Dealing with Emotional Anger
Oh! I was so-o-o mad. I was at the bank trying to fix an overdraft situation that occurred because of someone else’s not holding up their end of an agreement. I had to scramble to get funds moved from one place to another, or another young person I care about would suffer the consequences. Without going into too much detail, there was a deadline. I was afraid we might not make it.
I had a lot of questions for the bank teller about when the check would clear and funds would be available. Embarrassed, I had to explain…she looked at me kindly and said, “I understand; I’ve been there before.” That’s all it took, someone recognizing my pain and frustration and tears welled up like tiny shards of glass behind my eyes. I could barely hold it in…not right here in the bank…I thought.
Anger can be like that, moving through us like a freight train, and coming out in weird and unexpected places. Emotional anger occurs when the anger tries to consume you and make you helpless and hopeless…completely out of control.
Richard Moss in his book, “The Mandala of Being,” says that feelings are things that can and should move right through us. But emotions occur when we attach personal meaning to the feeling. We identify with it and hold it captive in us. In this way, we allow it to affect us long after the feeling should have passed.
In essence, it’s always our choice about how long we want to hold onto a feeling. The longer we do, the more likely we’ll turn it into an emotion that has power over us. I hadn’t dealt with this kind of anger in a long while. I didn’t want to take it out on anyone, not even the person who didn’t keep his word. Instead, I wanted freedom from it.
I’ve been practicing letting my feelings be free, and not attaching to them as if I have to “be” angry. I’d much rather feel anger, go to my car, finish the crying and then work on letting it go. This is a practice that leads to a lot more sanity and a lot less stress. We can learn to make peace with our anger before it explodes or overflows on innocent bystanders.
I’ve developed a list of questions for myself that really help me in getting perspective and letting go of anger, so I can get back to a feeling of freedom so much sooner. I thought I’d share these questions with you – maybe they can help next time you feel (as my mother would put it) “so angry you could spit.”
Can I acknowledge that I feel angry?
This one’s easy…just make sure you notice the distinction between I am and I feel. You are not anger unless you choose that as a chronic state of being. Some people do. because it is not WHO you are, it can be released. Take a deep breath and commit to this process of letting it go. Now you’re ready to move on.
What is the focus of my anger?
It’s important to identify what exactly is making us angry. At first it will seem outside of us. That’s normal, but eventually we must bring it home. For me, I always end up identifying a point of anger with myself. I get angry for selling out, for not speaking up, for letting others bully me, and for letting other people’s choices affect me. If we dig deep, we find anger hanging out with our biggest fears. Sometimes they pull an all-nighter.
What expectations of my own were not met?
We must own our expectations, even if we “had a deal,” which I did in this case. Unmet expectations make us feel (in addition to angry) ashamed, wrong, stupid and dumb. We wonder why we trusted anyone. When we attach personal meaning to what someone else does or doesn’t do, it causes us pain as we try to accept or deny it.
Where in my body is this feeling of anger living?
You may not be in the habit of checking in with yourself physically, but try this: sit quietly and think about what is making you feel angry. Can you feel it in your hunched shoulders, around your neck, in your chest or lower back. You want to find it internally so you’ll be able to know when it has really left you, or not.
What part of me feels violated?
Anger throws up all of our defense mechanisms as we ready ourselves to protect our “identity” now under attack. In my case, my “responsibility” image felt violated. Not being responsible brings up feelings of shame and powerlessness in me. I also felt guilt and fear about appearing incompetent and “wrong.”
What can I take responsibility for?
This does not mean I just let the other person who I had an agreement with off the hook! He still dropped the ball. But if I decide to “be mad” at him and blame him, then I give him and the anger total power over my state of mind. In reality, he doesn’t even know I’m angry. I’m willing to take responsibility for what I think about the whole situation and the experience I want to have right now, which is freedom from anger.
What can be fixed?
In my case, I could get the money together and pay the arrears. There’s usually something you can do, even if it is a small action. If nothing can be done, accepting this as the reality is important. Sometimes doing nothing is the best course of action. It forces other people to handle their own situations and allows us to honor personal boundaries.
What will it cost me?
Beyond the actual costs of repairing something that’s broken, like a damaged car or broken window, there’s usually going to be a charge on your ego, so you have to be willing to pay that price. It might not be cheap. I had to let go of my self image as the “responsible one,” so I could handle things. Then to really release the anger, I had a few other image related things to let go of too.
Am I willing to pay the price to be free?
It’s either yes, or no. There are no payback “conditions” that will lead you to freedom. You can be angry, or you can be free.
I know this is a long list of questions – some easier to answer than others. We all experience anger’s clutch from time to time. Even if you can get through a few of these when you feel angry, you can loosen the hold anger has upon you.
Thanks for reading, sharing…and all the things you do to support my work in bringing light and love to this planet. You rock! Tracy