What’s your relationship to anger?
Is it something to avoid? Discourage? Suppress?

For most of us, anger has not traditionally been met with a whole lot of empathy. As children, our anger may well have been painful for our parents or those around us, and as a result, we learnt that anger was an unacceptable feeling, and one that had to be hidden, or denied.

Yet anger, like all feelings, is just energy. It’s what we do with that energy that can become a problem.

We can choose to see anger as a natural and necessary, important piece of information for us, and allow it to reveal to us which underlying needs are not being met.

Because anger is most often an expression of feeling powerless in the face of unmet needs. The energy of anger is potent. It provides us with a big dose of galvanising power. It can feel good – and it can be addictive!

How can we come into a healthier relationship with our anger? How can we begin to move out of the reactive space that triggers us into the old patterns of fight, flight or freeze?

Firstly, recognising that when we feel that flash of anger, it’s an indication of an unmet need.

Then, notice how the anger quickly takes us into our Story. Our amygdala very quickly hijacks our ability to think well, so it takes a lot of practice to stay calm in those moments.

Daily practice of grounding, or mindfulness helps us to grow the neurons in our cerebral cortex that allow us to regulate the amygdala response. Over time, we get better at choosing a different way of acting on our anger.

Ideally, this means turning inwards and reflecting on our unmet needs. Leaving the triggering situation may be the best response initially. Taking the time to reflect and identify our unmet needs allows us to be present with ourselves and our pain, opens the heart, and allows self compassion and empathy to emerge.

Then, we are in a position to respond to the triggering situation with the empathy, kindness and understanding necessary to shift it. We can also ask for what we need from any others involved, and open the space for an authentic connection with others.

To summarise:

  1. Anger is a great warning sign of unmet needs
  2. Daily practice of grounding/mindfulness is essential to stop us getting reactive
  3. Take the time to reflect, open your heart to yourself and the underlying pain, then choose your response.