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My Friend, Anger

The true intention of authentic anger.

Anger is one of the most difficult emotions. But like all of our emotions, it has come into conscious awareness to tell us something about ourselves. It does not, as is commonly thought, come to tell us about someone else. We typically think, “I’m so angry at Joe because Joe...” But very rarely do we think, “I’m so angry, and it seems Joe’s action was the trigger. What is this anger come to tell me about me?” But if we use it that way, anger can become one of our best friends.

Anger can be seen from two different perspectives. In the first, the anger focuses on another person in order to protect an identity, so that we don’t have to wake up to the authentic Self—for we fear the vulnerability in such a move. In the second, the anger is coming directly from the authentic Self to give us an important message. Both of these things tend to operate simultaneously, so we have to stop and pay attention in order to hear the message from the Self.

For example, if my identity is a Superwoman identity, I’m going to have convinced myself that I am really strong, stronger than most others, so that I can handle whatever, so that I can take care of everything and that I don’t ever have to be vulnerable to difficult feelings of sorrow or fear. I want to control you because I resent the fact that I’m having to do everything and you are sitting there letting me do everything without ever a thought that you might get up and help me. That anger is coming from the authentic Self, for it is telling me what I really want. It is telling me that I’m tired of doing everything, that I’d like to give myself a break. But I can’t let myself do that for fear that I’ll become vulnerable to all of those feelings. Instead, I get angry at you, yell at you for being lazy or childish, because in focusing on you I protect my identity, pushing myself to control you instead of looking in the mirror at my own deepest needs.

We tend to focus on the first version of anger, in which we protect our identity, protect ourselves from having to look at more vulnerable needs and desires. We get mad at others for doing the very thing that we have required of them. You see, we tend to prop up each other’s identities in a relationship. So, in using the same example as above, if I’m Superwoman I’m likely to be attracted to and attract people who need me to be strong for them, who are slow to perform the necessary activities of a given day, who need me to take responsibility for those things and get them done so that they don’t have to be strong for themselves. That works for me as Superwoman, because I need to stay in my role as Superwoman so that I can feel safe. But once I get in a relationship with these people, I begin to build resentments and begin to get angry, because my authentic Self no longer wants to be Superwoman. My authentic Self is tired of being strong for everyone and having to take responsibility for everything. It is trying to tell me this by making me angry and resentful about what I call your laziness.

Andrea Mathews
Walking the Inner Terrain
Source: Andrea Mathews

Therefore, anger is being a real friend to my authenticity. It is helping me to see my own 'I AM.' It says, “Wait just a minute! I AM here, I AM real, and I matter!” And if we listen and really hear that message, it can deliver us to a new level of wholeness in which we begin to have the courage to take off the mask and costume and begin to live more from the deeper authentic Self. In that way, anger actually acts as our I AM. It speaks for the authentic Self.

So, rather than focusing our anger on someone else, if we could stop and ask the question “What is my authentic Self trying to tell me?” we could begin to live more and more authentically. Not only that but once we hear the real message behind the anger, it calms and goes away. It has delivered its message and is no longer necessary. We tend to stay angry when we just look only at what someone else is doing “wrong.”

This is not easy to do. We want to use anger to control other people. We want to use it to get our way. We want to use it to make demands. Some of these demands need to be made—we need, for example, to demand that we ourselves fulfill our own needs as best as we can, that we take good, nurturing care of ourselves. But rather than blaming someone else for not taking care of us or nurturing us, we need to see that this other person has already shown us who they are. As Maya Angelou says, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” If they typically are not nurturing or kind, they are not likely to change just because we want them to, regardless of how angry we are. They are not likely to give us what we need, and because we believe that, we can now put up the appropriate boundaries to either end this relationship or stop expecting something that this person is simply not going to deliver. We can then take care of ourselves by self-soothing and self-nurturance and/or by finding and being with people who do nurture, who are kind and giving.

Of course, none of this means that we only look to self and never confront or protect ourselves from abusive, inappropriate behavior. In fact, anger can help us turn inward and decide to confront, when appropriate, and protect ourselves when necessary. Anger comes to say that there's a problem that needs to be solved, and when we tune into anger it can help us solve the problem.

Turning anger into our friend can be one of the most fruitful of our endeavors.