Anger is unpleasant in all shapes and forms.
Whether it’s a bubbling pool of lava beneath the surface or a full-blown eruption, it doesn’t feel good. Not for the person feeling it and not for anybody around them.
What’s interesting about anger is how often it indicates something deeper is going on. If we get curious about it, we might learn something about ourselves. Here are five questions you can ask yourself the next time you feel anger (rage, irritation, frustration, bitterness, hostility, and any of the other forms it takes).
What is your anger hiding?
Anger can be a cover for something a little more tender. Maybe your feelings are hurt. Maybe you feel embarrassed or inferior. It doesn’t feel safe to expose those vulnerable emotions so we elect to be angry instead, and that feels protective. Unfortunately, this can become a habitual response to more delicate emotions to the point where the angry person can’t recognize what the anger is masking.
What is your anger protecting you from?
Fight is one of the fear responses. Even when the fear isn’t a physical threat, fight might be your go-to response. When you feel fear of abandonment, rejection, or helplessness for example, you might get mad instead. Attack first can be a very effective defense strategy. It keeps people from poking around and exposing your fears. What it doesn’t do is get rid of fear. As long as you leave it unexamined, fear will stick around.
What are you resisting?
We all want the world to be a certain way. Even though it would be such a peaceful and happy existence if we all just willingly accepted the reality of our lives, we don’t. We resist it. We get mad about it. It’s not supposed to be like this! If you ever hear the words “supposed to” or “should” bouncing around your head, you are probably also experiencing some negative emotions (like anger). Resistance really is futile because it doesn’t change anything. Acceptance is the remedy for resistance.
What are you viewing as wrong?
Justice and righteousness are the fast paths to anger. When we think of something as “wrong,” that can cause instant frustration, irritation, or rage. In fact, if you are hanging out with someone who seems awfully angry a lot of the time, odds are they have very strong opinions on what is right and what is wrong in the world. That right/wrong thinking doesn’t influence circumstances. It just makes people miserable. Letting go of our righteousness is the peaceful path.
Is your anger related to this circumstance or something from your past?
So often the current event triggering our anger is actually exposing a wound from the past. We think we are mad at the person standing before us when we are actually reliving a rejection, humiliation, or violation from another time in our lives. That’s the reason things get blown so far out of proportion sometimes. The present moment is being weighed down with the painful experiences of similar events from the past. The only way to lighten the current reaction is to resolve those past experiences.
By asking ourselves these five questions when we are gripped by anger, we can release the hold of that negative emotions. All of our emotions are windows into our inner worlds. They tell us about who we are, what makes us tick, what motivates us to do things. Taking the time to investigate what is behind our emotions when they arise, can be an enlightening experience. They are opportunities for us to learn about ourselves and grow into something even more magical than we already are.