Are You Using Your Anger—or Is It Using You?
Anger can feel like power but having a choice about anger is more powerful
Posted Jun 17, 2015
"There's nothing wrong with anger provided you use it constructively." - Wayne Dyer
Is it just me or does it seem like there are a lot of angry folks out there? Road rage, screaming politician pundits, feuding celebrities and domestic violence—it’s like everyone’s taking their cues from Big Time Wrestling, pounding their chests and looking for someone to slam around!
I have nothing against anger. It’s one of our basic emotions and, when the situation warrants it, the feeling it is natural and the energy of anger can even be useful. Anger can help us stand up for ourselves or give us the momentum to make the changes we need to make.
But when anger is a constant state—either in a society or a person—it’s rarely useful and usually destructive.
From my perspective, a constant state of anger or an explosive anger that is disproportionate to the situation indicates a root cause from the past that is fueling the flames in the present. If that root cause isn’t dealt with, the anger builds with every subsequent incident, snowballing until it seems to have a life of its own.
By the way, the root cause of your anger (or any negative emotion) isn’t necessarily from some big traumatic event. It can be something seemingly insignificant that your unconscious mind considered important.
Here’s how it works: Maybe another kid stole your cookie in pre-school. You get angry. In grade school, someone takes your crayons. You add that anger. As a teenager, someone else gets the lead in the school play. You add that anger. And one day as an adult, after many more anger-inducing incidents are piled on, your kid borrows your jacket—and you’re incensed! It’s not the jacket. It’s the cookie, crayons, school play and all the other etceteras that attached themselves to the fly paper of that original root cause.
But when the root cause of all that anger is discovered and uprooted, the string of subsequent angers is released as well and your current chronic or unwarranted anger simply disappears. You’re left feeling that you have choice in your response to aggravating situations. Let me share an example:
When Brian (not his real name, of course) came to my Practitioners Training, he had been on the self-discovery, self-improvement journey for a few years. Raised in an addiction-run, abusive household, he wasn’t able to find closure for the pain of his childhood, no matter what type of therapy or practice he used.
Brian’s main symptom was a very short fuse. As he got older, he tried to “bottle it up,” which only made his anger more explosive when he finally let loose. “When I exploded, it's like I was two people at the same time,” he said. “The whole time I’d be thinking ‘This isn't fixing anything. There has to be a better way to handle this.’ But I couldn't stop it.” With a high-pressure job and three boisterous children, Brian found that his anger was triggered more frequently and with hardly any provocation. “I knew I had to change for myself, for my wife, and for my children but I felt I had exhausted my options.”
I used Brian and his anger issue to demonstrate the Mental Emotional Release® process (MER®) at one of my Practitioners’ Trainings. He said he felt better immediately, but he still had his doubts. “The exercise seemed far too simplistic and minimal to have any kind of long term impact. How could it change who I’d been my entire life?”
Brian wrote to me later to explain what happened next: “After leaving the course, I went about my life not really noticing much change. I had new knowledge but I didn't see how I truly had changed. About three or four weeks later I ran into a situation at work that built into a plethora of triggers for me. It’s like the universe was giving me a test.
After four consecutive horrible days at work, right when I was almost at the end of a project, Murphy's Law kicked in. Everything that could've possibly gone wrong went wrong—every one of my pet peeves! When the entire situation imploded (which was long past the point I normally would've exploded), I had no reaction. I just rolled with it like it was part of the process.
I even cracked a joke! I noticed I didn’t get a response from a colleague who usually laughs at everything. I noticed his bewildered look and I began laughing. My friend actually began to panic, thinking I was having a nervous breakdown!
Professionally, that was one of the worst weeks I’ve ever had, but it ended with one of the highest points of my life. I've never felt more empowered than I did in that moment.”
Anger can feel like power. But having choice about your anger is far more powerful! To me, it’s not about “managing” your anger. That’s kind of like putting a muzzle on a ferocious dog you can never trust. I think it works better to release the anger of the past so it doesn’t flare up again with every incident in the present.
"Anybody can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy."
I beg to differ with Aristotle. If you haven’t released the root cause of your anger, it is difficult to experience that “right” anger. But once you have released it—which is within everybody’s power!—“right” anger happens naturally.
To your empowerment!
Byline: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students to be totally empowered using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, Mental Emotional Release® (MER®) therapy, and Empowerment Fit. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at info@Huna.com or visit his blog at www.DrMatt.com.