Anger – a very important emotion we are gifted as humans. It is very natural to occur. It is also said to be a mammalian emotion that has been transferred to us during the evolutionary process. So, let’s get our minds open and, for one moment, try to be curious about it.
Why is something so negative, so harmful, evil and violent instinct is being referred to as “gifted” to humans? If this is the case, then shouldn’t be it serving a purpose? A purpose that should make all the sense. And if there’s a purpose really, then why are we told to control it or calm down the moment it occurs. Why are there so many articles or books on anger “management”?
To start with filling ourself with some answer to these questions, first let us quicky recall any 2 situations – One big and one silly, that made you angry. It could be recent also, or some impactful moment of your past. What happened in that situation or what did someone do or say that made u angry? Try to recall those words and actions precisely.
If you reflect back on the situation or the action that made you angry, you may find it interesting that the core reason must have made you feel something else – such as – hurt, insecurity, jealousy, impatience, grief, distress, etc – and it all came out through the expression of anger. This is what the fundamental fact which governs anger, i.e., it is expression on the tip of ice berg containing multitude of other suppressed lower emotions, that are waiting to be explored, attended, worked upon and healed.
We are superstars and rock stars in keeping/holding/suppressing emotions inside and it’s no body’s fault. Why? Because we need to understand that we are a product of our cultural and societal conditioning. Our upbringing lacked emotional education in school system and family system. We need to first educate ourselves about “how emotions have contained in your body” in order to work on them. And this realisation itself is the first step to cultivate willingness to work on it. So, it’s high time you stop identifying yourself with labels such as being “short-tempered”, “aggressive”, etc and start being curious about it.
Let’s dig in to the roots
Most of us, during our schooling, have been taught that to understand complexities of subjects like maths or science, one’s fundamentals or basics should be clear and strong. May be, this is why these subjects were never rote learned, because to make sense of the higher complexities, it was required to understand the simple basics. Same logic applies to working with difficult emotions as well, anger in this case.
Now the this is a fact that part of our physiological structure and mechanism, not just brain but our autonomic nervous system is designed to sense those emotions. So why are we made to feel ashamed, asked to apologise when the fact is that “anger” emotion is an impulsive instinct and our involuntary part of nervous system is responsible for its occurrence. Clearly our inner DNA and biology has built them in.
Another fact is that “suppression of emotions” has always been normalised in our society. Somewhere we all have experienced a “shutdown” or “invalidation” as response from our parents for expressing our anger or frustration as a child or even a little infant.
For example: a little infant, who has now gain strength in his/her muscles and limbs, starts to move shake arms or move or kick legs restlessly, is clear sign that little infant how gained enough strength to express it through movement, but parents usually command the child to stop by folding it back. That is first sign to express aggression to which the little infant is told to “shut down” and not move or act the way body is willing to.
We also have experienced as a child or come across children acting stubborn and asking parents to buy them something and throwing a tantrum for the same at a wall mart. The child again, is expressing anger by shouting or crying for something he/she doesn’t want to listen no. Now the parent could possibly scold the child or force them physically to “stop” behaving like that. The message child receives is that it’s not okay to express anger.
These 2 examples were to just make you understand how with such small unnoticeable instances we are conditioned to either supress anger or negatively punished but not taught how to channelise it in a healthy way. This usually happens because the parent herself/himself is distressed or dysregulated that they don’t allow the space for the child to express.
The word “aggression” comes from latin word aggressio which means “to move forward”/”to push forward”/”to step towards something, an approach”. And the word “anger” comes from the dutch word “enghe”, suffixed from the root ‘angh’ which means “tight” or “painfully constricted”. Getting hold of these simple basic facts gives us a new perspective to look at and understand our anger.
How to Deal?
Management – Instead of let it feed on you, we can learn its purpose and importance so as to feed it in a way its safe for ourselves and everyone around us. We have restored anger inside rather than working with it, we express it in a harmful way instead of working with it in a healing way.
Punching pillow, boxing, hittng, screaming.
formula – we need to do these actions organically and with context, the system will not know and learn how to process it.
2. Building attunement with your body
Step I – practice attunement with biology or within our body, (Preparation work)
Build a connection with your own physiology – digestion, urinating, defecating. Listen to these basis physiological impulses – to learn how to follow your biological impulse – listen to those little internal signals – Listen to peeing sensation, feel pressure in bladder, rectum/anus, if there is gas in your rectum, if gas is burped out, is there holding back or shame and excuse in expressing these very simple necessary instincts – to let our biology that brings flow into system under our observation.
Step II - build capacity to feel safe, connected, supported (Ground work)
Doing step I will help us lay a foundation to build stamina and capacity to listen to that big emotion – if we can’t do all these little things with ease, it’s going to be hard to get that supressed organic anger out. Be very interested and connected of cues – hunger, thirst, listen to impulses while making tiny decisions – walk through this street, drive through this road. Check up with yourself as to what do you need or feel like doing. and say that to yourself. For e.g.: Today I want to make this or cook this. This is a way to practise listening to your biology/physiological sensation and acting on them the way you like. It helps you practise control on yourself.
Follow your impulses. Reorient yourself to here and now. – move your head – ask movements to come – feel your pelvis on your chair, etc.
Step III – Emotions will occur and will consciously be expressed; you just need to channelise them in healthy way. Either cry out your anger or journal your negative thoughts or harsh words and tear that page later.
3. Explore and Reflect on suppressed emotions – Seek professional help to identify the cause and healthy coping skills for anger issues.
4. Convert your reactions – If you feel like shouting, using abusive words, become defensive, it’s better to isolate yourself in a safe space or a room and be there with those sensations and urges till it calms down. You can always scream and cry. It will at least save you from causing hurt to you loved ones by saying harsh words which later you regret. You don’t need to control that energy as control is not suppression but proper direction. Instead, take a thick towel or a bedsheet, roll it into a shape of cylinder, dip it in a bucket of water and press it as hard as you can. Channelise that energy and pressure into squeezing that wet towel.
Hardly there has been done any healthy modelling of healthy anger – be it movies, media, at home, surroundings, we have seen anger expressed in an unhelpful manner. Therefore, channelising it in a healthy manner, is way to effortful and feels like producing a foreign response. We have either heard people telling us to calm down or spiritual gurus delivering message on controlling it, but we have never actually seen people using coping healthy strategy to manage anger in most part of our upbringing or most part of our experiences in society. Instead, we have come across people taking pride in their anger or that toxic, short-tempered authoritative attitudes referred to as “male chauvinism”.
A society where anger is so normalised and taken pride in, is where healing from anger is most needed. Only effective way out is by learning to practise to be with our physiology with help of our mind.
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