Anger is erupting everywhere these days! Terrorism, police violence, domestic violence, child abuse, road rage — rage so intense, violent, murderous and scary that we wonder how people can possibly become so furious that they even kill innocent people.
Most of us are nowhere near that level, yet we also carry our anger around, sometimes verbally aimed at others, and sometimes inverted against ourselves in the form of depression.
Why is anger such a huge issue today? Yes, there are grave injustices in the world and in our society. Yes, there are injustices in our families. Yet we are never taught how to deal with our anger — to let ourselves feel it and release it in constructive ways.
Top athletes do that superbly. I have seen great basketball players, angry at what they believed was an unfair call, raise their level to perform almost super-human feats. They have learned to redirect angry energy for themselves and their teams, using it to mobilize for their goals, their victories.
How can we learn to transform angry energy to serve us?
- Step one is to recognize when we are angry. Many of us have been taught by parents, some who were angry themselves, that our anger is bad or ugly. Many have been punished as children for showing anger. Yet keeping toxic energy inside is destructive to ourselves and others.
- Step two is to know why we are angry. We need to know what we want, and to release our pent up energy in a harmless way — go to the gym, do physical exercise such as running, aerobics, dancing, punching bags. Sometimes that will help us contact the pain underlying our anger. If so, let yourself cry and listen to what thoughts, what words come up. Allow yourself to be informed by your deeper self.
- Step three is to know what we want. Once we calm down and know what we want, our energy is free to move towards it. We are in a better place, able to speak more clearly and listen more openly. We are not reactive, not feeling powerless. Anger is often the result of feeling impotent and disempowered.
Children feel helpless at the hands of angry parents. They grow up either avoiding disagreements in fear of others’ anger, or sometimes actually becoming like the angry parent who intimidated and scared them. Whether deep-seated anger sources in family, society, or both, it is ours to learn how to deal with it responsibly.
We have seen much killing in recent months. The attacker is often killed after he attacks. The same dynamic exists on an emotional level — verbally attacking, then being attacked. As with wounded veterans or victims of the Boston Marathon blast, we see physical pain often passes long before the emotional scars that accompany it. Let us become more aware of the damage that misdirected, uncontrolled anger causes.
Let us be kind to ourselves and others, release our anger safely and seek peaceful, effective means to stand for our desires, needs and values.