Episode 64: Is Anger Bad?

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Humans have the exhilarating experience of emotions. We get to feel a range of emotions that help guide us in the right direction. Unfortunately, society has labeled some emotions as good and others as bad. This isn’t true. Emotions are neutral, and our reaction to them can land in the positive or negative column. Anger is an emotion we are often encouraged to suppress, but why? Let’s discuss how anger is quite valuable for our soul’s evolution!

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IS ANGER BAD?

THE IMPORTANCE OF ANGER

Anger is integral to our human experience, yet society has long held that some emotions are good and others are bad. We are taught to prefer some emotions over others. Happiness, joy, and excitement are encouraged and celebrated, while sadness and anger are suppressed and avoided.

When we are taught to hide our anger, we can form a very unhealthy relationship with that emotion and block ourselves from finding solutions to the problems that evoked the anger in the first place. All emotions, even anger, are meant to be embraced like a child. The purpose of anger is to signal that something is wrong and that we must address it.

Anger tells you that you are not safe and that there’s something you need to look at.

EMOTION VERSUS BEHAVIOR

Anger is an emotion that is perfectly okay to have. It's healthy to experience anger. Aggression, violence, and hostility are behaviors that anger can invoke in someone. What's not okay is to allow your anger to become a behavior that inflicts hostility or violence on another person. You can feel the emotion without allowing it to become a harmful behavior.

Emotion is simply an emotion that's neither good nor bad. It's a signal that something is going on that has made you feel unsafe or unsteady, and you need to do something to move back into a place of safety. Anger tells you there's an injustice, and you must protect the body from harm.

It's important to differentiate the emotion of anger from the behaviors that can present when we feel angry.

ANGER AS A TEACHING TOOL

When we experience anger, it can be a teaching tool for ourselves and others. For example, if my toddler hits me, I might feel anger rise inside me. It hurts! The anger felt is my body telling me to protect myself. However, the anger does not ask me to retaliate, but to teach my child that hitting when angry is not the appropriate response.

We can also use this to teach other adults in our lives boundaries. Suppose someone cuts you in line after you’ve been waiting patiently. In that case, it’s healthy to feel the emotion of anger and use it to communicate to the person that they are crossing appropriate boundaries by stepping in front of you. Anger is the natural response to any injustice and gives us a chance to assert our worth in those situations.

It is okay for you to use your voice to express a boundary.

REVISITING OLD ANGER

When I was a child, I wasn't allowed to express anger. If I did, I would get in trouble. This has led to having to process a lot of old anger through the eyes of my older self. As an adult, I have been teaching myself how to be angry without attaching hostile behaviors while expressing my feelings. At first, I was afraid to revisit this unexpressed anger because I didn't know how to talk about it without acting it out.

Even into my twenties, I suppressed my anger because I didn't like the guilt and shame that inevitably visited after I expressed myself with hostility. I had to teach myself how to be okay with anger.

Anger sends similar signals to the brain as joy does. It's a symbol of taking action, not retreating. It's a sign that an injustice has taken place and healthy anger gives you permission to stand your ground and communicate that you are worthy of being treated fairly. If someone does something or something is occurring that's unjust, you have every right to be angry. What is not okay is the unwanted behaviors that that anger could trigger.

Anger is a signal to take action, not retreat!

ANALYZING ANGER

Once you understand that anger is a healthy and helpful emotion, you can use the experience to propel positive changes in your life. If you've had a disagreement that's evoked some anger, you can now recognize, "Hey, there's something here for me to look at," and use that emotion to seek solutions rather than lash out. Now you can take time to analyze your thoughts and look at the entire situation.

By doing this, you can figure out a solution to the injustice.

✅You might take a break from the person
✅You might have a heartfelt conversation with the person
✅You can create new boundaries for this person

Anytime we're angry, it's essential to get curious about why. Ask yourself, "What triggered this, and how can I solve it?"

TRIGGERED

Sometimes there are two people in a situation where we are experiencing anger, yet there’s only one person genuinely causing the angry response: ourselves. For example, if I’ve caused a delay in my schedule through my own actions and then become further delayed because the cashier is going too slow, it’s not really her that I’m angry with. I’m mad at myself.

So sometimes it’s not what someone is doing to you. It’s suppressed anger coming up because you were triggered. An old situation you haven’t processed found its way through in a benign situation, and you find yourself angry where it’s not justified.

We want to get curious about why we feel so angry and how that emotion shows us where we can change our experience. Anger is an emotion that motivates change. What change do your system, body, and being desire you to have?

Anger is an emotion that motivates change.

RIGHTEOUS ANGER

Not all toxic behavior is triggered by anger. In some situations, people do terrible things like stealing from others or causing physical harm to others and feel nothing at all. Certain imbalances in the brain and being can bring joy to those inflicting that harm on another. That's why it's essential to understand the difference between emotion and behavior.

As a human being, I see many things that make me angry. The injustices of the world evoke that emotion in me regularly. This is righteous anger that leads to positive change in the world. The change-makers of the world often find themselves angry as they watch events unfold that are unfair and unjust. That anger invokes a power deep within them that assists them in creating change in the world.

Anger is a neutral emotion that can cause major change.

FREE TO FEEL

When you start to befriend all of your emotions and honor them in a new way, you can bring more joy, peace, and love into your life. As a spiritual person, you aren't immune to anger and shouldn't strive to be. Anger is an emotion that can guide us into changes that are for our highest and best good.

I want you to start digesting and thinking about when you're angry.

❓How can you befriend anger when you're angry?
❓How can you get super curious about why you are angry?
❓What change wants to happen?
❓Can you stop and get curious about any suppressed emotions that this may be triggering?

I want you to feel amazing. I want you to feel good, embrace the emotions as they arise, and let them wash back into the ocean as you let them go. Doing so will make room for other things you truly want and desire in your life.

If you enjoyed this episode with Amy Robeson, we would love to invite you to check out other inspirational episodes by clicking here. Enjoy!

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Full transcription of the episode:

Hello everyone and welcome to today's show. I am so excited you are here. Today we're going to be talking about anger. I have been processing a lot of old childhood anger. I suppressed a lot of anger as a child. I even suppressed a lot of anger in my twenties and early 30s. It's just recently that I've really, really befriended the emotion of anger.

I have had unhealthy relationships with anger in the past and as I get older, I find the emotion very intriguing. I find all emotions very intriguing because emotions are not good or bad. Society labels them good or bad and we're taught to prefer other emotions over others.

For example, like joy versus sadness or excitement versus anger, or happiness versus sadness. I think all emotions, and this is not I think it is all emotions are meant to be embraced like a child. The more that we give ourselves permission to feel the emotion, the easier it is for us to come up with a solution to solve the unwanted emotion. Anger is really an important part of our human experience. Emotions are an important part of our human experience and what anger does is it sends a signal to our brain and it says, "Hey, there's danger. There's something for you to look at here and I'm going to send you all sorts of electric signals in the brain to alert you to this danger."

And what anger does is it tells you that you are not safe, that there's something here for you to look at. And what becomes an inappropriate thing to do with anger is a behavior. And I want to differentiate the behavior versus the emotion. Anger is an emotion. It is perfectly healthy and perfectly okay for you to have anger. It is not okay for you to have a behavior that inflicts hostility, or violence in any way, shape, or form because you are angry. It's not nice. It's not appropriate.

Aggression, violence, and hostility is a behavior that anger can invoke in someone. It is not okay to take your aggression out or act in a violent way or in hostile way because you are angry. Those are behaviors. The emotion is simply an emotion. It is not good or bad. It is simply telling you that there's something going on and that you need to become safe again, that there's danger lurking and that there's something that you have to do.

Remember, anger is just telling you there's an injustice. We need to protect the body. This is the signal that's being sent through the brain, "Protect the body." Condemn any behavior that is invoked from the anger. And let me give you an example.

If my toddler were to hit me, which toddlers? They're learning how to process emotions. They don't have the language to describe yet what they're fully feeling. And it's a very intense experience for them. If my toddler all of a sudden hit me and my brain goes, "I need to protect myself, I'm angry, there's something hostile happening here," it's okay for me to be angry. What is not okay is for me to act in a violent way back to my toddler. I can put up a boundary. I can explain how that behavior is not okay, but the emotion is okay.

Similarly, too, let's say someone cuts in line and you've been standing there for a very long time, but they just cut you in line and you're like, "What the heck? Why are they doing that?" It is okay for you to be angry. It is okay for you to use your voice to express a boundary around them not being able to cut you off because it's not appropriate. You've been standing in line and they need to take their turn.

It's not okay. If you were to, let's say, hit them, act violently, got hostile or aggressive with them. We want to really differentiate. And I think that this is really important because I know for me, growing up, there was a lot of violence in my household. It was learned behavior and aggression was a behavior. Hitting was a behavior.

And so for me, I wasn't allowed to be angry when I was a child. Well, I would be angry and then I would get in trouble for being angry. So as an adult, I have been teaching myself how to express my emotions, and how to be okay with looking at anger. And there has been a lot of anger that has been coming up recently for me to look at, lots of old unexpressed anger. And for a long time I was so scared to look at it because in my early twenties when I would get angry, I wouldn't know how to express my emotion without aggressive, hostile behavior.

And I didn't like that. I didn't like how I would behave and it would make me feel guilty, it would make me feel ashamed. And so I learned to just suppress anger because I didn't want to behave in that way anymore, which was not healthy. And so I had to start teaching myself to be okay with anger. And I think that this is really important to note.

Anger sends the same signals to the brain similar to joy. What that means is it's sending a signal to take action. It's not a signal to collapse, it's not a signal to retreat. It's a signal to take action. And there is such thing as healthy anger. If someone does something or something is occurring that's unjust, you have every right to be angry. What is not okay, again, is the behavior that may be invoked from that anger that makes you in the wrong.

Now, you might invoke an action, a behavior that is totally positive to do. And what I mean by that is, let's say you have something that you're really angry about. Let's say you had a disagreement with a friend of yours and your friend has just been really making you mad by some of the things that your friend's been doing to you. And you realize that you're angry and your system is saying, "Hey, there's something going on." So you take a moment, or days or months, depending on how long this has been going on. But you take some time to analyze your thoughts, to look at the entire situation as a whole.

And by doing this, you have the opportunity to figure out a solution to the injustice. And maybe that solution is taking a break from that person. Maybe that solution is to have a conversation with the friend and let them know about new boundaries that you're coming up with. Maybe you come up with a solution to demonstrate how this person is making you angry and how it's impacting you. Maybe you find a YouTube video that kind of shows a little movie clip of something similar that's happened.

And then you ask your friend, "Hey, what do you think about that? How do you think that person felt when that person did that?" Maybe your person goes, "Oh, that was horrible." Say, "Yeah, I've been feeling the same way because you recently just did that to me." Maybe that's the solution.

Maybe you come up with this creative solution that allows you to express what's going on. The thing about any time we're angry, it's really, really important to get curious about why you're angry. What triggered the anger? I know for me, sometimes it's not the situation. Sometimes it's maybe I'm mad because I cause myself to be late and the person checking me out is taking their dear sweet time and has nothing to do with them. I'm angry because I made myself late.

So again, it's sometimes not what someone is doing to you. Sometimes anger is arising because it's so suppressed and then a situation triggers the old anger as well. And so we really, really, really want to get curious about why you're angry in the first place. And most importantly, we want to see how we can motivate change. Because if we just look at the emotion, anger is an emotion that motivates change. What change does your system, your body, and your being, desire you to have?

Another thing is we don't want to suppress emotion because science has shown that anger can create hypertension, and can also create heart disease. And when we suppress the emotion, or we allow the emotion to take and be acted out in an aggressive, violent manner, it can create some major health problems.

Now, with that all being said, and this is a really important distinction, someone can do something that's a horrific behavior and have no emotion attached to it. And that's why it's really important to understand the difference between the emotion and the behavior. Because someone could be, let's say, stealing cars. Maybe they get a lot of joy out of stealing cars. They're not angry they're stealing cars. Even though it's a horrendous act that violates someone's personal property, and creates a lot of anger and a lot of issues for someone, they don't have to have any quote-unquote bad emotion that triggers that behavior.

Just like someone if they were to do some sort of violent act on someone. The act is violent, but it might actually bring them great joy or great pleasure because they have so many imbalances going on in their brain, or for whatever reason, they're doing it and we don't know. They don't have to be angry in order to do it.

And so I really want you to start digesting and thinking about when you're angry. How can you befriend the anger when you're angry? How can you get super, super, uber duper curious about why am I angry. What change wants to happen? Can I stop and get curious about any suppressed emotions that this may be triggering?

When you start freeing these emotions, let me tell you something. You can bring more joy, more peace, and more love. And as a spiritual person, that does not mean you'll never get angry again. As a human being, there's things that I see that make me angry. I see a lot of injustice in the world. And the cool thing is the people that are meant to be major change-makers out there could be angry. And that anger invoked a power deep within them that assisted them in creating change in the world. So anger is a neutral emotion that can cause major change.

That change can be good or bad. It's up to the person that has the anger to begin with. Also note, if someone is angry and they're expressing anger at you, it might be healthy to get angry back, but it may not be. They might just be having a moment. They might be having a moment where all of this stuff just triggered. It could be all this stuff just triggered them, and they are just acting like a child in that particular moment because they don't know what to do with all the emotions that are running through their body. Can you have compassion for them?

Because sometimes, and I know I have done this, and I have been on both ends of the spectrum where I'm acting like a child because I don't know how to express my anger in an appropriate way, but I had someone sit there and just go, "Wow, you're really angry. Let's just take a moment for a second. It's okay if you're angry." I think how amazing would that be if most adults would just pause if someone's mad and just acknowledge that, "Oh, I know, I can tell you're mad. I'd be mad too. Totally get that." I know for me, I think if someone did that more throughout my life, I would be like, "Okay, let's feel this emotion. It's okay. It's not bad."

Now, you might have someone that expresses emotions in a very unhealthy way, which creates toxicity, which creates mental health issues, which creates problems in the relationship, and that's where boundaries come in. So remember that that's where boundaries come in, and that is perfectly okay to have them. I want you to be amazing. I want you to feel good and embrace the emotions as they arise and let them wash back out to the ocean as you let them go. Because by doing so, you'll make room for other things that you truly want and desire in your life.

All right, my friends, I hope you enjoyed today's episode. Make sure you like and subscribe. If you feel called to share this with a friend, please do so.

I look forward to seeing you soon. Bye.

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