The Nature of Anger


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Excerpt From The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life by Kevin B. Burk_

Many of us have some very definite ideas about anger. We see anger as destructive and hurtful. We consider it to be an inappropriate response. We equate anger with violence. In short, we feel that anger is simply wrong, and that when we experience anger, there’s something wrong with us. Anger isn’t nice. Anger isn’t polite. And anger certainly isn’t our friend.

Anger can be all of these things. But anger is also useful, necessary and even healing. We need our anger. We simply need to learn how to express our anger in appropriate, conscious, supportive ways. On its own, anger is neither good nor bad. It can be used to hurt, or it can be used to heal. It may not be a particularly pleasant emotion, but it’s an important one. We can all benefit from exploring the nature of anger.

Guy Williams, a friend of mine who also happens to be a minister of Religious Science offers a tremendously insightful approach for understanding anger. Guy says that anger arises from a communication not delivered or an expectation not met. Anger is actually a tertiary response: our initial responses are grief and fear. First, we grieve the death of the expectation that was not met. Next, we fear that things will never change. Finally, we experience anger.

So few of us recognize that anger can be a positive, healing response. When we allow ourselves to experience anger, it focuses our minds, and strengthens our resolve. We discover reserves of strength and power. Our anger is what gives us the courage and the power to confront our fear that things will never change, by creating change.

Let’s consider an example. We expect that our boundaries will be respected by others. When someone crosses a boundary, that expectation has not been met. The first thing we do is grieve the death of the expectation that other people will respect our boundaries. We feel unsafe because our boundary has been violated. But we also experience fear. We’re afraid that things will never change: that our boundaries will not protect us because other people will not honor them. Our anger, however, is what allows us to change this. Our anger gives us the strength to defend ourselves. Our anger gives us the power and the courage to stand up and demand that our boundaries be respected. Our anger, in fact, enables us to feel safe again. Expressing our anger helps us to redefine and reinforce our boundaries. We know we can defend ourselves, and therefore we feel safe.

When we don’t express our anger in healthy, conscious ways, we buy into the fear that things will never change. We feel unsafe. More importantly, we expect that we will always feel unsafe. Unexpressed anger inevitably turns to resentment and depression.

Anger is our call to awareness. Our anger encourages us to become conscious of a limiting belief. The key to experiencing anger in a healing way is to own our anger. We can then choose how to express our anger. We do not need to lash out, nor do we need to hurt anyone with our anger. Instead, we can choose to alter our thinking, change the limiting belief, and reclaim another piece of our true selves. When we embrace and understand the true nature of anger, anger can empower us, and help us to feel truly safe.

Kevin B. Burk is the author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.

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