10 Life-Changing Facts About Anger

anger“Yes, I was angry. And I was a little afraid. After all I’ve not been free in so long. But, when I felt that anger well up inside of me, I realized that if I hated them after I got outside that gate, then they would still have me. I wanted to be free so I let it go.”
~Nelson Mandela upon leaving prison after 27 years of confinement

Frustrated, impatient, pissed off, raging…aaarrrrrrgh! Yes, it’s normal to feel angry – you are human, after all. But if anger causes problems in your life – if it interferes with your health and happiness – then consider these 10 life-changing facts. Get curious about anger, and you just might discover an untapped well of vital energy that improves your life circumstances and wakes you up to the whole of life.

1. It’s easier to feel anger than hurt.

Anger tends to be a surface emotion. But if you look at what is driving the anger, you will often find hurt, pain, or fear. Can you tell the truth to yourself about what you are actually feeling? Can you meet the depth of your experience with supreme kindness? You might be surprised at the freedom you discover.

2. Anger has a strong physical component.

Bring out the microscope when you are angry, and you will find strong physical sensations – tightness, contraction, burning. Anger is a fiery emotion full of energy. If you don’t want to be caught in anger, bring your attention right into these physical sensations.

Without running a story in your mind, fully allow yourself to feel what is present. It might be difficult, but you won’t actually combust, I promise you. Be real with your sensations, and eventually the anger will stop controlling you.

3. Perfectionists are angry.

Are you a perfectionist? Then take an honest look at what you are saying to yourself. You will undoubtedly find a repetitive loop playing in your mind that is harsher than you might imagine.

Don’t kid yourself – this is anger. If you don’t want to be a slave to your perfectionist tendencies, then go to the root of the problem and learn to meet your anger with love.

4. Stories sustain anger.

Angry stories barrel through our minds like an out-of-control train careening down the tracks. To find freedom from anger, you must recognize the story and see that repeating it doesn’t serve you. Yes, what happened happened. But how much longer are you going to let it be your ball and chain?

Here are some strategies to help you soften the story:

  • Open up with compassion to everyone involved, including yourself.
  • Recognize that you are bringing the past into the present by repeating the story endlessly.
  • Bring your full attention into the sensations you are experiencing in the moment.
  • Commit to bringing all your actions in alignment with what you really, really want.

5. Anger comes from an overblown sense of self-importance.

Often, what underlies anger are statements like, “I’m right” and “I want my way.” There is a huge attachment to “I” and the beliefs of that “I” that causes separation and disharmony.

Recognize these “I”-focused statements and know that they keep you locked into one way of thinking. Then inquire:

  • Am I really right?
  • Does this wanting to be right serve me – and others?
  • What does it mean to want my own way? What are the implications?

Exploration of these “I”-focused beliefs can lead you to untangle the deepest knots that block your happiness.

6. Anger causes separation.

Speaking of separation, what are the effects when you are angry? Anger pushes people away, scares them, makes them fight back or shut down. Relationships don’t have room to breathe when they are defined by anger. “How could you?” “You shouldn’t have…” Sound familiar?

Remember that anger – or any reaction – is not the fault of the other. If you are angry, look within yourself. Lovingly investigate what has been triggered in you, and your whole perspective on the situation will shift.

7. Anger gets attention.

Maybe you express anger because you want attention. Depending on the circumstance, this could be a useful strategy.

But consider this: there may be other ways for you to express yourself so that you are heard. Open up your mind and heart to all the possibilities.

8. Unexplored anger can mute your experience of life.

Are you sitting on a hotbed of anger, but keeping it so underground that you can hardly live? Some people are so intent on keeping peace that they minimize the truth of their experience.

Are you asleep at the wheel, attached to inner peace and pleasant living? Exploring the seeds of anger can enliven you to all of life.

9. Anger can transform into useful action.

Taking in all the problems in the world can bring about a sense of injustice. Yet, if you move from anger, you are missing out on the whole picture.

Meet your anger with love and let your heart break open. Then move forward with actions that are wise and skillful.

10. Anger traps you.

The arising of anger is not necessarily a problem, and is not even under your control. What matters is how you relate to anger once it is present. If you dwell in the energetic sensations and convince yourself that your thoughts are true, anger overtakes you.

But there is an alternative: feel the sensations and tell the truth about the story. Then anger is your ally – revealing more and more deeply the essence of you.

How does anger impact your life? What is your experience of dealing with it? We’d all love to hear…

Note: This post is part of the Life-Changing Facts series. Check out the others: fear, attachment, habits, healing the inner critic, happiness, and healing the pain of the past.

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58 Comments

  1. Posted January 24, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Aaahhh…anger. You have described my mother to perfection here in this post. Although, I too, was once a very angry person.

    It is hard to let go of…but keeps you from so much goodness. I’ve watched while people have received the exact thing (feeling) they have been screaming for…and miss it completely because they are so identified with the anger.

    Great post…The greatest gift I gave myself was to let go of the anger.

    • Posted January 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

      Can we all let our hearts break over this one, Dawn? To be so focused on reacting to the lack of a good feeling that we don’t even realize that it is already here. There are so many ways that we pretend we are damaged, lacking, not good enough. Then we rage about what we perceive we don’t have.

      All distortion. In the clarity of an unencumbered mind, everything we ever longed for is here in abundance.

  2. avatar J. K. Rahn
    Posted January 24, 2012 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Excellent insights as to hidden anger. Please elaborate on the Perfectionist and anger – I am not understanding the dynamics.

    AND, I love getting these in my email!

    Thanks you so much.

    • Posted January 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      Hi JK! Great to see you.

      I think it was Freud who said that depression is anger turned inward. But in another sense, perfectionism is anger turned inward directly toward oneself. The self-talk of perfectionistic types is usually relentlessly harsh. There is no way they can live up to their own standards, leading to anger about not being able to always get it right.

      But, as always, don’t take my word for it. If perfectionism plagues you, investigate. Look at what is driving the thoughts and behavior. Discover the source of the unhappiness and find the place where peace seems to be missing. Allow whatever you find to be present in the great space of awareness. Then you will see the true gift of perfectionism.

  3. avatar Bonnie Perry
    Posted January 24, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    I agree that under anger is often hurt. Particularly the seemingly prolonged anger, the anger that just seems to eat us up inside. I found those angry stories that didn’t seem to go away were hitting at my deepest fears and vulnerabilities and had more to say about my concerns and beliefs about myself than the circumstances and people involved that provoked the anger. They pointed out the places where I felt unworthiness about myself. Trying to get, or believing the people involved in the circumstances should behave differently was beside the point. I needed to address my own concerns about my own perceived inadequacies and as they were gradually addressed, with great self-compassion, the anger naturally subsided. It can be a blessing, but, boy oh boy, is it difficult to see in the middle of its fire.

    • Posted January 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      Bonnie,

      You are unstoppable in your desire for the truth. So refreshing and inspiring. Thank you.

      When we are angry at others, we are missing the point. The best thing we can do is hold up the mirror and see what has been triggered inside us. The angry stories can be so convincing, and the anger itself is energizing. There needs to be a deep desire to be free. And in that the fire of anger, when allowed to burn without the story, is a cleansing, holy fire.

    • avatar Lacey
      Posted July 6, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Your comment was actually more helpful than the article.

      • Posted July 7, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        Welcome to you, Lacey! What matters is that you get the support that you’re looking for. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  4. Posted January 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gail,
    Well put together. Anger has so many facets. I get angry at myself when I don’t achieve what I set out to achieve. It gets me going though….I then have another attempt at getting a better result.
    be good to yourself
    David

    • Posted January 24, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      Hi David,

      Every moment is a renewal, so there is always a chance to try again. Angry at ourselves for our failures – such a common form of suffering. In NLP, they say there is no failure, only feedback. So what seems like a failure can be a true learning opportunity.

  5. Posted January 25, 2012 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    My shrink tells me, anger is but the surface emotion. There is something underlying, maybe sadness, frustration, hopelessness, etc..
    Every time I”m angry i try to take a step back and understand why I’m angry – was it because i felt abandoned or lonely that my fiance did not spend time with me. Those are the emotions I need to confront and deal with..
    Noch Noch

    • Posted January 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      So clear, Noch, and so beautiful to see your willingness to know the truth. Anger is hardly ever the endpoint, and exploring what underlies it opens the gate to true knowledge and peace.

      • Posted February 1, 2012 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        thanks Gail – yes it’s hard to dig beneath and out all the dirt. but it’s important to do so. we know ourselves much better after
        Anger is a good thing, if we know how to decipher it
        Noch Noch

        • Posted February 1, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

          Hi Noch,

          I’m a big fan of digging in and shining the light everywhere. Why not? Our feelings and contractions are there anyway – we either see them and deal with them consciously, or they fester and infiltrate behavior. We always have a choice – and seeing reality as it is is the freeing choice.

  6. Posted January 25, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    For a long time I was angry as all get out but I didn’t even know it, I repressed it so well. I must have started such foolish behavior when I was a young child and it was all I knew to do.

    Life in its wisdom finally helped me come out of my cocoon and then anger also came into the open. But now — at 80 — a middle way, shall I say. I may feel anger at times but something else is far, far more important to me. The truth of myself that does not change.

    Thanks Gail. Great post.

    • Posted January 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      Hi Chris,

      Hardly any of us have a clue when we are young, and we do our best with what we have. And thankfully – hopefully – we see the light.

      When you have the commitment to truth as you do, things fall into place, and the satisfaction gained from anger begins to fall away. Thanks for sharing the view from 80!

  7. Posted January 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gail,

    I can see anger in my perfectionism – in the past few years, particularly in the area of personal integrity where I can be unyielding in how I expect certain people to behave.

    As I relax into the space where conflict stems, I can see where I have been unyielding towards how I myself act.

    The stories that sustain my anger prevent me from looking at my own story about how I perceive I have let myself down in the past. Letting go of the external stories allows me to look at the deeper story and heal from it.

    Love what you write always.

    • Posted January 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      This is so raw, Amyra, and oozes authenticity. We all learn from what you are sharing.

      Relaxing into the space where conflict stems takes courage, and when you are willing, as you are, you are faced with the clarity of what is really going on. We may not like what we see, but seeing the truth is what sets us free. In the end, there’s just love and compassion for all of it.

      Love to you…

  8. avatar sara
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Reading this, I feel relieved to realize that anger is not an emotion I tend to embody. When I do, I know it comes from hurt, and I only indulge the anger instead of the hurt in really extreme circumstances.

    Just the other day I was cursing myself for being oversensitive, needy, and emotional. But today I feel grateful that even if I can be those things, at least I’m not angry too!

    • Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Hi Sara,

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      It sounds like you don’t feel anger too often because you are able to see what underlies it. Opening to the whole of what is appearing in any moment is the path to freedom, as you are discovering. And I am wondering…what if you opened to that urge to curse yourself for feelings you are having. Maybe you will discover that you can meet the feelings, and the tendency to curse, with love and compassion. This is the end of the war with ourselves and the beginning of the peace we long for.

      Sending love to all parts of you…

  9. Posted January 31, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    There is so much insight here. Anger rears it’s ugly head in so many ways and you did a great job of shedding light on some of the less noticeable manifestations of it. Perfectionism is definitely one that many people aren’t aware of. Another big one that I see a lot is anger turned inward, expressing itself as depression because it’s not being expressed in a healthy, assertive manner.

    As you said, anger is normal. It’s a part of life. However, we tend to be happier, more emotionally stable people when we know how to recognize anger, process it and let it go.

    • Posted February 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      Hi Nea,

      Great to see you again! I appreciate you recognizing anger as a normal part of life. And yes, let’s use anger as an opportunity to free ourselves. We don’t have to be entangled in it. It can simply arise, be seen, and then we move on and let it go. What a lovely way to live!

  10. Posted February 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Gail,

    I’m fascinated by the idea that perfectionism is a form of anger. I don’t fully understand how this is and would love if you would write a little more about that.

    Then I’ll be able to understand perfectly. :)

    • Posted February 2, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      It’s anger toward oneself, Sandra. The thought process of perfectionism is often filled with anger and harsh judgment directed inward, rather than outward toward another. Recognizing it as such, and having great compassion, paves the way to freedom from it. It’s not an overt form of anger, but is often realized as anger when investigated thoroughly.

      That said, if the idea of perfectionism being anger turned toward oneself doesn’t resonate, then best to let that go, and simply recognize the energy and limited thinking that trying to be perfect perpetuates.

      Hope that is helpful!

  11. Posted February 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I always find that there’s an insane amount of power behind my anger. So what I will do is trying to use this power in a creative instead of a destructive way.

    • Posted February 14, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Welcome to you, Alice, and thank you for your comment.

      Anger can be very powerful. When we see through the story that keeps the anger going, we can realize that all that is present is physical sensation – energy. The key is to see through the story. Then you can let this energy express itself in creative ways.

  12. avatar Anne
    Posted May 21, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    How can I be free from anger if I don’t know where it comes from? I admit to having perfectionist tendancies for sure and have been dealing with the impact of those for some time now so generally I can stop and think about what is driving me – step away and find perspective. However, with my husband and kids often I am outragously angry (and hate myself for it). I don’t like this angry person and I’m not sure how to get free. Anger has become destructive to relationship – something I think I’ve carried all my life. Often I ask myself, “Why am I so angry?” or “Where is this anger coming from?” and there is no rational response…

  13. avatar Anne
    Posted May 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I think I was an angry child (lots of out of control circumstances and hurts that I didn’t have help to understand) and now I am an angry adult. Although I can definately identify with the perfectionist anger (and have been dealing with that) I don’t know where other anger comes from since the patterns have been present for so long. Unfortunately, the cycles of anger are becoming detrimenatal to my relationships and I don’t know how to get free as I can’t identify what is making me angry. Often I’m already in a rage when I realise what I’m experiencing so stopping to pull myself back is not working. Is it possible to be conditioned to be angry eventhough you don’t want to be and realise it’s destructive? How can I get free if the roots of present day anger are a result of childhood hurts that I now logically understand but could still be suffering from?

    • Posted May 23, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Hi Anne,

      Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I appreciate the difficulties you describe. You asked, “Is it possible to be conditioned to be angry even though you don’t want to be and realise it’s destructive?” The answer is yes. This is the definition of conditioning – a pattern that gets played out that seems out of our control.

      My experience is that we don’t need to know where an emotion comes from to work on it. You seem to have a perspective that you need to identify the source before the anger can begin to dissolve. I invite you to experiment with a different perspective – that you can work on the anger in the here and now without untying all the knots from your childhood.

      You say that you find yourself in a rage before you realize it. This is normal – and it is a starting point. Whenever you realize that you are angry – even if you have already expressed it – stop, pause, breathe, and don’t let yourself move further into it. The more you do this – even if you realize it after the fact – the more you will begin to create a momentum that counteracts the conditioning. Eventually, you will realize it earlier and earlier, so you can begin to have some control over it.

      I would suggest making freedom from this anger a priority in your life. Orient all of your activities toward this freedom. Recognize that an emotion is made of physical sensations and thoughts that tell a story about what is happening. At the end of every day, reflect back on your day and see what triggered you. With great compassion, let the story of what happened go. Simply feel the physical sensations and let them move through you. With anger, there is often an inner burning, a fire. See this article for more. And read other supportive articles and books as often as you can.

      Develop the capability of being present in the moments of your life. When you are doing dishes, folding laundry, caring for your children, be aware of what you are doing. Recognize the thoughts and feelings that are present. Press your internal pause button as much as you need to and take a breath. The more you become aware of your inner world on a moment-by-moment basis, the more likely you will be to catch the troubles before they get away from you. But be patient with yourself and infinitely loving. You are taking on the sacred task of deconditioning patterns that have been around for decades.

      With love and oceans of support…

  14. avatar Loly
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I feel a lot of anger when my boundaries are not respected. Guess it helps in that case to know what my bounadaries are. I think anger is helpful because it shows you things you have to be aware of,( you feel hurt, or ignored, unaprecciated, are not tolerant or impatient)) as a head ache shows that something is wrong in your body. But it isn´t always others fault that we get angry.This article tells perfectionism creates a lot of anger and I think that´s right. Because of anger and frustration and for my own sake, I have been working on lowering my expectations from others and from myself.
    Guess the game is not to be perfect or right, so others are wrong and the bad guys. I´m just trying to live in more balanced, peaceful and happy life. UFFFFF! lol

    • Posted August 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      Hi Loly,

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your comment.

      Oh, I know what you are talking about. I used to be so sensitive to disappointment and being ignored and unappreciated. For a long time I blamed others, until I was final able to see that the problem was mine. When I was able to be compassionate toward the hurting parts of me, things eventually changed, but it took a while. Now, I am completely free of this reaction, so know that that is possible for you.

      Good for you to experiment with lowering your expectations of others. If you are relying on others’ behavior for your peace, you will be disappointed for sure. We just don’t have control over what people do and say. So I would suggest going further and having no expectations at all. Take what is offered with grace and let the rest go. If you have a reaction inside, learn to let the hurt be there in a compassionate space. Eventually, you will be so good at recognizing it and letting it be, with compassion, that these feelings will subside.

      Big hug to you….

  15. avatar Loly
    Posted September 8, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your reply. I found your article good enough to translate it to my mother language. I cried a lot when I finished it. Anger has been a big issue in my life and much hurt is underneath. Not sure yet what of my anger is usefull, and which is not but I ask my Lord to help me find the way to be less angry.

    • Posted September 10, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much for translating this article, Loly!

      It is so common that hurt is underneath anger. If you let yourself feel the hurt, without running a story in your mind, you will notice physical sensations. Bring your attention right to the core of them, and simply let them be. This is the way that emotions begin to lose their power. Love to you…

  16. avatar Richard Burgess
    Posted February 20, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Through out my life anger has been a real problem as a result i have really lost many relation ships and have had lost many friends there have been times when i have had brushes with the law and reading these 10changes helped but i need more help can you recommend a person or a place or a book i wear can get help with this probem.

    • Posted February 20, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      I appreciate your wish to solve this problem, Richard, and your heartfelt request for help. I hope you can find an anger-management group in your local community or find a therapist to work with, either privately or at a public clinic or university. Reading helps, but having face to face contact is even better. It may take a while to find the right person, but stick with it – for your own peace of mind.

      Wishing you well…

  17. avatar Pink Spider
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    This is a great article. I wish I could get my boyfriend (of 12 years) to read this and take something away from it. He is chronically angry with me, and has been for years. Angry over things I did, and at the time never intended any harm by, many many years ago. I know they must stem from hurt – from his childhood, from things I did or said that were insensitive; I just wish he could see and deal with the underlying issues, rather than lash out in anger all of the time, and direct it at me.

    Thanks for the article.

    • Posted April 12, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Hi Pink,

      A warm welcome to you. I’m glad this article resonated with you. I read your comment a few times, and what kept coming up in my mind and heart is the sadness of being with someone for years who is chronically angry at you. If he wanted to be different, he would be on the internet searching for articles like this one. You can’t fix him, but what you can do is take good care of yourself. What if you weren’t willing to be his target anymore? It takes two to tango, and things change when one stops dancing.

  18. avatar avk kumar
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    i am have been facing tension or inner angry or much fear for last 1 year. i an thinking continuesouly abot one thing which happened to me it is gone when another tension(if sombody hurt me ) come…..

    i am frustated all the time ..i know for this situation only i am responsible..but my mind always choose this negative thought ..

    i am very affected from my fearfull past ..if sombody hurt me ,that time i am dont resond but after going room i will be thinking about that person and situation..and i will beat him and feeling very inner anger which will be never executed…i becom more confident when i talked yo my friends bt afetr some time again negative thought come and inner anger ,fear ,insecurity …..

    the summary is i wnat to show world i am not fearfull or innocent person…so that i have not been in present from last one year.

    i read all positve books but didnt effect…
    i am taking life too seriously and comparing myself to other…the problem is that with me i dont respond and feel anger when sombody hurt me (little phiscally ,verbally) but after going room or next day whole month untill another problem come.. i will be thinking about that person continou…feel anger next time i will show him who i am…..

    my energy negative ..feeling very lazy/..

    • Posted May 6, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Welcome to you, Avk. I feel the intensity in these experiences that you describe. It’s important to recognize that you can’t get rid of thoughts – that is not something you have control over. There is no way around this situation but to feel whatever you feel without acting on it. And when I say feel it, I mean the direct experience of the anger without paying attention to the story running in your head. Feel the burn of the sensations without the story, and they begin to move through.

      It’s easy to focus attention on negative thoughts, so don’t forget about the rest of you. Something in you is fearless and completely innocent. And that place in you is clear, wise and at peace. Find that within and live there as much as you can.

      You said something about your past, and I have a feeling this may be affecting you. If you can, talk to a professional counselor so you can begin to resolve it. You keep the past alive in the present by thinking about it, so see if you can move your attention away from those challenging thoughts. The past can be like a veil covering the brilliant reality of you. Look behind the veil of your past and you may find yourself there – so sweet and innocent.

      I appreciate your journey and offer limitless support…

  19. avatar Lin
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I was bullied for 3 years by my sister in-law and my own brother joined in. My dad has always heard me cry for help but he keeps saying that he didn’t see anything. Even though another 3 years have gone by now that I have not spoken to both my sis in law and brother i still can’t let go of the anger and hate i have towards the 3 of them. i am beginning to be worse in my expression.

    • Posted May 19, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Hi Lin,

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your comment. You have held onto this anger for at least three years, and it sounds like it is sitting inside you like a cancer, eating away at you. At this point, you are the only one who has any control over this experience. You need to tell yourself that you want to be finished with this anger – for your own good and for your own happiness. Then every time it arises or the story about what happened starts consuming your thoughts, say, “No!” Bring your attention always to what is supportive, calming, and positive for you. Don’t worry about anyone else and what they did or didn’t do. That is now in the past. Focus on you – on your well being and on your happiness. Orient your whole life in that direction, and the anger from the past won’t have a place anymore.

      In love and support…

  20. avatar Tristan
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Very much with you on all of this, Gail! The only reason for me to keep such a high level of anger in store is in case I come under physical threat: I used to be completely non-violent in order to be consistently Loving to absolutely everyone I meet, but now I know that if eg. one of my family members would lay a hand on me, I have the fire in me to do what it takes to eliminate the threat. Because now I do care about myself. Of course, my first choice is to stay away from these and all aggressive people — I’ll even be glad to contribute positively to their lives from a reasonable distance tho I don’t want their animal nature in mine anymore. I feel a self-confidence now that I never had before.

    • Posted May 27, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Welcome to you, Tristan,

      There is an intelligence to staying open to all possibilities, no matter how remote. As odd as it may sound, there are times when the intelligent, loving response will be physical violence and other times when it’s best to avoid the situation. Without being trapped by any habitual feeling, including anger, there is the confidence that you describe that you can stay grounded within yourself.

  21. avatar Anita
    Posted July 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    This is a helpful post Gail. I am a pretty angry person and so there’s work to do. Which is fine – I can find a constructive-feeling place in me for almost everything in this post. But I have one challenge… the feeling compassion part for everyone part. I have worked with my anger before and this is the hardest part for me. In the midst of my (often prolonged) rage, the thought of being compassionate with respect to the target of my anger leaves me feeling physically sick. I realize that this is one of the key exit ramps in this process, and I know when I get there the whole structure of my rage crumbles. But until then we are all really stuck, and I have *no idea* how to find compassion on a faster timescale (and while there is a place for being compassionate with myself as I struggle – I do emotional harm to myself and others while we wait). I know from experience I will get there. Even with my biggest challenges. But it’s so slow and I do so much damage while I inch along the road. We’re talking somewhere on the order of 7+ years in the most recent case. Any advice for an even slightly faster track to finding compassion for people I feel harmed by?

    • Posted July 5, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      Hi Anita,

      I appreciate your honesty and desire to have things flow more easily for you.

      You need to take a look at what is happening in your experience that keeps you locked into the anger. It sounds like you are having very strong thoughts, a story that runs about how you have been victimized by someone. Believing that story, that is fueled by physical sensations that you might call rage, is the source of the problem. In situations like this, you might consider picking apart the story – belief by belief – to see if it is actually true. Maybe there is some truth to it in the relative sense, but holding onto it, making it real, and repeating it for 7 years in your mind isn’t serving you.

      Have your happiness as the highest priority, then choose it in every moment. The mind will try to justify itself to throw you off, so your job is to stay committed to happiness/peace in your will and intention and in your actions.

      Anger and rage have a strong physical component. Get to know these sensations in your body and just be with them. This is where the story starts, but just feel the sensations without the story to distract you from them.

      There is no magic answer about how to make this better. It takes desire and diligence for you to choose what you actually want in the moments of your precious life.

      In love and support…

  22. avatar Tristan
    Posted July 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Anita, perhaps helpful is not to regard the offender as a single being. Most people are many personalities in one. Of course, it’s a joy to be around someone with full integrity; expectation of it tho is usually folly!

    This allows one to open one’s heart to the beautiful, childlike part of another and to bless him/her (and yourself) with your love.

    What’s so confusing tho is that there may be a savage, rabid predator-self inside the same person. Who regards your kindness as weakness and may readily bite you again, given the chance!

    Are we ready to deal with all these characters?!! In ourselves too? Can’t force ourselves to be compassionate. I hope you see someone beautiful in everyone, even while remaining utterly realistic about the savage ratbastard you may see therein too! :)

  23. Posted July 13, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

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  24. avatar Elena
    Posted October 3, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Hello,

    I’m 27 years old and I just joined a women’s support group for women who have been abused during their life. It was my reaction to my last meeting that brought me to this posting.

    We were sharing some feelings in group and a few people cried and it seemed like most everyone shared with deep heart emotion. But I felt nothing.

    Afterwards I wanted to call the leader and quit the group because I didn’t think that it was for me. I was moderately uncomfortable with all of the tears and I was very uncomfortable attempting to share from my heart. The whole experience made me want to flee and leave town.

    I spent the rest of the evening calming down. And then it dawned on me. I’ve spent so many years so angry that I don’t even know what lies inside me anymore. The anger has been empowering in that I’ve learned to value myself, work hard, and recognize my competence through all of my suffering. Yet, it has also destroyed my life in many ways too.

    As a child I was withdrawn, but still angry. My anger surfaced as a teenager. In adulthood it’s been a disruptive emotion because I have too much of it. I don’t act out violently and get into trouble but I am like fire and ice. I can’t truly read myself and I don’t know what I want in my heart and in my mind I have too much going on, some brilliance and some strangeness.

    So here I am. I’m finally ready to start to peel away the anger and put my life back together but I really don’t know how I’m going to do this. I’ve never truly been comfortable anywhere and anger keeps me safe or it’s a barrier to protect me from other people in my life who are angry, like my dad.

    Thanks for the post. I don’t suppose this is going to be an overnight journey. But I guess the first step is just to talk about it.

    • Posted October 4, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      This comment brings tears to my eyes, Elena. You have had the moment of insight that has the potential to change everything for you. I am celebrating with you.

      You describe so clearly how anger has functioned in you – it has helped, but also hidden some other emotions that maybe now you are ready to peek into. You are used to being angry, but not feeling these other emotions or being open and undefended. This is new ground for you, so it is completely normal to not know, to be uncomfortable. So don’t shrink from the discomfort – it is actually the way forward for you.

      I had a similar experience years ago when I realized that anger I was holding was hurting me way more than it was hurting anyone I was angry at. It was a selfish, life-changing moment when I walked away from it for good, and ended up benefitting me and everyone around me.

      I love that you are now on the journey to real healing and wholeness. Sending oceans of love and support to you…

      • avatar elena
        Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for your kind response, Gail.

        Since posting, I’ve identified that I have a “double edged sword in me.” One side is anger and the other side is pain. I say harsh things that harm other people and hurt myself. I’m judgmental. I bleed myself and others, metaphorically.

        I have been living life like this. All of my intimate relationships eventually end because of it. And my competencies are even a form of anger.

        I’m in this place now where I have quit my job. I attend a support group. I live with my mom and dad. (I moved back after a breakup with a serious boyfriend).

        As I have become aware of the pain in my heart I can no longer hold all these false pretenses that my anger allowed me to keep. I realize the cycle of abuse that exists in my family. They are wealthy intellectuals and were very self absorbed parents and remain so as people. I realize how my connection to this world creates my desperation for validation, for love, and for acceptance. It creates anger, restlessness, and avoidance of intimacy. I want off the cycle. I’m tired of trying to live out fantasies of my mind that exist only to protect myself from my own feelings of abandonment and lack.

        It’s time to have a healthier relationship with my heart. I’ve been walking the path to disappointment for so long. It’s disgusting. I end up in situations that I think I can handle and can’t as a way to compensate my worth, I take on charity friends. I was recently treated as a charity friend by an adult three times my age who said that she loved me, wanted to help me, and then bailed. Ultimately I am pained by the life that I have created for myself in the town that I live in.

        I am posting this just to be real. I can’t be real around anyone I know or am “close to” apparently because they are all too busy keeping their fantasy worlds intact. The minute I open my mouth to say something or ask for what I need or needed when I was little, I am made to feel mentally ill. My mom was a therapist. Or I am put down. My dad doesn’t like me. It seems like I’ve been running with people with the same problems as my parents my whole life, so it’s tough.

        I am clear that I am not a kid and I need to move away to continue to heal. And I know I can do that. It’s just all the pretending drives me wild and is so confusing.

        • Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

          Thank you for sharing this, Elena. When you put words to what lives hidden inside and share it with others, the jig is up. The secret hell is over. And it is the beginning of freedom, of the return to wholeness.

          The way out of pretending is honesty. Confusion clears by seeing things as they actually are. It takes a lot of energy to wall yourself off from difficult feelings; truth-telling is effortless.

          Things are really shifting for you. Be on the lookout for opportunities to step out of these habits and see life – people, situations – with fresh eyes and an open heart.

  25. avatar Jeannette
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad I found this. I’ve been dealing with anger and with anger of a close loved one. But at first I wasn’t truly angry, I simply let what happened be. I knew I wasn’t the problem(at first) and if I except that fact, I have nothing to worry about. Until her anger turned my fear of interacting with her, into anger towards her, she would disrespected me for no reason. I have no choice but to ignore her to avoid fighting. I feel like I lost a good friend over her sudden anger issues. But reading through this site I did realize my anger was from fear.

    • Posted October 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much for your comment, Jeannette. Anger so often masks other feelings, especially fear. For some people, it is easier to be angry than to realize there are other emotions like fear and sadness. If anyone feels a lot of anger, it’s always a good exploration to see if something else might be going on as well.

      Sometimes friendships need to end, and we might not even understand why. It sounds like you are trying to understand your reaction so you can learn from the situation. Then even this rift in your friendship, even though it is painful, serves your freedom.

      Sending love…

  26. avatar Clare
    Posted June 8, 2014 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Hmmmm somebody hasn’t lived with a psychopath. Anger saves victims. Anger can serve to protect and warn us. I’m not angry in every aspect of my life but when I see/hear any sign of that man my whole being recoils and feels anger. I thank my soul for protecting me.

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      Hi Clare,

      No, I haven’t lived with a psychopath, and you bring up a very good point. This article was targeted to people who get stuck in anger to the point where it affects how they feel and react to situations in their lives. Someone who goes through life holding onto anger is bound to be unhappy and have difficult relationships.

      But it sounds like in your case anger has been protective and has led you away from a terrible situation into safety and sanity. This anger is functional and serves you. It doesn’t sound to me like you are stuck in it – rather, you are responding appropriately to a very challenging situation.

      I’m very glad for you that you’ve taken good care of yourself in this way.

      With love…

  27. avatar Jean Fauver
    Posted June 13, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I am trying to find the answer as why I am so angry, very short-fused, resentful to the point that I think that there obviously is something seriously wrong with me. I seem to suffer from the perfectionist syndrome. It’s extremely stressful!!

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know why you’re so angry either, Jean, but I do know that gently beginning to work with your anger – and the thoughts around it – can help. It may be a long and difficult path, but it’s possible to slowly unhook. Sometimes we need help from an outside objective person to guide us through the stickiest places. Be committed to doing whatever it takes to find moments of peace.

      In love and support…

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