Mind Expansion & Perception of Anger
By Dr. Michelle Kmiec, Founder OHH
Has anyone ever told you that you should learn to suppress your anger? Perhaps even invest in anger management classes? Or have you told this to someone you know?
Before we continue, if anger results in physical or mental abuse, please seek professional help immediately. With that said, this extreme and dangerous form of anger is not what I would like to discuss here. Though even in that extreme expression of anger, one should really be asking, how did that abusive person get that way?
Whether we are talking about chronic low-level anger or the outright abuser, there is always a root cause that triggered the feeling thus the behavior.
However, for the purposes of this article, I’d like to focus on the level of anger and frustration that we all experience at any given time and for reasons that are often surprising to us! We have all experienced anger that resulted in the occasional outburst, and then, followed by regret and many apologies.
Or the anger could present itself by the welling up of tears after inevitably choking down the anger not truly understanding the emotional damage that this suppression could cause which is the diminishment of anger to chronic frustration that can lead to internal despair and resentment. When you reach this point, you begin to feel like giving up, and once this occurs it isn’t surprising that depression is not far to follow.
Since childhood, we are taught that anger is bad right? Right?
But is it really?
Is it possible that anger in and of itself is simply your inner self alerting you that something must change? That whether physical or emotional, something in your life, some circumstance, some situation you find yourself in, something you require, or even something painful needs your immediate attention! In other words, could the emotion of anger be alerting you that your personal well-being or health is in jeopardy?
Let’s use a physical example: Let’s say, if you were stuck in quicksand, you would no doubt feel panic and fear. Though completely normal and understandable there is a problem when fear is the front line emotion. Since fear often turns off the flow of your rational thought process, you could become paralyzed and in quicksand, this would indeed be a problem.
But, if you could channel that fear into something that could work for you, what emotion do you think that would be? With pinpoint focus and determination to live, the emotion of anger would allow you to quickly and rationally think of a way out of the quicksand and with the increasing strength and willpower this emotion can evoke, your chances of success are now in your favor.
Now, the key terms here are determination and focus.
This is because determination requires you to be focused thus turning on the rational thought process. Anger in this manner would be very productive.
Okay, I can hear you now, “but I’ve seen angry people do VERY irrational things!” And you’d be right because when you have anger without determination and focus (turning off the rational thought process) then it becomes destructive just like the abuser I mentioned at the beginning of this article.
The difference is subtle but extremely vital to understand how anger can either work for you productively or against you creating utter chaos.
Consider these reactions and outcomes if you were trapped in imaginary quicksand:
→Fear and panic paralyzing you, and you would simply sink. In other words, you do nothing to change your situation. Result: Destructive; Giving up.
- Can you think of any situations in your life right now that you want to change, but you are so paralyzed with fear that you aren’t able to make those changes?
→Unfocused anger at your situation results in chaotic flailing in the quicksand, resulting in sinking even faster than doing nothing at all. Result: Destructive; resulting in a faster death.
- Have you ever been so discouraged and unhappy in a life situation, but lacked the greater vision of what you really desired thus you frequently had outbursts towards those you love, even strangers?
→Determined anger, which focuses on a productive solution to your situation and thus, increases your energy needed for strength, stamina and more importantly your mind becomes extremely alert so you can rationally find a way out of the quicksand which results in saving your life. Result: Constructive; life renewed.
- Can you recall a time that you knew a change was needed whether to improve your health and well-being, change your financial situation, or even your relationship(s)? There had to come to a point that you were absolutely and unapologetically ready for a change that you decided to plan your next step leading you towards your desired goal.
We don’t give that emotion that ignites that drive much thought, but guess what? That focused emotion is usually anger. You felt it and used it productively in your favor. And at that moment something new and wonderful had occurred – Focused Mind Expansion
Focused Mind Expansion
In life, often before mind expansion is about to occur, anger is usually not far away since you are aware that you need to change your current life circumstance but are also unsure how to go about it. Much like being stuck in the imaginary quicksand.
Anger is often experienced by those who are ready for the boundlessness of mind expansion. However, some may feel this is counterproductive since many equate mind expansion to the new age idealism of unlimited and constant love.
Yet without anger, there would be no understanding of what love is. Much like with Yin and Yang. Anger though it can be destructive is also extremely constructive, but only if it is used to propel positive change.
Think about it.
If you find you are asking questions about your life that aren’t answered to your satisfaction, then you are on deck for inevitable change and growth— thus expansion. Though usually met with opposition as you strive to capture individual thought, this can also become your personal quicksand. How?
When you feel that the answers you are seeking are different than the preprogrammed answers society readily spews, and criticizes you for stepping outside the excepted lines of conformity. This often results in productive anger. However at first, it usually begins as frustrated suppression. Oh, and sadly guilt is usually a close companion too, but that’s another article.
Anger is not the enemy that must be avoided at all costs as anger is nothing more than your desire for change from some situation.
Feeling angry is natural and normal. It is a protective mechanism that serves as an alert when something is just not right, whether internal (feeling that you have been deceived, taken advantage of, or “wronged” for example) or external (feeling that you are trapped, or the need to protect yourself or a loved one).
Further, anger should always be short lived and should quickly dissipate once you begin the process of either expressing your feelings or making the changes necessary to find a solution to the cause of your anger. As hard as it may be at times, it is always best not to react quickly with underlying anger, but rather to allow yourself a moment (or longer) to calm down and respond in a more thoughtful manner.
It is important to take the time to acknowledge why something has occurred in the first place because if this is not done, the anger cannot be resolved.
However, anger that is based on assumptions is something else entirely and is always misguided and misplaced. When this occurs it is likely that your anger will continue to manifest long after the event that triggered such feelings has ended.
Perceived anger or frustration that is based on assumptions can, and often does, become chronic. But when it has gotten to the point of being chronic, it is actually no longer anger, because what once was anger has now morphed into something more sinister – FEAR. And wow! Talk about a full cycle!
At the root of chronic anger, there is always the fear of losing something, being wrongly deprived, rejected or betrayed. And if this is left unchecked, it now becomes something more than an emotional struggle, it now also becomes a physical one.
Living with chronic anger results in a depletion of vital nutrients and this can be detrimental to your health. Mainly due to the constant release of stress hormones. Here are a few common symptoms of chronic anger (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10):
- Increased blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Skin issues
- Heart attack
And frankly, this is a small list. And though I did link some studies, I do believe the physical response to anger, frustration, and stress is quite obvious especially when it becomes relentless. So what can we do?
I think it is important not to ignore or suppress anger but rather to make friends with your anger when you feel it. Be curious as to why you feel what you are feeling. And above all, don’t feel guilty for feeling angry about something.
All emotions have a place in our lives because they are our internal guides who help us navigate on our path of life. Think of it this way…anger means STOP, frustration & stress mean caution, and love means GO. Certainly, these signals are highly important when driving so why not use them on your own path of life?
The following activity is designed to help you get to the root cause of your anger and help you to understand why you feel angry and/or frustration and how you can begin to release it. To further help you get a feel for this activity, I will do the activity with you. My responses and extra commentary will be written in red.
- At any point in time that you feel angry, take a moment to pause – DO NOT REACT.
Of course, this is nothing new. We have all heard about counting backward from ten before reacting and it is extremely effective, so no sense recreating the wheel here. But there is something new that I will add. I found that if you can find a mirror when you are angry it is such a powerful visual as to what this emotion is doing to your body, your face and expression, your eyes and mouth (how tense do you appear?). Notice your shoulders (are they raised?) and your breathing pattern (is it shallow?)
- Take a moment to breathe deeply and relax your jaw, neck, and shoulders.
At this moment slow down your breathing and consciously say to yourself, “drop your shoulders.” I bet they dropped at least two to three inches! Gently rotate your head to relax your neck and open your mouth wide while sliding your bottom jaw slowly from side to side. Just doing this part of the activity will dramatically calm you.
To help you further relax, here are a few more simple physical exercises you can try any time throughout the day:
- Ask yourself, “How do I feel, right now?” Write or record your response (I like to record how I feel sometimes so that when I listen to it later, I can really hear the tension in my voice). This is when you begin your self-investigation. Answer this question with a specific emotion you are feeling. It may be obvious that you are feeling angry, for example, but it is important to acknowledge it especially to yourself. It’s amazing what skillful liars we can be regarding our own selves. So it’s important that you are totally honest in this moment. Also, if you are looking in a mirror (and again I highly recommend it), you can begin to notice what others see when they see you…or “feel when in your presence”. How many times has someone asked you, “what’s wrong with you?” despite your effort of trying to disguise your current mood? So in this step, simply determine how you feel, what emotion is it?
Immediately when you feel a shift in your mood it is the perfect time to ask yourself, “How do I feel, right now?” It always surprises me when out of the blue, I have a change in a mood for seemingly no apparent reason. Has this happened to you? When this happens it is usually due to your inner narrative about… something.
The other day I was drying my hair, feeling quite happy when all of a sudden, it happened. The shift! Conveniently I was already looking in the mirror so I had already begun the process of breathing and relaxing my shoulders, etc. As I was doing this, I asked myself, “How do I feel, right now?”
I felt angry. But why? Let’s continue with the activity.
For more tools to help you determine how you feel, right now, you may way to read, “How do you feel, right now? Learn How Your Emotions Are Your Personal Navigation System“
- Now that you have recognized the emotion, in this case, anger, then you are ready for the “why”. Ask yourself why you feel angry. There is always a reason and it usually is not the reason you think.
In my case when I asked myself why I all of sudden felt angry, my first thought was that I felt angry because I just finished creating, what I thought, was an amazing video. I was so excited because I added new techniques and effects that I had just learned! But when I shared what I had done with my partner, the response was less than stellar. I kind of felt like a blown up balloon deflating as it chaotically flies through the air as it rapidly deflates. Can you get the visual of that?
Moreover, she said that she would watch it that day. Okay, well the day passed…and when I anticipatedly asked if she watched it, the answer was “no, sorry. I was too busy.”
Needless to say this really bothered me! The words “too busy” echoed in my head…” too busy…too busy…too busy.” In fact, each time I replayed the words “too busy”, I got even angrier!
So as I was drying my hair, a passing thought about this scenario instantly changed my mood from one that was positive or neutral, to one that became negative.
- Allow yourself to acknowledge this emotion. Feel it, observe it. But DO NOT make an assumption and don’t attach a story to the emotion. Just simply allow the emotion to be. Now you are ready to define the emotion in more detail. You just determined why you think you feel the way you do so it’s time to ask yourself, “Is this a fact or am I assuming that it is?” After all, nothing is worse than getting all worked up over something only to later find out that you were wrong.
Now that I have recognized that I indeed had a mood shift and that my new mood was one of anger, I need to see if the reason is from outside myself or from within my own mind. We are all experts at making assumptions, and casting judgments aren’t we? For many, it is a favorite pastime, gossip anyone?
So, in order to get to the bottom of your new emotion, we need to find out if it is based in reality or not. The best way to determine this is by asking yourself if this is fact or is it an assumption?
In my case, I realized that I had made up an entire story and it went something like this. I felt my partner couldn’t care less about my video victory and really wanted to do anything she could to avoid watching it. I also felt that I was on her lowest priority list and getting to actually view the video was far from happening.
So that was my feeling behind the anger. Was it a fact or an assumption? In other words, did I know for a fact that she felt that way? Well, no. And the only thing that was a fact was that my assumption really was kind of silly. But that still didn’t stop my feeling of anger. So what more lies beneath that anger?
- Now it is time to determine the root cause of the anger by asking yourself some more questions, but here is a bit of a curveball, when answering these questions do not use the word “anger”, but instead, use the words fear or afraid. I have helped you out by putting the words side by side. Really take the time to think about your responses. This may not be as easy it appears.
I’ll use the following questions to help me figure out why I still feel the anger.
- What am I really angry/afraid of and why am I really experiencing anger/fear?
I am really afraid that I am not worth the time and I am experiencing fear because I lack self-confidence. Once I changed the anger to afraid/fear, I certainly got closer to the core of the problem. So in essence, I was angry at myself.
- What can I do so that I no longer feel this anger/fear?
Well let’s see, I think I can safely put the feeling of not being worth the time in the same category as low self-confidence or low self-esteem. But even this is merely a self-assumption and not truly based in fact. After all, anyone who tries new things, like a video, may feel uncomfortable and that is okay! Now that I began to feel better, I wondered if there was a better explanation as to why my partner didn’t watch my video?
- Am I in control of the situation that has resulted in this feeling of anger/fear or is it out of my control?
I love this question because how often do we get angry over something we “heard” other people say (could it merely be gossip?), on the news (is it actual news or simply commentary?), or read on some blog (well, it could be fact or fiction for any thousands of reasons).
Technologically, we are always in control of not the situation per se, but how we handle it. For starters, we can control whether we readily believe something, whether it is fact or assumption. And after that, anything that involves what another person thinks, feels, or does is in their control…not yours.
I realized that my anger actually was rooted in my belief that I was not good enough. That I needed approval in order to feel good about myself. And even more than that, and more importantly, I also wanted to dictate how my partner should react, what she should say, and the timeframe that she should respond.
How often do hold other people to such standards, standards that we, ourselves, find it hard to live up too? Furthermore, do they even know what your standards are? Or are you assuming that they do?
- What is the worst case scenario? Many times simply asking this question resolves the feeling because most situations are made worse within our own minds.
The worst case scenario in my case is, well, that she never watched my video. That is it! Hardly the end of the world. I mean seriously, there are so many other things that I could focus my attention on. Like creating another video!
Many of us have the uncanny ability to dramatize just about everything. At times it can even consume us, sucking all the positive emotions right out of our very soul! Okay, maybe that was a bit of a dramatic sentence, but you get what I mean. Though we are fantastic creators and storytellers, it is important to remember that sometimes the other person is unaware that they are playing a leading role in your story, and the only one how knows the script you have written for them… is you!
- What are some actionable steps I can take to release myself from this anger/fear?
I could certainly ask my partner why she hadn’t watched the video yet. Maybe she REALLY was too busy and not just trying to avoid watching it. Maybe she didn’t realize how much watching this video really meant to me. And maybe it was time for me to share my script with her or better yet, allow her to write her own.
But this was only the answer to the surface issue, my “anger”. The real issue was my lack of self-confidence. And I could go even further down the road (and this is highly encouraged for you to do so also – to ask more questions), why do I have a lack of self-confidence? The following list is what I came up with and it was quite revealing.
- Fear of rejection or abandonment
- Fear of being ridiculed, and thus not liked
- Fear of not being loved
All of that came from feeling anger about a video that was not watched. Interesting uh?
For more tools that deal with any of these issues, you may find the section on Self Empowerment (found in the side menu bar of this website) extremely helpful.
- And finally, after answering these questions, write a few sentences explaining how a particular event may have triggered anger (fear), and then a few sentences describing three positive outcomes from the event in question. I always find that counteracting anything that I perceive as a negative event with something positive resulted in an extremely therapeutic and calming feeling. And I get it. At times it may not seem like there is anything positive…but you know…there always is. 100 percent!
Let’s recap. I was angry because I felt I was not a priority and not worth the time. This was something that I constructed in my mind due to my own insecurities. Though there may be some truth to my partner not communicating to me why she couldn’t view the video on that day and perhaps she didn’t realize the importance of my excitement about the video. After all, in retrospect, I never explained that part either.
As I found out by simply asking myself a few questions (being curious about why I had a sudden change in mood), my anger wasn’t really about the video at all. It was about my hidden weaknesses, which now that I am aware of them it is easier to work on them. That is a positive thing!
Plus, this activity opened a new door for better communication with my partner! That is a positive thing too!
And lastly, for me, it is a relief to know that I am not this worthless and angry person and that there actionable steps that I can do to improve the entire situation. And that is probably the most positive outcome of all!
Some of the greatest changes you make in your life come from initial feelings of anger, but only when you become focused and determined (remember?) to turn that negative feeling into one that is positive and promotes growth and change, in other words – Focused Mind Expansion!
Here are a few more questions to ponder.
- When you felt anger, how often was it based solely on your assumptions? How big did you allow those assumptions to get before taming them? For more about assumptions, consider reading the article, “Are Your Assumptions Making You Sick?“
- When you explored the causes of your anger, how often was it directly related to a self-created protective mechanism? Why do you think this is?
- What is your greatest challenge when it comes to releasing anger/fear you feel towards other people? And is it really about them?
- What is your greatest challenge when it comes to releasing anger/fear you feel towards yourself?
As always, please feel free to leave any comments, questions or concerns. I’d love to hear from you!