Anger’s Many Disguises
Anger as an anesthetic (0:25)
Anger as a shield (1:25)
Anger as a power boost (3:50)
My anger and me (6:10)
How I get rid of my anger (and you can, too) (7:05)
Take good care of your angry self (9:45)
Anger's MANY DISGUISES
Last week, we talked about anger and how:
Anger is a symptom that can appear when we are feeling found out, embarrassed, insecure or otherwise at risk.
Anger is a label we’ve assigned to a particular feeling, energy or vibration.
Some theorize that anger is the entry point or pathway to all negative emotions and not a pure standalone emotion.
When at work, we might suppress or deny the anger we’re experiencing because we feel it’s inappropriate, but that denying our anger ultimately generates more anger and more resentment – that may express themselves sideways and when we’re least expecting it.
Destroyed working relationships, stalled careers, and reputations that go in unintended directions are often caused by suppressed or denied anger.
We use anger as a substitute emotion to avoid dealing with negative emotions we may consider too painful or distressful to experience, such as loss, sadness, grief, and disappointment.
You can diminish or release your anger with a few simple yet powerful questions that get to its root. You can download a free worksheet to help with this process.
Now, let’s continue the exploration of anger by looking at a few of its many faces…
Anger as an anesthetic
Anger is one of the ways we numb ourselves from painful emotions, just like when we do too much shopping, drink too much wine, eat too much, spend too much time on Facebook, or create too much drama.
How can you tell if you’re using too much anger as a numbing technique? Notice if you are walking around with a constant edge of anger. Maybe it manifests as being short-tempered with other drivers or holding tight to a long-term grudge against a coworker, or maybe you’re simply continuously snapping at someone you care about.
Anger as a shield
When angry behaviors continually crop up, they can also be indications that we have made a shield of anger. But unlike what many of us assume, that anger shield is not between us and the target – the thing or person we fear might hurt us.
The anger shield is between our internal repressed feelings of sadness, shame, fear, or disappointment, and it keeps us from being able to connect with others.
Anger keeps us focused on an external target instead of healing ourselves. It is so very convenient yet totally unproductive. As long as we reside in our anger, we can avoid personal accountability and the task of forgiving ourselves for disappointing ourselves and others.
We all experience this and, at times, it is helpful to have anger show up, in the same way that shock can be beneficial to someone who has suffered a traumatic injury.
Shock temporarily masks pain and detaches the person from the reality of what is happening. From that place of numbness and detachment, shock can minimize the impact of the trauma and continue to function for the moment.
Anger can also have that effect, and it can be useful for getting our attention – temporarily. But if you experience long-term chronic anger (as I used to), believe me, it holds you back from getting promoted, it keeps you from making real connections with people, and it wreaks havoc with your ability to experience peace.
Anger as a power boost
Anger is a trickster, and it plays tricks on our ego. Anger produces this seductive feeling of I am right!, which provides a temporary boost to self-esteem and empowerment that becomes associated with anger’s energy. But just like a boost from white sugar, the boost from anger is temporary and will certainly be followed by a dip.
Feeling angry can be really satisfying to the ego, much more satisfying than acknowledging the sadness and disappointment that are lying just beneath the anger and dealing with them.
When we immerse ourselves in our anger, we can avoid feeling helpless, vulnerable, and out of control. Anger gives us a false sense of power. Until you become intentional about looking at what lies beneath your anger, you run the risk of developing feelings of vulnerability that turn into anger – and becoming angry when you feel vulnerable is a fast track to becoming known as a bully.
Embracing or immersing yourself in your anger does not address or resolve the problem that caused the negative feelings to begin with. In fact, the problem is still triggering you and putting you at risk for significant social, emotional, and health consequences.
Consciously exploring your anger, however, can be healing, and the ease and peace that follow can improve every facet of your life.
My anger and me
I used to walk around with an edge of anger. I believed it was part of my superpower. I believed that my edge of anger – my quick, emotional trigger – helped me get people motivated to do the work I needed them to do.
I believed my quick, sarcastic retorts were humorous and engaging; I didn’t understand they were manifestations of my angry edge.
If someone cut me off in traffic or dared to give me critical feedback, I could feel the energy I labeled as anger rise up in me, and it felt empowering.
How I get rid of my anger (and you can, too)
Now, when I feel angry energy rising in me, I immediately pause and breathe and ask myself,
“In this situation, what is causing me to be fearful,
and what am I sad or disappointed about?”
and then I allow myself to feel those underlying feelings instead of the anger.
Then I ask myself,
“In this situation, what did I do or think or expect which I need to forgive myself for?”
Self-forgiveness is the ultimate act of gratitude and self-love. It is so powerful in its simplicity. In any situation that inspires anger in you, I encourage you to find the smallest kernel, the littlest piece you can take accountability for, and apologize to yourself and forgive yourself for it. It costs nothing, and the risks are so minimal while the reward is immense – a positive shift in your energy.
If, in fact, your anger did come out towards someone, and you must now find the road to reconnection and healing, try doing it through the lens of the answers to those questions—
“Oh man, I am so sorry for my angry remarks to you in that meeting. I was feeling vulnerable. On reflection, I realized that I was fearful of losing the respect of my peers when you gave me that feedback on the work. I was so disappointed that I had let you down and that I had not done the best work I could do on that project. I’m looking forward to moving forward from here.”
A clear and thoughtful apology is a much healthier and more authentic way to approach healing and reconnection than all the energy and drama and chaos it takes to stay in anger, to try proving that you’re right and the other person is wrong.
Take good care of your angry self
You know, this inner and outer work that I’ve described, that I’m inviting you to participate in, is all part of the art of self-leadership and self-management.
Asking these simple (yet powerful!) questions of yourself will increase your social and emotional competencies; it will hone the most powerful tool in your toolbox, which is your self-awareness – your understanding of how you show up in the world and how the behaviors you choose impact yourself and those around you.
As I discovered through my own practice, following these simple steps to dissolve your anger also gives you the ability to increase positive connections and relationships while reducing the amount of drama and stress and chaos in your life.