• Ryan Wilson

Is it ok to be angry?


anger

Before we go any further, ask yourself these 3 questions…

1. What was your main experience of anger in your home growing up?

  1. a) constructive– people talked things through, anger was seen as a sign something was wrong and feedback to sort it out

  2. b) avoidant– we pretended everything was fine and avoided conflict

  3. c) destructive– people would withdraw emotionally or even physically by leaving, become more distant or become loud, scary and intimidating or unpredictable


2. What has your main experience of anger been as an adult?

  1. a) constructive– people talked things through, anger was seen as a sign something was wrong and feedback to sort it out

  2. b) avoidant– we pretended everything was fine and avoided conflict

  3. c) destructive– people would withdraw emotionally or even physically by leaving, become more distant or become loud, scary and intimidating or unpredictable

3. What do you expect to happen when you get angry?

  1. a) to be respected, seen, heard and acknowledged and have your concerns addressed

  2. b) to be ignored, dismissed, invalidated and told you are over-reacting or to get over it

  3. c) to be hurt, emotionally (that someone will say nasty things or withdraw from you) or physically (self explanatory)

Our experience and relationship with anger is very much influenced by our history with it. If our experience of anger throughout our life has been mostly negative or we straight out avoided anger, we learn that it is NOT OK and we don’t form a template to deal with anger constructively. If our template for anger is destructive, we often try to not to get angry because we don’t want to do that to others. Once again, we also don’t form a template to deal with it constructively.

Biologically, anger only shows up when we feel threatened physically or emotionally.

It is easy to understand feeling physically threatened, that would be any time someone is “in our face”, loud, aggressive, agitated, banging on objects or even physically assaulting us. Emotionally threatened is anytime we feel not SEEN, not HEARD or like we don’t MATTER. This happens because we have evolved as a social species and we seem to KNOW that without other people we are at a survival disadvantage – which is true, we actually live shorter lives and are a lot less happier and healthy when we are lonely. So if this is part of our biological programming, it makes sense that if we are being treated unfairly, dis-missed, ignored, disrespected or excluded, that we would experience that as a threat too!

Most people seem to experience a SURGE OF ENERGY or HEAT beginning in their core, that wants to come up and out. That energy is biology’s way of giving us the strength to get back on track from the situation where we feel threatened. In very simple terms, it is no different than the surge in energy we get when a lion is in the room with us- it is there so we can do what we need to do to be safe again. Sometimes that may be to fight, sometimes to flee- either way we need the energy to get back on track to safety.

So, if being angry means experiencing a surge of energy but we learned that anger was bad – either because being angry made things worse for ourselves or because we learned we weren’t supposed to get angry at all, where does all that energy go? It has to go somewhere! That is where it gets stuck. If we are blocking the natural passage and use of emotional energy it gets stuck inside of us. This is part of why even years after something happened that was upsetting to us, if we didn’t deal with it, if memories of those events are triggered by current day experiences, our bodies get all riled up again! The energy from the emotions are stuck IN our bodies.

If we have all this energy stuck inside of us, especially if we stuff our anger routinely, then we will feel anxious – it is like holding a jar of vibrating energy inside of us, so it is no surprise we become uncomfortable. Since no one really likes constantly feeling anxious, we will try to discharge it in other ways, like self sabotage (being unkind to ourselves, doing things we know aren’t good for us, not doing things we know would be good for us etc), food, sex, alcohol or drugs to numb the angry energy (and the hurt that often lies underneath the anger), endlessly distract ourselves with work, interpersonal drama, worry thinking, Netflix or social media.

So is it OK to be angry? YES!!!

If we do not allow ourselves to be angry, we cannot be healthy. We would be ignoring our survival system that tells us when we feel threatened in some way, and stuffing the energy that allows us to do something healthy with it.

Is all anger the same? NO!!!!


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Biology’s version of anger is CONSTRUCTIVE! It helps us fix the problem so we are safe again!

This means that swearing at someone or being destructive or passive-aggressive or smashing someone’s car is not the answer. That means we have to have some way to FEEL and connect to the huge amount of energy that shows up to protect us, WITHOUT ACTUALLY ACTING ON IT DESTRUCTIVELY. So how do we do that?

We can FEEL it, THINK it, WITHOUT DOING it!

We are allowed to connect to our physical experience of anger, that surge of energy in our bodies, and IMAGINE doing whatever we want to do to get rid of it! In our minds we can punch the person who is upsetting you in the nose, yell at them, even choke them! People think that if they are thinking these things or having the impulse, they might actually do it, the truth is we are blocking the anger and turning it on ourselves because we won’t! We are protecting the other person from us even having the thought of it! Imagining discharging the energy is just a quick way to release the big energy, so we get clear about what is the CONSTRUCTIVE way we want to handle things. When we stop needing to push away the angry energy, we find clarity.

It is normal to have MIXED FEELINGS in relationships we care about, because as we invest more, we open ourselves up to being more vulnerable. This means we can love the other person AND we can be enraged with them at the same time. We see this struggle in the language we use, “I love them to death”, “love and hate are two sides of the same coin”, and in the popularity of angry music, horror movies and first person shooter games, which in many cases help people find socially acceptable ways to connect and release their anger.

So remember, in order to have healthy relationships, we have to have some way where we can acknowledge and address each other’s anger. For more about feelings, more about feelings, and dealing with feelings, follow the links to check out these short videos.

Have a great week!

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