Posted October 1, 2002
Anger As A Positive Force
Years ago, I attended a grief support group held at a local metaphysical church. We discussed the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. The minister of the church had been in the background, silently monitoring the group until we began talking about the anger stage and how important it was to allow that feeling to be present. The minister forcefully objected to needing to feel anger, saying, "You have to transform it." It was explained to her that if a person did not acknowledge their anger, then it was much more difficult to actually move through the other stages. She still objected, stating that anger was a negative emotion and one should transform it into love.
Her reaction is typical of those in the metaphysical and spiritual movements. Anger is considered to be negative, destructive, and definitely not spiritual. But anger is neither good nor bad, it simply is. For decades, I asserted that anger was simply energy, like any other emotion. Finally, I read in John Bradshaw's book, "Bradshaw on: The Family" that anger is an "E-Motion. Energy in motion."
Whenever we label something as negative, and try to avoid it, it increases in power. When anger becomes "bad," a person may try to suppress it, ignore it, or repress it. This causes the anger to become stuck and increase its energy. That energy will be expressed somehow, either as feeling bad all the time, feeling worthless, or getting sick. Whenever the minister got angry, she'd accidentally hurt her hand or her foot.
Anger has a positive purpose. It gives us messages, letting us know when our well being or safety is threatened. Did someone put you down, and you felt angry? That shows the person didn't respect or honor you. Are you angry that someone else got the promotion that you deserved? That shows that you feel slighted and your worth is unacknowledged. Did someone try to manipulate you to go to a party after you'd said "no?" And you get more upset with each "no?" That shows your boundaries were ignored. Anger is simply a signal that something is happening that violates your principles, boundaries, or sense of worth.
Once you recognize that you're angry, you then have the choice of what to do about it. Acknowledging your anger isn't a carte blanche to act on it. Many people think that if they feel angry, then they have to lash out at the other person, expressing it in a hurtful way. That's what happens if someone doesn't manage their anger. People who have nursed their anger for years then become hostile to everyone and addicted to that emotion. They act as though they have the right to make others pay for what they feel.
By determining what you're angry at, you use anger as a signal to warn you that something is wrong,. Is it something that's going on in the present, or is it a reaction from the past? Many times, we'll get angry at something because it reminds us of a time when our rights were violated when we were children.
We may interpret what's said through the filters of yesteryear. A friend's mother would ask her to do something, and if my friend was busy, the mom would say, "Don't bother," in a tone that said she was very disappointed and terribly inconvenienced. When the friend got married and her husband said the same thing, she believed he meant it the same way her mother had. It took her years to figure out that when he said, "Don't bother," he meant just that.
Once you've figured out if the anger is from the past, or is appropriate for the present, you can rationally decide how you want to respond to the situation. It may mean discussing the problem with the offender, accepting the situation if there's no possibility of resolution, set and stick to a boundary, or something else. Use your anger, don't let it use you. Words hurt in ways that can take years to mend. Don't try to hurt someone just because they've hurt you. Once you've addressed the situation, made the changes that are necessary, the reason for anger has been served and it then tends to dissipate.
Anger is a signal that we need to listen to. The Universe created anger just as much as It created joy and love. Anger helps us to create a safe environment for ourselves by recognizing when something is wrong. It can be a positive force for change if we use it wisely.
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Copyright Ó 2002 Linda Ann Stewart