Anger: How Anger Signals Us to Change

Anger is an amazing emotion, totally dedicated to getting us to change, so we have a smoother-functioning, happier life!

Recall that the function of emotions is to provide “signals,” helping us make the most effective, good-for-us choices and actions. Love, for example, “signals” us to “come closer.” When we do, love’s energy is exchanged; we feel great and more connected with others.

In my last post, I talked about why anger won’t leave us alone.

Here’s part of that post:

“Anger is such a really good friend. It doesn’t leave you alone. You came to this earth to grow and change; that was your part in “asking” anger to help you see where you hold incorrect pictures about “how things are” in this world. Anger doesn’t leave you alone; it never leaves you. Anger takes every opportunity to point out the things you need to notice, work with and change.”

Let’s talk now about incorrect pictures

Every person, in the first years of life, figures out “how things are” in their world.

“How do fingers and thumb work together?” What happens if I scream and yell whenever I’m unhappy?

”What’s the best way to work out problems? What happens if I don’t stand in line and wait my turn? What does Mom need from me? What does Dad do if I don’t listen?”

Hundreds of thousands of questions/events we explore, searching for answers. These answers are catalogued in the brain for later use. We hold them in the form of “shoulds.” For example: “I should not scream when I am unhappy because Mom gets mad!”

Everyone holds “shoulds” and “should nots” in their brains, regardless of external circumstances, such as race, religion, color, culture or social position. Sometimes these factors (including our birth order) affect what our “shoulds” are about.

We all hold “shoulds” and “should nots,” which, universally create the framework for us to feel angry about things.

How does this work?

I believe “You’re my partner, so when you come home from work you should greet me before you do anything else. If you don’t, I’ll get angry.”

I believe “You’re my partner, so when you come home from work you should not talk to me immediately. You should take time, decompress, and then talk. If you talk right away, I’ll get angry.”

For every human being, anger results when the ideas/beliefs we hold in our head about how things are supposed to be (shoulds and should nots) are violated. If we think/believe something “should” happen, and it doesn’t—or that it “should not” happen and it does—anger results. This I call The Universal Cause of Anger.

To demonstrate, take time right now to jot down what you have felt angry about this week. Once noted, “translate” the anger into “should” and “should not” terms. Everything that has led you to anger can be put into this form. When we get angry, the world and its inhabitants are not conforming to our ideas/beliefs about how things are supposed to be!

Here’s the amazing thing: If our pictures/ideas were correct, they COULD NOT BE VIOLATED! Think about it. If it were true that partners should always greet their at-home partners first thing, this pattern could never be challenged. If it were true that partners should not greet their at-home partners until they decompressed, this pattern could never be changed.

These ideas are true to us, not to the world! Anger is giving us vital feedback.

The particular picture/idea we hold of how the world is supposed to be is incorrect. Anger is serving the fantastic function of showing us where we need to update our picture/idea of how things are supposed to be in the world!

At first, this may not seem earth-shaking. But think about it. Inside of you, constantly available, is something that tells you immediately when your beliefs/ideas need to be updated! Your “best friend,” anger, is constantly whispering (or shouting!) feedback to you about changes you can make to help you function more seamlessly and happily in your life!

Isn’t that amazing?

Start observing when you feel anger arising in you. Jot it down in your Anger Journal, then translate into “shoulds” and “should nots”. You’ll discover patterns for the anger you feel. When you rewrite your “shoulds” (discussed later), you can changes these patterns.

Also, teach yourself to refrain from using the term my anger. Every time our subconscious mind hears something repeated, it learns new “shoulds.” “This anger should be mine to keep!” your subconscious mind hears. Really? Do you want to do that to yourself? If not, decide to say “the anger I feel,” “the anger that came up,” or “the anger stimulated in me,” instead. As you do, anger will more easily move through you and away, which occurs when we truly forgive. (More about why we want to forgive fully in a later post.)

The first Step to Making Change is to “observe and accept” what we are doing. As you observe yourself experiencing anger, accept that this is the way you are—for now. No judgment! Then you’ll be freer to turn it loose, for good.

Next time, we’ll talk about how complicated it is to work effectively with anger. If you’d like to have your anger issue highlighted in these posts, write to me at You can get a lot of help by offering your own situation. I look forward to hearing from you!

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