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The Power of Anger

by Helem Valeau

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For most of us, anger is an emotion to fear in others and ourselves. Anger is often viewed as something we must be in control of at all times because the consequences of expressing our anger seem too great. Sometimes we fear that we will lose control of our anger and hurt someone we love. Sometimes we use our anger to control others feeling that we somehow gain power in situations where we feel powerless. There are two types of anger: historical anger and appropriate anger. Historical anger is anger that shows up as an over-reaction to behaviours or situations and we lose power and control of ourselves. Because its roots are in our past, it takes us back to being a child, and we often hurt others and ourselves emotionally or physically. Appropriate anger helps us to recognize that a particular situation is not safe, or healthy, or something we do not like and can assist us in setting up healthy boundaries.

Anger, like other emotions such as happiness, excitement, sadness and fear, gives us information about ourselves. Our emotions orient us in our world and give us another dimension to our wisdom. As children, we have an inherent ability to access and experience this wide range of feelings without judging or thinking about them. It is through the admonitions from parents and others such as, "don't be angry, sad, cry, too loud, too excited , etc.," that we learn it is not appropriate to feel and express what we are experiencing in the moment. The message that is sent to us through these admonitions is that there is something wrong with me, "I am wrong translates into core shame," for feeling and expressing my emotions. Rather than feel this "core shame," I begin to judge my feelings as good or bad and attempt to feel only the ‘good' feelings and discount or stuff away the ‘bad' feelings, including anger.

Anger is not a primary feeling; it is a reaction to a primary feeling. As children, our parents consciously or unconsciously criticized, embarrassed, humiliated, rejected us. We felt hurt and become angry. If we were not allowed to say, "Stop that, you're hurting me." We then became angry. But it is too scary for us as children to express our anger to Mom and Dad. Often the messages we received is that expression of anger is not acceptable. As children, we desperately need Mom and Dad's love in order to survive. We are powerless as children and our parents are our lifelines to the outside world. We will do anything to keep their love and attention. Therefore, we repress our anger causing it to become stored in our bodies.

This historical anger that has been stored in our bodies, often since childhood, is what becomes the "monster in the closet" we fear. It is this historical anger that erupts when we feel disempowered by another. It takes us back to being a small child and we become hysterical, out of control and over react. We often end up as angry, blaming victims. Everything seems to be happening to us and we feel powerless. As a result, we also tend to blame others for our experiences.

Wouldn't it be nice to have the ability to feel your anger and not lose power? This can happen when we are willing to own all of our feelings and start to feel them instead of judging them as unimportant or wrong. We can begin to understand the messages our emotions are giving us. If we are feeling hurt, betrayed, frustrated or insignificant in any way, it is important to take some time to acknowledge precisely what we are feeling. Then it is helpful to trace the experience back to our childhood and become aware of when we felt like this as a child. Taking some time to journal about the childhood experience will help to deepen the understanding of what was happening at that time. This gives us space to then look at the present situation and become aware that perhaps our anger is misplaced.

As children, we believe we are the cause of our parents' anger. We have done something wrong or we just are not good enough to meet our parents' expectations and that is why Mom and/or Dad are angry with us. As adults when we experience another's anger, we either take it on as if it is our fault or become defensive and rebellious. Either way, we are not authentically empowered. Therefore, it is impossible for us to meet the other in an emotionally adult place and realize we have choice regarding how to respond, instead of reacting and giving our power away to the situation or other person.

It can be incredibly liberating to realize we are not the cause of another's anger and we do not have to lose power by allowing our past hurts and anger to run our lives. Allowing ourselves to identify and experience all our emotions including anger, will put us on the path towards healing our wounds and propel us into a powerful, compassionate, loving, authentic adulthood. Anger will then become a messenger for healing instead of something to fear.

Helen Valleau is a Supervising Teacher of the Hoffman Quadrinity Process in Canada. To obtain further information and availability, please call 1-800-741-3449 and visit www.hoffmaninstitute.ca

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