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The Importance of Anger

Anger is an important signaling system letting you know that you perceive a threat.  It is meant to draw your attention to something so that you can take care of yourself or others.

In the context of recovering from an abusive relationship, anger can indicate progress.  It signals that the receiver of the abuse is beginning to recognize that their needs have been unmet and hopefully is roused to take care of those needs.

When you are mindful enough to recognize anger as a signal, you can take your time and meet it as such by following the same steps outlined in meeting anxiety (http://wiseheartpdx.org/blog/?p=401).  Basically, by naming it, accepting that it's okay to have it, feeling it in your body, and looking for the feelings and needs underneath it.

Anger becomes a hindrance, when you fan the flames of it with your thoughts.  These thoughts are some version of:

  • things should be different than they are or
  • someone should act different than they are
The word should leads you quickly to a disconnected state.   It's easy here to get caught up in how right you are about the way people should behave or about how things should be.  After all, it's true that your partner shouldn't blame you, right?  As you have likely found, being right and telling your partner how s/he shouldn't blame you, doesn't really help create intimacy.  What's more true and important here is that something they are doing doesn't meet needs of yours and you would like them to find a way to express feelings and needs that is respectful.

Thoughts that fan the flame of anger are like a child having a tantrum.  Children have tantrums because they can't yet accept that reality is different than they expect or would like.  Like children in tantrums, your tantrumming mind needs some gentle containment and reassurance. You can let your mind know that even though you don't like the situation, it doesn't help to insist that it not be what it is.  It's okay to feel the sadness and disappointment about the way things are.  Then you can connect with your needs and take action from that place.  Feeling connected to yourself and others, you can access skillfulness in your communication and actions.

Practice
This week, notice when anger arises and ask yourself, "Am I meeting it as signal or am I fanning the flame of it with my thoughts?"

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1 Response

  1. May 28, 2017
    Mark

    As always, insightful LaShelle. More truth has seldom been spoken in so few words. I'm struck this morning that this same intention and practice can be placed onto so many areas of our lives; any area where we find an energetic disturbance arising such as anxiety or anger. Perhaps even to some counter-intuitively this is true for both the energetics of what we might call negative energies (anxiety, anger, monkey mind...) but also even those experiences of elation, triumph, pleasure. Just as destructive forces can live in our experience of maybe what we'd call these positive forces and our meeting of needs inappropriately through these; each deserves our attention to root out its fundamental value in our lives.

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