It takes a very small amount of empathy and compassion to recognize that if someone is getting angry, then very often, something is wrong. Yet we so often miss this point—even when relating to the people close to us.
We often miss the point because of an underlying belief we have about anger being “wrong” or “bad.”
Just a short while ago, during my visit to a spiritual community, I had a potent exchange with one of the leaders that highlighted the importance of restructuring our relationship to anger – especially amongst spiritual people.
Prior to this exchange, I had just received some very difficult news and I was trying to figure out what to do with it. I went to her for help and guidance. She was not giving me the type of answers that would help or even a compassionate response, and I began to get irritated.
With all of the veiled condescension that is only possible from a person who has put their emotions in quarantine, she said, “I can sense you are getting angry.” Of course I was angry—and confused, and a little afraid. I’d just had my world rocked. How was saying this and not acknowledging my distress in service of resolution? How was this a spiritually mature response?
It felt much more like a shame-based technique born in a sense of moral superiority than a helping hand. Of course, it was never her responsibility to relieve my distress but it was unnecessary to add to it through implying my feelings were somehow wrong.
Anger is not something to be gotten rid of. In fact, one of the most problematic aspects of dealing with anger is the faux spiritual belief that anger is a sign of lack of spiritual development.
Like all emotions, anger is essential. Anger is part of the navigation system of our emotions. Without it, we are left traveling with only a partial map. Anger can help us know to protect those we love or ourselves. It can show us when we are in danger. It can convey the very important message that enough is enough.
Overall, our anger shows us that something we consider important is being threatened.
We are wise to pay attention and see what this is.
Each day, we can experience disrespect, mistreatment, and boundary violations. For some of us, this is much more common than it is for others. Is the highest and best response to this truly a complete absence of anger? Or, is it simply a more productive relationship to our anger?
In our interpersonal relationships, we can struggle with challenges such as meeting our needs versus the needs of those we care about. We can feel like we give too much and haven’t gotten enough in return. Or, we can feel betrayed when someone close to us does something we never thought they would do.
All of these situations can at times produce feelings of anger.
It is possible to do some soul searching when facing these situations and because of this feel less anger and more understanding. This an extremely important piece of navigating the fields of anger—learning to see things differently, letting go of past hurts, expressing ourselves more constructively.
In short, becoming more skillful in dealing with our anger.
However, it is also important to embrace anger in ourselves and others and see it as the powerful rich resource that it is. Anger has some powerful lessons for us, and not all of them are about how to experience it less.
When we pay attention to it in ourselves, we learn our motives and our values. Sometimes, we might learn that we are protecting something that we no longer want to protect. Sometimes, we learn that we have not been protecting something that we need to. Either way, in these ways and in others, our anger informs us.
When we pay attention to the anger of others, we learn what is most important to them. We can see where they are most delicate. Their anger can show us where they are hurting or where they have been hurt. Empathy and compassion allow us to see past the anger and address the issue at hand—which is quite often not, solely, their lack of ability to express their anger effectively.
To embrace the teachings of anger, we do not need to put ourselves in harm’s way. When we face someone else’s anger, we must carefully discern how to care for ourselves as well as the other person There are those people who have such wells of anger that they become dangerous. Or, people who are in so much pain that we need to save ourselves rather than stick around to offer understanding. Learning how to care for ourselves as well as, potentially, another hurt person is one of the skills of working with anger.
Very likely, we have also, at some point, misused our anger or expressed it in a way that was particularly destructive. It benefits us to question ourselves and our intentions, but not to the point of shaming ourselves for our emotions. We simply need to be accountable.
When we misuse our anger, regardless of how well we are able to justify our position, it takes away a little of our light. Somewhere inside, we know that we have crossed a line and become the transgressor. This robs us of our power and can leave us more strongly justifying our position to escape the reality that we have created.
This is an example of how our anger can sometimes lead us astray.
Whether we are learning how to make space for anger, create healthier boundaries around it, or express it more cleanly, anger is a potentially powerful teacher and ally.
Anger is a fire. Fire can purify, transform, and destroy.
Fire can also create.
The anger that we feel can also inform us in such a way that it shows us what we or another person wants rather than only what we do not want. It can be used like fuel to create alternative ways of handling the problem at hand.
There are no easy answers when it comes to this powerful emotion. We cannot safely ignore or repress it. We cannot simply let it run wild.
The result that we get from an expression of our anger is powerful. It can liberate and can kill—sometimes both at the same time. The powerful impact of this emotion is in our hands and at its best is paired with soul-searching questions versus spiritual pabulum—questions that need to be asked with curiosity and respect as well as the desire to create something different.
In the end, we find the answers about how to learn from, and wield, our anger in the best possible ways from our healed and loving heart. It is here that we can hear its divine wisdom. It is here that we can use its fuel to create more of what we want in our lives.
For more about anger and safe expression of it, check out my post here >>> “What’s ANGER got to do with it? Negative Emotions and the Lower Self.”
Self-confidence seems to be such a slippery thing to hold on to, as it can be heavily impacted by our environment, our experiences, and the feedback we receive from others. If only there was a self-confidence vitamin we could take every morning…
Fortunately, there is a simple system to gaining and maintaining your self-confidence, and you can add it into your daily self-care routine, right along with those other vitamins! Are you ready for the secret to self-confidence? It is having greater self-awareness – being aware of how you think, feel and act – and it has four important components:
The first step in creating greater self-awareness is to know yourself. Do you pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and actions? This is absolutely essential, because you can’t change what you don’t notice.
As you move through your day, listen to your thoughts. Are they mostly positive and productive, or do you have a lot of self-criticism or other mental chatter running through your head? You may even want to carry a small notebook around with you to record your most commonly recurring thoughts.
Our feelings are highly accurate barometers of how well we are taking care of ourselves. Feelings can be triggered by our thoughts, our experiences, and our interactions with others. Notice your moods throughout the day (again, you may want to record this in your notebook), so you can get a clear picture of your emotional ups and downs – and, most importantly, what caused them.
Finally, take a good look at your actions. Do your actions support your goals, or do you find yourself distracted with trivial activities or procrastinating getting the important things done? Consider using your handy notebook to make a list of absolutely everything you do during one 24-hour period (and how much time you spend doing it). You may be amazed at how much time and energy is lost in optional or non-essential activities.
The second step in creating greater self-awareness is to understand yourself. When you take the time to notice and know your thoughts, feelings and actions, you will begin to see patterns of beliefs and behaviors. Once you recognize these patterns, it is important to explore how they were created and how they may be limiting and restricting you, rather than supporting you.
Review your list of your most common negative thoughts, and see if you can remember when they first began to appear. Perhaps you can remember a specific event in your childhood that created this thought pattern, or perhaps a particular set of thoughts sound just like your mother or father… Understanding the origin of your thought patterns and beliefs can be a powerful first step to realizing that they are not serving you and figuring out what you need to do to break free from their spell.
The only way to understand your feelings is to allow yourself to feel them – without judging, stuffing or denying them. When you feel a strong emotion, remind yourself that it is okay to feel this way. Then ask yourself what is underneath the emotion. Perhaps your feelings are trying to draw your attention to an unmet need or some unresolved pain from the past. Discovering why you feel a particular emotion helps you to understand yourself and ultimately take better care of yourself.
You may want to review your 24-hour activity list, paying extra attention to those activities that could be considered an unproductive use of your time, energy and focus. What excuses, explanations or justifications did you tell yourself to make it “okay” to choose these activities over something else? What kind of motivation, support or resources would have made a difference in helping you make healthier or more productive choices? Understanding how and why you select which actions you take throughout your day will help you to remain more conscious (and conscientious) about your activities.
The third step in creating greater self-awareness is to accept yourself. As you gain a greater understanding of your thoughts, feelings and actions, it becomes easier to lessen your self-judgments and become more self-compassionate. Accept yourself for who and how you are in the moment, know that you don’t have to be perfect, and maintain a steady momentum of personal development to bring you even closer to your ideal you.
It can be challenging to quiet negative mental chatter and focus your thoughts in more healthy directions. Don’t beat yourself up when you get into a mental funk – that’s just creating more criticism and judgment! Instead, take a deep breath and redirect your attention to more constructive thoughts. Since your brain can only hold one thought at a time, you may want to create a list of affirmations or positive statements to say out loud or silently to yourself to replace any negativity.
Give yourself permission to notice and feel your feelings, and be gentle with yourself when you feel vulnerable. Notice if you need support in expressing and releasing your emotions and find a healthy way to get that support, whether it is with friends and family, your spiritual community, counseling, or another resource.
Choose your actions wisely. Seek a balance between productive activities that will bring you closer to your goals, and recreational activities that will nurture and energize you. Reward yourself when you do something spectacular or achieve a big goal, and forgive yourself if you have a frustrating or unproductive day.
The fourth step in creating greater self-awareness is to love yourself. When you choose to accept yourself, rather than judge yourself, it’s easier to notice your good qualities and celebrate your successes. You’ll grow to like the person you are, and then one day you’ll wake up and realize that you’re in love with your life and yourself!
Your thoughts will be loving and supportive, and you will have a much more positive outlook. Your emotions will flow freely, and you will feel comfortable expressing your wants and needs. Your actions will be in alignment with your goals and dreams, and you will feel empowered to live your life to the fullest.
When you know yourself, understand yourself, accept yourself, and love yourself, you will naturally be more self-confident. Incorporate these four steps into your daily routine, and you will be amazed at how much better you feel about yourself and the world around you!
Shannon Lee, The Stuck Spot Remover, is the Director of the Self-Awareness Institute and the founder of Inner Harmonies. Shannon is a personal growth expert with over 20 years of experience in helping people to identify and overcome their obstacles to happiness, success and well-being. Visit her website at www.SelfAwarenessInstitute.com