The Energy of Anger
Don't ignore it, suppress it or haphazardly express it...use it!
Posted July 19, 2016
“If you get down and quarrel everyday, you're saying prayers to the devil, I say.”
Over a year ago, I wrote an article here that began with “Is it just me or does it seem like there are a lot of angry folks out there?” I look around today and it’s déjà vu all over again—only that pervasive undercurrent of anger seems to be growing and getting hotter.
What’s up with that?
First let me be very clear: There’s nothing wrong with anger. Anger is one of the primary emotions wired into our systems and we have it for good reason. Anger lets us know when something or someone has crossed our boundaries. Anger can give us the juice to move forward, burst through fear, get un-stuck. As Sean Penn says,
“Anger can be a problem, but it has tremendous potential, too. It's just figuring out what to do with it.”
And that to me is the issue: Too many people don’t do anything with it. They try to ignore it or suppress it. They express it but don’t release it. That anger gets recycled through the system, gets stuck and festers until one day, it explodes.
Let’s use the example of road rage. Say one day you’re late for work, stuck a traffic that’s barely moving and some guy whizzes past and cuts you off. It’s natural to feel a flash of anger. The anger indicates someone overstepped your boundaries and the anger’s juice gave you the quick reaction to swerve and avoid an accident. So far so good.
But now what?
You might fume about it all the way to the office. You might get to work and retell the story to yourself or someone else, and get pissed off all over again. You allow the incident to set the tone for your day. And the next morning when you hit a traffic, you’re already feeling defensive, just waiting for some crazy so-and-so to cut you off again.
Now imagine months or years of recycling this same anger and adding every new irritating traffic episode to its flame. You’ve probably given yourself ulcers. And one day, you may wake up ready to play demolition derby on the freeway!
But what if you had done something with that original anger? What if you had released it by reframing the situation: “Maybe that guy just heard his wife is in the hospital ready to give birth.” (By the way, several years ago I was that guy speeding because my precious baby girl was about to be born.) What if you allowed yourself ten deep breaths to regain your calm?
What if you used that anger to make some changes like choosing a new route to work or giving yourself more time for your commute? What if you used that anger to make changes to the hours you work or even where you work? What if you used your commute hours to learn a foreign language so you didn’t get antsy and irritated sitting in traffic?
You’ve got a million options about what to do with the energy of your anger. But letting it seethe and simmer and fester is not one of the good options.
“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems - not people; to focus your energies on answers—not excuses.” — William Arthur Ward
Right now, I’m working on a new book on ho’oponopono, the Hawaiian forgiveness process. In many ways, ho’oponopono is about releasing anger that has festered for too long so that you may become pono with yourself and the world again.
Pono is when you feel centered and comfortable in your own skin. You feel connected to nature, your community, your friends and family, and yourself. You feel at peace. You feel balanced and a sense that all is well. When you feel pono, your decisions and actions are driven by integrity and awareness of what is good for the whole. And when you feel pono, you feel energetic, focused and effective.
Some of you reading the paragraph above may be thinking, “Wow. I don’t even remember the last time I felt that way!” In Western culture, we assume that this level of well-being is reserved for yoga retreats or spa weekends.
But to the ancient Hawaiians, being pono was not optional, it was required. If they felt even the slightest bit off pono, they did something about it. They knew that allowing anger to fester not only affected their relationships and sense of peace, it also created physical dis-ease.
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” — Mark Twain
In these times when anger seems to be rampant, I invite you to investigate your own anger. Where are the places you feel consistently irritated or maybe enraged? Who are the people that constantly “push your buttons” or drive you up a wall? What thoughts do you think that make you feel frustrated or infuriated?
Western culture may claim that these persistent feelings of anger and irritation are normal and part of modern life. But the truth is that they are sapping your energy, poisoning your body and undermining your peace of mind. So, do as Colin Powell says:
“Get mad, then get over it.”
To your TOTAL empowerment!
Byline: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, the world's leading integrative personal development company for over 30 years. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students towards excellent health and personal empowerment using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, and Mental Emotional Release® (MER®) therapy.
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