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Working with Anger

Fri, 15 Feb 2013
(From my article in the Mosman Villager Magazine - March 2013)

I am mostly a pretty calm person – get on well with others. But at times I just suddenly lose it with friends and family – sometimes over the smallest thing. Not sure what’s going on - any suggestions how I might stop it happening?
“George” from Neutral Bay
First thing to say is that there is nothing wrong with you, George. Anger is just one of the range of emotions we humans experience. We feel emotions all the time – they change moment to moment as we go about our lives.

John Lennon is quoted as saying: “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.” I think he had some insight. Anger is about protecting ourselves from something – specifically something we fear.  We fear we are losing control, so we lash out. We fear someone is getting too close to us, so we push them angrily away. Someone talks to us in a way we don’t like, we fear losing our status, so we tell them to keep quiet.

Just as there is nothing wrong with feeling anger, there is also nothing wrong with feeling fear. But there is a problem if we are being driven by these emotions. Being driven by emotions like these is different to noting what we feeling and then behaving in a way that acknowledges our need to do something.

So, George, I have two suggestions for you. First, ask yourself the question “When I get angry, what is the fear that is underneath it?” Try writing down your thoughts about it. Second, consider what your words and actions would be if when you feel your anger/fear you also feel love.  By this I mean can you say “No” or “Stop” to someone while not putting the person out of your heart. Can you both protect yourself AND acknowledge your connection with the person and their humanity. We all want to be loved.