Whenever I give an Anger Mastery class, I ask the participants to raise their hand if they believe it is possible to “get rid of” anger. Inevitably, many people raise their hand, accompanied by a laugh. I’ve learned that the laugh comes because they believe it is possible to “get rid of anger,” but they’ve never been successful at doing so!
What a relief I see when I inform them that it’s not possible to “get rid of anger.” Do you know why?
It’s widely recognized there are four main “parts” of human beings: body, emotion, mind and spirit. These comprise the “basic equipment” which we all have—at least from the moment of our birth (many studies indicate these are part of us from before birth).
Our body is formed through nine fast-developing months in the maternal womb. We emerge at birth with a head, torso, arms, legs, hands, feet and internal organs—a body! With our first breath, we come into the world, physical. Over time, we learn to identify our body as “us,” in fact.
Our emotions appear to be present at birth (that first cry!), but certainly become a full-fledged part of us by the age of two. Temper tantrums, a fear of monsters and fears of separation are all connected to the fact that a little person is engaging the task of getting dominion over these pesky emotional energies that are very difficult to control when you are new to the earth.
Our intellectual capacities move to the forefront starting the seventh year of life, even though our brains have long been busy learning about the earth, language and how to operate our bodies. We can all agree that mind/brain begins at least at birth, and starts a real growth spurt at the age of seven. Mind can be seen as a larger thing than “brain,” but including “brain.”
Many people also accept that Spirit is fully present in children at birth. In fact, they’re often called “little angels!”
Depending upon your own spiritual belief (or absence of same), we have many different ideas regarding Spirit. Most people, however, do acknowledge that there is something “larger than myself”—which is a way to describe Spirit—and that we all seem to be connected to it in some way.
What does all this mean regarding emotions? It means that the reason we can’t “get rid of” anger (and other emotions) is because they are part of who we are, at least from birth! Emotions are energy, invisible to the eye. You could sooner get rid of your left hand than get rid of any emotion!
Ah, but anger is a pesky emotion that seems to do nothing but create trouble. Certainly all of us have at one time or another wished we didn’t have anger! And now you’re being told that this is an impossibility. Anger is a part of who you are.
One of my favorite concepts is facing fact
Although I asked my psychotherapy clients to Face Fact for many years, I had no name for it until I attended a lecture by an Indian yogi, Dr. Kaushik, who said the way to freedom was to Face Fact. Look squarely at things, not at what you’ve been told, what you hope for, or what you attempt to force. We may not like the fact that anger is part of us; but the fact is that anger is along for the duration of our lives!
When we Face Fact, accepting that anger is part of who we are as human beings, what then? We realize we must learn to work with anger, rather than ignore, castigate, hide, or feel bad about experiencing it. Our job is not to get rid of anger; our job is to learn to work with it and then let it go! When we do this job masterfully, listening to and directing anger’s energy as we wish, finishing with anger and allowing it to go on its way—harmlessly—we can call ourselves an Anger Master.
How do we get finished with anger?
We allow it to do its job and then go on its way.
As we’ve seen, anger’s job is to draw our attention to incorrect pictures we hold about how things are “supposed to be” in the world. When anger comes up, it gets our attention. We can feel its energy. Once we do, we have options, such as blasting the anger out toward someone else or stopping to examine which of our own “shoulds” have been violated.
If we choose the “blast” option, we temporarily relieve the pressure of anger’s energy and feel better for a time. Slowly, however, the energy rebuilds, until we experience another outburst. This pattern just repeats, over and over again, without significant change.
If we choose the stopping to examine our “shoulds” option, we can learn what the internal picture is that has been violated and give ourselves another choice—to change or not change that picture! If we don’t change it, we will continue to be angered by the same types of violation. If we do change it, we move into new territory, no longer vexed by anger stimulated by that type of violation. Repeatedly choosing this option, fewer violations are experienced, resulting in less provocation to anger. We are more flexible. Life becomes more peaceful.
The next time you feel anger arise in you: Face Fact. Anger is here for a reason. It wants you to pay attention. It is inviting you to change. It will not stop inviting you. You have a choice of either accepting the invitation, making change, or not. If you don’t, you’ll get angry over and over and over again about this same type of thing. If you do, you can get finished with anger over this type of thing, and be free to move on to other things in life!
Which do you choose for your life?