Questions – exercise – Got anger?
    1. Are you angry much of the time? Are you abusive to others? Verbally? Emotionally? Physically? In your personal and school/work relationships?
    2. Are you sarcastic or cynical about life, yourself or others? Do your jokes demean or mock others?
    3. Do you bully others to make yourself feel ok?
    4. Once you have become angry, do you have trouble letting that anger go? Do you harbour resentments or hold a grudge?
    5. Are you frustrated, disappointed, or irritable a lot, but without ever reaching the point of being angry?
    6. Do you think you are never angry? Are there/have there been times when you know the situation warrants being angry, but the emotion just never comes?
    7. Do you feel powerless at times? Hopeless at times, even in the face of the smallest adversity? & feel unable to act for positive change? Do you feel like a victim of your circumstances much of the time?
    8. Are you depressed frequently or for long periods of time?
    9. Have you put important areas of your life on hold thinking that you will get to them sometimes?
      • Yes answers indicate a new emotional approach to anger and its management could be useful.
      • She notes anger impacts all our feelings.
        • Overt anger pushes people away, and erects walls between you and significant others.
        • Covert anger is subtler, but no less real. We end up covering our feelings and our true feelings with layers of behaviours that we think will keep the peace and avoid confrontation.
          • The real self is not seen – intimacy is impossible without vulnerability.

Source: Brandt [2015]

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