Still Dancing with Anger

Oh sure, I can get angry. And when I do – watch out! Because I am not afraid of my anger any longer, I can let it go. No longer stuffing anger, no longer running from it, no longer letting it turn me into a shrew, no longer slamming doors, cursing or yelling! Instead, welcoming it. Oh look – here is anger –what is it telling me? What is it pointing to? My anger is speaking to me in new ways these days now that I don’t get all tangled in it. Here are a few thoughts about anger. Anger feels like power. It is important to remember that it is not. When we react quickly to our anger we usually misuse our personal power. In contrast, when we respond to our anger well, we feel that we are authentically powerful and compassionate. Anger’s powerful energy can help us take action because the energy feels like it’s pressing inside us, pushing for movement of some kind. The questions are - how and where and when? Well, in a life-threatening situation, anger gives us energy, literally, to save ourselves. Move now! More often, anger is pointing to something that is threatening the quality of our lives. This, we have more time to think about. So thinking is good, but action needs to follow. Otherwise the anger tends to get wasted; we end up compounding the anger with anger at ourselves for not doing something constructive.

When I feel angry I think things like: What’s happening here? Who am I with? What are we talking about? Whose history is getting involved here? Is the anger really about the issue at hand or something else? What do I want that is not happening? How much say do I have in this scenario? What is my power to illicit change here? What action do I need to take to relieve myself of this anger, to transform it into feeling stronger about who I really am and how I really want to live?

I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that if I speak angrily, in an edgy way, I feel guilty about it. I believe this is because I am capable of being kinder. And I truly do not want to harm others, even inadvertently. I want to speak my mind. I want to let others know what I am experiencing and what I would like to see happen. Now I am brave enough to follow through on what I believe to be the truest action I can take in any moment, even when others do not like it or do not agree with me. Perhaps that’s because I am willing to let others see life differently, make their own choices. And I want to make mine.

In thinking about anger lately, I was contemplating the wall we often put up when we are angry, a wall that’s meant to keep others out. In many instances, this is appropriate. But many of us put up emotional walls, kind of sidestepping all of the truth. Putting up an emotional wall means using energy to keep the wall there. Holding a wall up is tiring. I know because I have done it in the past. What it also means is that we are stuck on one side of the wall. Not only are we keeping out what we put the wall up for (and sometimes that isn’t even happening), but now we are keeping out possibilities of living a different way. Possibilities of finding an anger-free life style - there’s something to think about.

How is putting up an emotional wall sidestepping the full truth? The wall may be a temporary safety system as we determine the best course of action to take, the action that is required to alleviate the anger for good. Living with chronic anger causes health problems. It’s just not the ideal way to exist. If we want a life that brings us happiness and fulfillment, we ultimately create that through choices of how we live, with whom we associate and what we do. Living with a wall up will exclude certain things from coming into our life, sometimes things we do want. A wall held up in anger can lead to a bitter heart, one that struggles in forgiveness. A heart that won’t forgive, hurts. The wall may seem like it was creating safety, and may have for a while. But over time, that truth transforms into keeping pain inside rather than outside the wall. This does not make for a safe place to be.

Yes, forgiveness is the key ultimately. But let’s think about that later. First, it’s important to start with acknowledging anger and what it’s all about.

Did I mention that I rarely feel angry any more? Yes, I know I said watch out if I do get angry. But that’s because I am willing to relentlessly seek the truth of the situation at hand. That doesn’t require anger, just courage. Goodness, after more than fifty years of dancing together, I guess we’ve got a smooth waltz going. My toes don’t get stepped on; I think I have learned some great life moves. I dance with the truth as often as I can. I prefer this partnering, it seems to be working well for me.