Anger is our most accessible emotion. We can go from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds. The problem with anger is that it doesn’t resolve the issue. It’s a manifestation of what we have been taught releases the pressure, but in fact it creates bigger issues for us.
I don’t often share this about myself, but anger was definitely one of my go-to emotions. I’m not sure if it was indignation or self-righteousness, but either way it didn’t serve me well. Fortunately I had the good sense to spend many years in therapy. It helped me understand that I had deeper feelings that I hadn’t explored. That sent me on an inner pilgrimage, a spiritual journey, allowing for personal transformation.
I want to be clear; I’m not talking about anger as a manifestation of a mental illness. After this past weekends shootings in Santa Barbara, we can see the shooter’s anger, but also his underlying pathology. I’m talking about the anger that comes as a result of disappointment, reaction to victimizations, or some other traumatic experience. I’m talking about the anger that accompanies a diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness when we go on a “why me” rampage. I’ve heard so many people express their anger at God when receiving a diagnosis, but what is it they’re really feeling?
It took me a long time to change my modus operandi. After someone I love was wronged (at least in my opinion) I had to find a way to shake the anger. I started to look at what the “offender” did and what made me mad. She used her perceived power to hurt others, personally and professionally. The shift came when I looked beyond the immediate action and started to examine what could be motivation to intentionally inflict pain on others.
My practice has been to shift away from anger to sadness (in many cases). Sadness is experienced internally whereas anger is an external manifestation of our emotions. What happens when we sit with sadness? I find that I become calmer. I become more contemplative. I become more sensitive to other emotions I’m feeling and those of others. It makes me more present, as opposed to anger that transports many of us to some other place emotionally and spiritually.
I want to be clear; I’m not saying that anger is never appropriate. I am saying that we should be experiencing anger when warranted, but in other instances we should be looking to free ourselves from the chains of anger to a more expressive and honest emotion.
Facing adversity such as a health challenge can lead to anger in response to the powerlessness that comes with the diagnosis. The reality is that we are confronted with a reality where our assumptions have been shattered. We “assume” that we’ll all live long and healthy lives, but we also know deep in our hearts that’s not true. Anger seems like a quick and justifiable response if we haven’t had this type of challenge before. Until we come to a place of acceptance, anger seems to bring a sense of resolution. However, for many, it’s just the beginning of the journey.
How can you shift away from anger? Perhaps you seek out a support group, a therapist, a coach, or a spiritual advisor. You may choose to engage in some type of ultimate self-expression like process art to connect with your emotional and spiritual self. However you access those feelings or choose to take the journey deep within, you’ll feel a sense of relief when you shift away from anger.
Looking for education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness? Visit www.survivingstrong.com
Interested in Art and Healing? Visit www.timetolivecreatively.com