Ever beaten up a pillow? Ever driven to an empty parking lot and screamed your head off? Ever swallowed a wad of anger only to feel sick to your stomach afterwards?
Anger exists. It is a natural emotion and one from which we can run but never hide. Eventually, it will catch up to us. In the meantime, both suppressing and/or overindulging it can actually do irreversible damage to the body’s systems, verified by studies done at both Boston and Columbia Universities.
Depression, anxiety, heart problems, IBS, addictions even cancer all have a relationship with anger.
We all get angry. No one is above anger. Not even the Dalai Lama:
“You never stop getting angry about small things. In my case, it’s when my staff do something carelessly, then my voice goes high. But after a few minutes, it passes.”
The important thing is to recognize signs of anger early, admit them, and face them…without judgment. It isn’t easy to do. Often, our minds are jumping on such negative emotions, convincing us we don’t feel what we actually do…or that we shouldn’t. So what are some signs that anger is arising? Look for:
- Tension in the jaw or neck or gut
- Changes in the tone or volume of your voice
- Shutting others out
- Sarcasm or passive aggressive behaviors
- Feeling hot “under the collar”
- Craving an addiction
There’s no question that anger is a strong force. It can make us very uncomfortable whether we are on the giving or receiving end of it. It is an emotion very tied into childhood experiences, the self-image we work to maintain, the stories our minds tell, and the truth about how we feel about ourselves. Many of us have been brought up to believe that anger is a bad thing to be avoided at all costs. We’re constantly lambasted with moral ideas of anger being a base emotion that benefits no one, that it is something to overcome. Perhaps it is, but the overcoming of it takes hard work.
To put it quite simply, people deal with anger in one of 2 ways: they hold it in, either conscicously or unconsiously or they let it out, either consciously or unconsciously. Generally, it’s usually the unconscious variety! We stuff our feelings of anger so as not to destroy that “nice person” self image we’ve constructed or to keep from hurting others, but what often results is self-inflicted stress. On the other hand, if we act out our anger, we very often do so with unnecessary aggression or even violence. Obviously, that serves no one. Where’s the middle ground?
Some would say that we need to practice the mindful approach to anger: we need to be aware when we are angry and watchful of our response to it. From my own experience, I don’t think mindfulness is enough. We also have to find safe passage for the energy of anger so it can be expressed and released safely. If we don’t, that energy accumulates, and we’re left with the building blocks of frustration and eventual illness.
Anger doesn’t have to be scary or throw us off balance. In fact, the energy of anger can be used productively and constructively. Various tools for helping us do just that exist. Yoga, specifically kundalini yoga, offers some very powerful techniques for allowing, accepting, expressing and transmuting anger. With our anger in check, we can then genuinely work toward cultivating more enlightened states of being like compassion and equanimity. Sure we can cultivate those things without addressing our anger, but the anger will be there, under the surface, undermining you and shading your vibe.
Do you have outdated ideas about anger that may be affecting your health? Need a new tool for dealing more constructively with the energy of anger? Here’s a video of a powerful kundalini yoga kriya for cooling the flames of anger: