Be patient with anger to learn what’s behind it

Anger can be as explosive as lightning, but far more damaging.

“One moment of patience can ward off a great disaster. One moment of impatience can destroy your whole life.”

I have never forgotten these words from a Chinese fortune cookie. They sum up how I feel about the destructive release of anger.

Anger often arises from negative self-talk. It can be expressed when others fail to meet our expectations; something goes wrong; we feel powerless; and when we have no personal boundaries to stop others walking over us like a doormat.

We may enter marriage or a relationship expecting domestic bliss, only to have our repressed childhood emotions revealed in angry outbursts. When the cause of our anger is not resolved, tension builds up within and, like a pressure cooker, we constantly let off steam.

By refusing to take responsibility for our feelings, we blame others. But each time we make statements like: He or she or it “makes me feel, makes me think, or makes me do”…we have given away our power to change our lives for the better.

We can appear to be the victim of circumstance, but the truth is that we made conscious and unconscious choices to think the way we do. We are the creators of our own reality. At any point in our lives we have the power to change the way we think, and create a new reality.

By releasing anger in verbally abusive or violent ways, we don’t stay with the feelings long enough to get to the cause.

When we shout at another for not meeting our expectations, do we ever stop to consider whether these expectations are realistic, or whether we are expecting others to fulfil needs we refuse to meet ourselves?

Anger often precedes depression. It is a clue that something needs to be resolved. When anger starts to boil within, take time out to be alone with it and feel the feelings that come up. Ask yourself what you are really angry about, or who you are really angry with.

Each time I do this I invariably find that I am angry with myself, and that underlying this anger may be anxiety or worry or a variety of other negative emotions.

After peeling off many layers, I find fear. It may be fear of failure, fear of rejection, or fear of not being good enough. I ask myself, “Where has this fear come from?” Often it is buried in repressed childhood trauma.

When I remain quiet with my anger and allow it to show me what really needs to be released, I no longer experience the loss of control that has ruined friendships and relationships in the past.

Instead I feel freer and more at peace with myself. My life is more balanced and I flow more in harmony with each experience and event, allowing it to teach me so that I may gain wisdom.

First published in the Ballarat News, March 9, 1994

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