For a while now I am planning to start writing about emotions. Looking at them for what they really are and what they want to tell us. What is their purpose, their function and how do we generate them. How do they look and feel – and what happens, when they are not being heard.
And most importantly, how can we work with them on our path towards living an authentic life.
The word “emotion” is based on the Latin word “ moving out” and indeed, anger seems to be a visceral reaction. Something that appears to be coming out of the inner depth of our being, rising quickly and erupting in a sense of rage, carrying away everything that is in the way.
Anger is a formidable energy. It is pure life force, erupting and enabling us to go beyond the limitations of our mind and body in terms of running for our life – or take up the fight. Anger is what keeps as alive and evolving as a species. Anger is nature’s means for survival.
Physiologically anger is related to the stress-hormones noradrenalin and adrenalin. They are by itself not the cause of anger, but they prepare and enable the body to accommodate that rush of energy, that goes along with a stress-reaction.
The organ associated with anger is the liver. The liver is the powerhouse of the body, responsible for the free flow of energy and feelings. Anger itself is the feeling of contraction, it is the feeling of building pressure, boiling over, a force lashing out against real or perceived boundaries and barriers.
So this is giving us already some indication. First of all, anger seems to be a rush of life energy – but it is not flowing freely, it is roaring through a system in resistance. Just feel into yourself when you sense that formidable energy rising – this is creative energy, but it cannot flow freely, because it’s pathway is contracted.
But anger is also a secondary emotion – a reaction to another emotion. Anger can be based on fear or sadness. Sometimes there are several layers of different emotions conditioning each other. I may experience rage, but if I stay with this energy, than I may find fear beyond that. And if I stay with the fear, that may lead me to a sensation of sadness. All old conditionings. some from an early age, when something has happened, that we could not comprehend or manage at the time. It is still in the body, even if the mind is trying to forget all about it, or rationalises and understands on an intellectual level, that may be in disconnect with the emotional memory.
In general we can say, anger is the sense of “ I do not want that”. A thought – or a situation – may cause me to close up, or go into resistance and the energy of defending myself leads to the dynamic, outward moving energy of anger.
So lets see what are the reasons anyone can get angry.
I think the most important aspect of anger is the perceived sense of losing control. Anger has so much to do with survival and the loss of power can be perceived as threatening. That may be in a real dangerous situation, like being attacked by someone, or it is facing an imagined threat to lose one’s integrity. Given that most of us live in fairly stable and peaceful surroundings, real threats may not be so frequent. So we have to look at what it means to us getting mad at something.
Losing control is a direction to inquire. What is it that I am reacting to ? Maybe it is someone behaving in a way that threatens my position of power or something that undermines me, my credibility, but also my sense of integrity or identity.
We can get very angry if someone challenges who we are and how we choose to see ourselves. Just observe yourself in conversation, or reading the exchanges of others. What about your reaction towards anyone acting in an unfamiliar way, or when being exposed to a strange culture. The integrity and validity of tribal laws fall into this category. In order to survive, the members of the tribe must conform, to keep the tribe strong and unified. If someone falls outside of what is considered
Another reason of getting angry is not wanting to change, being lazy and sluggish. To see someone succeed, achieve something or excel at a skill, calls forward a whole range of feelings that originate in anger. Passive aggressiveness, Jealousy, sarcasm, slandering, rage, bullying…all emotions being rooted in a fear of being left behind and the desire to disparage some one’s perceived superiority.
And then there may be the sense of “ I deserve it” or feeling entitled to a certain treatment or benefit. Frequent flyer programs work on this principle and you just have to observe the subtle or not so subtle glee of those with the highest privileges – and the envy of those who have to stand in line.
So this is just a few examples to give you an idea about the energy of anger and it’s many faces expressed as emotions. Either as primary energy of fight or flight, or the higher organised emotion of jealousy, envy, frustration or contempt – the energy of anger is the means of defense.
But at times, anger may be hidden under layers of fear and may not be perceived as such. There may be inner conflicts boiling under the surface, largely unnoticed by the paralysing and anesthetic qualities of fear. This is called suppressed anger and this is dangerous for our health. Symptoms and disease associated with anger or blocked creativity are hypertension, migraine, skin disease, eye disorders, rheumatic arthritis, pms and depression, just to name the most important. To find and address the cause of anger allows to greatly improve these symptoms.
All these variances of anger are based on a state of resistance. Meeting the emotion of anger in a state of openness and acceptance gives us an opportunity to discover creative energy itself. Indeed, it its the same energy and exploring emotions will sooner or later bring us to a level where we meet this force. It then is up to us, if we continue to live in resistance. or open up to the opportunity to allow life flowing through us freely, becoming the tool of creation.
Wonderful insights, Michaela. It seems I have experienced each form of anger very recently in my life situation. And I am getting better at remembering to ‘go into the feeling’ when it arises and consciously experience it within my body and mind. This is so helpful.
I am beginning to feel another ‘release’ within. Challenges are becoming easier and when I begin to ‘criticize’ myself for still having so-called ‘negative’ thoughts and emotions, I realize this is okay and I feel much more Love and Compassion for myself. There is a softening happening. The kinder I am with myself, the kinder I feel towards ‘others’. I don’t want to rush it however. I feel there is still work to be done on that level, but it’s so nice to experience a sense of peace of being on the right path. Lighter…………….ahhhh.
Yes, anger has many faces….
And indeed, emotions are just felt energies. Just sensing them, being with them without judging, allows them to be what they are – the language of the body.
The softening is great….
If I am correct scientists still don’t really agree what comes first; Emotion or thought.
About two years ago I was coaching a few people with PTSD and therefore read some books about extreme emotions like fear. I don’t recall much of it (most was above my understanding) but I do remember that I found the neurological view very interesting. When the technical possibilities improve neurobiology might be able to give us some amazing insights in the future when it comes to the human brain.
Emotions are very complex. Some emotions – fear, anger – are primary and rise without “though”, others are more fragmented.
What is important for us is that emotions are the language of the body. If we follow our emotions and feelings, they lead us to what we have to acknowledge and let go. More often than not, one has to learn to be aware of emotions again. This is important to deepen the process of awakening.
PTSD is basically a condition that leads to the shutting off of disturbing, or strong emotions. Victims of PTSD often have several “personalities”, but are not aware of them. This is different from a psychosis, it is a mental mechanism to protect the sense of “I am in control”.
We do not understand much of the human brain. It has a much greater capacity as we are using right now.
Thank you Michaela, your piece, above, and your further comments are most helpful.
Interesting point about the human brain! So much mental energy is consumed in often compulsive emotional thinking, repetitious, as ET points out, and so interfering with the free development of thought or creativity.
Thank you Michaela that was very helpful. I have a hard time identifying anger within me. I found your comments about PTSD most interesting and makes some things
much clearer to me.
Looking forward to more on emotions. I would be interested in how mood alters
perception and influences emotions. Where does mood come from? Is it just brain chemicals?
Thank you Michaela that was really helpful. I was most interested in what you said about PTSD. I look forward to hearing more.
Your article was very helpful to me. The more I learn about it, the less fear I have of it’s power over me.
What is the difference between anger and rage?
Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge with us. Dawn
There are many degrees of anger…
Annoyance may be the mildest form, but rage is the most intense. It is an adrenaline rush..but also other hormones are involved.