Anger – A Help and A Hindrance
If you are like most people, there’s some part of you that knows anger is helpful and there’s some part of you that knows it is a hindrance.
The part that knows it’s helpful is connected to the purpose 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 I outlined last week 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
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.
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?”