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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Comments

  1. avatarVik says

    Hello Gail, this is certainly a life saver while it does effectively and realistically explain how clam and light one can become; I have been trying hard but not so successful in forgiving all. Yes, I have been selective here and thats the issue. I have been able to forgive a lot of those which my mind (selfishly) tells me are convenient to let go, but a few others about which I feel I could afford to live with hatred in my heart, continue to nag me. I’ve had a fallout with a close friend more than a month back after he insulted my family (that’s my version), and though I have been trying to let go of him and the incident, I am unable to cope with the fact that he still maintains his stand and hasn’t seriously cared to resolve it. I want to get over this and move on in life in real terms. Could you please help.

    Regards

    • avatar says

      Hi Vik,

      The issue for you is your own reactions – not the fact that your friend maintains his stand. If we make our own peace dependent on others’ behavior, we are asking for trouble – because people rarely do what we want them to.

      Take responsibility for your own happiness and for the energy and intention you bring to your relationships. Walk your own path the way you really want to, then you’re living according to your most essential priorities. It’s all about you and what you want – not anyone else.

      • avatarCath says

        Hi gail this article really brought a few issues for me to to light. I am a perfectionist and my anger is causing issues in my marriage. I hate my temper and want to learn how to have calm ‘disagreements’ with my husband without blowing up and stomping off and being a bad role model for my child. I can control it at work but not at home. Is there any book you recommend for me? Thanks

      • avatarSarah says

        Hello Gail,
        I’m looking at these sites just trying to figure out when I became so angry. I have always been quiet and reserved and more fearful of people for most of my life. Yet I was content. Around fifteen I got involved with drugs and at 21 checked myself into a final facility to clean myself up. I’ve always had a loving family and I’m now in a pretty good relationship and even expecting a baby. But something has happened maybe in the past year. I’m just so angry. And I mean with everything. I have found I just hate people. Whether it’s behind the wheel ( I am terrible when it comes to getting Angry with what I call idiot drivers), at either of my jobs, or at home. All it takes is a driver who doesn’t signal to a demanding customer being rude with me and I find I am actually shaking I am so mad. I can honestly say it’s even worse now that I am pregnant, though that was expecting. But I don’t know where this all came from. It can be any little thing and I find myself wanting to explode and just tear these people apart. I was never like this before. I went from loving everything to really hating everyone. I label a lot of people as stupid or rude and stuck up, like everything people do is some personal attack. Why? I’m waiting to talk to a professional one on one but in the mean time does this sound familiar to you, or anyone else for that matter? Id appreciate any advice. Thank you.

        • avatarBrenda says

          Sarah,
          In my experience, there’s always an underlying cause. You’re angry at everything and everyone, but its something unsettled within yourself that is the root. If you don’t have a history of not being able to control your emotions, then I’d look at events directly prior to when you started being angry. It could literally be anything…for example I get angry and take it out on other people when me and my significant other are arguing, or if I feel neglected by him and haven’t resolved the issue, if my kids are fighting all it takes is one negative thought which is usually that I suck as a mother, I get angry if I just feel like shit because I didnt get enough sleep. I get angry when my kids don’t want to do the things I think they should want to do, or If I feel a lack of control over anything. Sometimes I’m angry because I have a deep resentment that I’m a mother, yet I’m so much more than that and I’m not able to venture into anything outside of my children…the list goes on. Ive been trying to take Gail’s point that while its nice to know why or where the anger comes from (because for me realizing what I’m actually angry about validates my feelings and let’s me know I’m just not going insane) that’s not what is going to help you in the moment. And because on any given day the root cause of my anger can be literally anything, I’m trying to focus on techniques to get through the emotions and not react visciously. But getting back to wondering where the hell it came from, look at the events on your life timeline, make a list of anything that is different now than before. Meditate and evaluate each of your intimate relationships and see if there’s any unsolved issues or feelings and emotions. Depression can make you angry, too. The unsettling and hopeless feeling of something just not feeling right…

          Hope this gives you some insight from one angry person to another…

          • avatarBrenda says

            Actually, I want to retract what I said about knowing why you’re angry not helping in the moment. It depends on what moment you’re in. If you’re snapping on your hubby because he ignored you (example) and you’re actually telling him directly that’s why you’re angry, albeit yelling or screaming or throwing things in tandem, you don’t have to wonder why you’re angry. But if you’re throwing things because they got in your way, chances are your anger is coming from the unresolved issue of your hubby ignoring you. So in the latter moment, it would do good to know that shit that gets in your way isn’t where your anger is from, it is merely an irritant to your already bad feeling of being ignored by your hubby. And being able to step back and realize that could help you step back and say hey I don’t need to throw shit because I’m angry, I need to resolve the issue of being ignored by my hubby…by talking to my hubby. But in the end you still have to check your anger in that moment too, and that’s where you need to learn ways to manage what you’re feeling and not react. All easier said than done.

          • avatarBrenda says

            I also want to throw in that in my experience with life, and talking to other angry people, I feel there is legitimacy to the notion that sometimes people become depressed and/or angry when they become more aware of how horrible many people are in today’s society. If you’re like me, you’re compelled to know as much as you can about everything in life…unfortunately the more you know the more you’re aware of all the bad things in life. You don’t want anyone to sugarcoat anything or be ignorant of anything, and sometimes realizing that this world, while containing its fair share of love and beauty, is full of a lot of disgustingness and horrors. And being of aware of that can make you really f*cking pissed off.

            But even having said all that, being angry all the time is no way to live and we must dig our claws into all the good in the world and in our personal lives and hold on for dear life because that is what can help us change.

          • avatarSarah says

            Thank you both for your advice. I just don’t want to be angry like this I don’t like the person I’m turning into. I know some if not all of this has to have stemmed from things that happened when I relapsed and started using again. Along with all of the terrible things that happened in that lifestyle, I know I have been angry with myself for even letting myself become that person again. It was just such a weakness. Sometimes I feel like nothing good happens. Yes I’m in a good relationship when were not fighting but other than that I have to keep myself from feeling like only bad things happen to me. Finally get my life together and normal and I end up pregnant. Just one thing after another. Also working in retail and learning how people really are I suppose I just expected more and angry at how people really are. I just need to stop getting angry about things that are out of my control. I know one thing that helps is telling myself exactly that. I can’t control the people around me. I can’t control my past. I can’t control (at this point) that I’m pregnant. I know if I think about that it brings me back to worrying about what I am in control of, which is how I react. I need to slow things down take a step back and remember some things I just have to accept and worry more about my own life. I know I’m not perfect either and I’m sure there are people out there (my parents) who wish they could’ve shaken me until I got it. But anyway it was very nice getting feedback and I’m happy I came to this site. Thank you. And I hope maybe my method can help someone else.

          • avatar says

            It’s good that you see these expectations of others, Sarah, because they’re going to cause trouble every time. Better to take a deep breath and say, OK. OK, it’s like this, this is happening, and I’m going to meet it with courage and grace. Your expectations aren’t going to change reality. When it comes to our personal desires, reality always has the upper hand. Life just is. And the more we flow with it, like water, the less we suffer.

            Sending love…

        • avatar says

          Hi Sarah,

          I agree with Brenda to look at what was happening right before you started feeling angry. Maybe a new occurrence triggered the anger. Or maybe you’re at a place where your anger is now coming out, rather than suppressing it. I don’t know, but I can understand you asking that “why now” question.

          Now, as Brenda addressed (thanks for your insights, Brenda!), the “why” question can be useful or it can be a distraction. It’s useful when asking “why” helps to solve the problem. Maybe you do need to have a conversation with someone or take care of some other matter. But if you live in the “why” and you don’t deal with the anger in the moment, you’ll be stuck. “Why” is a question in the mind that keeps you from being present to your direct experience as it arises.

          Ultimately, you’ll need to be aware in the moment of what is happening and let the feelings and sensations burn through without acting on them. To begin, you might take some time in the evening and reflect back on your day to see when you got triggered, what thoughts and sensations were running in you, and if sensations are still there, welcome them.

          Repeating the story in your mind will keep the whole system intact. But let the story go, pay attention only to the physical sensations, and you’ll start to get some space from all of this. There’s a lot on this site in the archives about dealing with feelings that might help you.

          A couple of other points: treat yourself very well during this time. Make sure you take some quiet time for yourself every day, take walks in nature, and really notice when you feel love, joy, enthusiasm, happiness, and peace. This balances out your experience. Also, there may be hormones contributing, as you know.

          The kindest thing you can do for yourself (and probably for the little one inside you) is to not resist your experience. This situation is obviously affecting many aspects of your life. And I honor you for coming here looking for answers. Keep asking questions. Be curious and open about what happens. And when the fire of anger comes, welcome it. Say hello and breathe with it. Right away your taking away its power.

          Sending love and huge support…
          Gail

          • avatarCath says

            A good book my psychologist recommended is called ‘stop overreacting’ by Judith Siegel I’m finding it very helpful

        • avatar says

          One more thing, Sarah. Underneath anger is often hurt, emotional pain, or sadness. See if those are there driving this anger and let these feelings come out of the shadows and be met by you.

  2. avatarBrenda says

    Hello, I’ve recently come to realize that the major part of my anger comes from when my significant other and my children don’t do what I want them to do, and not being able to do what I want to do, and subsequently feeling a loss of sense of control. I’ve been searching and have yet to come across any good info out there that delves into this aspect beyond the notion you don’t have any control over anything, which I believe to be true but need to figure out how to let that go. Can you direct me to any good articles on this?

    • avatar says

      Hi Brenda,

      Yes, it’s true that you don’t have control over the behavior of your partner and children, and I understand that just knowing that isn’t enough. This anger is a conditioned pattern that probably spikes quickly. So you need to slow things down so you can stop the outburst, eventually, before it happens. Changing this involves stopping and feeling the feelings rather than acting on them. And the motivation has to be strong to make this shift.

      When you stop, breathe, and let the sensations move through you, rather than lashing out, you’re setting yourself up for radical transformation. It helps to understand the why of this pattern, but there is no substitute for the in-the-moment making of a wise choice that is in line with what you really want. And that choice is to stop and breathe rather than do what’s been done a million times before – saying things you probably wish you didn’t.

      If you look at the archives here, there is a lot of information on emotions and how to work with them so they’re not in charge. I hope you find this helpful, and I wish you the best in living the truth that your heart is speaking to you.

    • avatar says

      Thanks for pointing this out, VMM. I’ll go into this a little deeper here. I’ve also written extensively on the intelligent way to meet emotions which you can find in the archives of this site. This post might be especially useful.

      Anger, or any emotion, is a set of physical sensations with a story attached. If this constellation of experiences goes unexamined, it will drive you. You’re not fully conscious of the details of the experience of anger, so it’s in control. You’ll feel urges to behave in a given way (yell or lash out) and you act on them before you know it. This is what happens when the experience of anger isn’t fully conscious.

      Meeting anger with love means seeing it clearly and accepting what arises. You see the story of what the anger is telling you – a story that runs in your mind often with intensity, but you know these are just thoughts, they don’t serve, and you choose not to act on them. And you become aware of the physical sensations in your body. Not feeding the story with your attention, you bring your attention to the body and simply let the physical sensations be. They will come, maybe intensify, change, and go. It doesn’t matter. You are the welcoming presence that allows them to be.

      This is how anger begins to lose its power – in fact you’re taking its power away. Anger, and any emotion, thrives on unconsciousness. But when we’re fully present to what we’re experiencing, it’s seen so clearly that you can make a choice not to let it rule. You are being loving and accepting with your own experience of anger. You stop fighting with yourself, so the damaging aspects of anger don’t transpire.

      This way of being with anger completely transforms your relationship to it. I hope you find that helpful…

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