I’ve been looking at anger since I was young. The first time I recall feeling fury I was about 3. Ever since then I’ve been either capsized by or learning from anger (well, and some calm in between). For the past few years I’ve been transforming my relationship with emotions to experience a healthy balance.
During the process, I have discovered three essential truths about emotions. These may be surprising, or maybe you already know them. Now, we can let any distorted ideas we hold about emotions simply fall away.
Anger is a signal and a sensation. To me, emotions are signals from the spirit of truth at the base of our being. A truth so deep and alive that it cannot be disturbed by the human experience, it can only be communicated by the signal of emotion. How about that?
A traffic light is a signal. If we pull up to it when we’re in a hurry and it turns red, we might feel frustrated. If we roll up and we’re taking it easy, it’s no big deal. A signal is a signal. It communicates something and our response is what determines our experience. Anger is no different; it is communicating something important to us from a space of truth within.
We all know anger is a sensation; we feel it in our bodies. People may experience anger, and other emotions, in varying ways. Some may get hot or feel a burning in the abdomen, groin or throat. Others may feel numb.
Anger is a signal of blocked personal power – we’re not sure that we know how to remedy a situation and we feel somehow powerless. Now, you might argue with this because anger can feel ultra powerful. That’s the back door approach for powerlessness – power up. This type of powering up does not always lead to actual use of personal power, though. Often it leads to the tendency of being powerful over another human being, animal, object or something else. Let’s explore what’s underneath.
Anger has two basic roots. (Hint, neither involve blame). Anger (and any other emotion) is always related to the way we are thinking about or perceiving a situation (the way we experience what we experience contributes to how we feel about it). It’s always helpful to check how we’re looking at a situation because sometimes we’re so narrowed in that we’ve locked ourselves into an angry, blameful box. If we open the box, or step back a bit for a broader view, we can work to heed the message of the signal. We can learn to see that anger may signify that we could benefit from broadening our perspective to see the situation with a wider lens.
The other important root is the possibility that something can benefit from a change. For example, if one child is whacking the other over the head with a toy, I’m not suggesting that you just change the way you think. Of course, there’s something that needs attention. Similarly, any emotion we experience is pointing to something that’s worthy of attention – even joyful emotions. If we feel really happy, maybe it’s an opportunity to experience and share gratitude. Can you see how the ways we think and the possibility of a situation benefiting from attention are the roots of what we feel?
We get to choose how we respond. Here’s the clincher, regardless of what is fueling the anger or emotion we are experiencing, we really do get to choose how we respond. We might not feel like this is true, though, because it’s likely we are used to responding from a primitive, conditioned default. We get to choose to change this, though! This is good news.
If you’d like to choose how you respond when you feel upset, consider joining the Sane Parenting Challenge, a six week journey to transform your relationship with anger, doubt and indecision – for good.
Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope.