Why do I get angry? Why do I suddenly have an outburst of anger that seems totally disproportionate to what happened to me? What’s behind my getting angry and how can I diffuse it? Better still, how can I prevent it from happening in the first place?
First of all it’s important to learn to distinguish between in-control and out-of-control anger:
Anger is a natural emotion that every human being experiences occasionally. It’s ok to feel angry.
It’s not ok however if your anger is destructive and out of control.
If we find ourselves constantly getting angry at almost everything, or if we find ourselves flying into blind rages that seem disproportionately large considering the trigger, then this is a red flag that our anger is out of control.
Why do I get angry?
There are as many causes to feeling angry as there are people in the world.
Here are some of the commonest ones:
1.) We are far more prone to outbursts if another negative emotion is suppressed for a while
We are more prone to anger when we don’t notice our own emotions, or when we deny them, and as a result they become suppressed.
Problems arise when we don’t even know how we feel and then repress anger, allowing a molehill to turn into a great big mountain of accumulated angry feelings.
Feelings like anger are indicators that something in your life is awry and needs to be changed so you can improve the quality of your life. So in a way, anger may be seen as a blessing in disguise, because, like a warning light flashing red in the car when something is wrong with it, flashes of anger bring you to awareness that something is wrong. Anger is like a flashing billboard that advertises you are being hurt or that your needs are not being met in some way.
Anger, like all emotions is energy and this energy has to go somewhere. If it is not dealt with in a healthy manner, it will manifest in a variety of negative ways and may eventually somatize and go into our body as some form of illness or dis-ease. When anger is expressed in our bodies it can be expressed in many different ways from headaches, to high blood pressure, to ulcers and inflamed guts, and to everything in between.
From a spiritual perspective, anger needs some outlet. If it is not expressed outwardly but is instead suppressed or denied, it must express in another way, so it is expressed in our bodies. Anger is energy, and as the first law of thermodynamics states: Energy can never be created or destroyed; it only changes form. That energy has to get out somehow! Suppressing anger therefore is a no-no.
What kind of suppressed emotions are most likely to cause anger?
a.) Anger from suppressed Frustration
Anger is what arises naturally when there is something in our lives that we do not like, and are frustrated because it’s there and we don’t know how to deal with it.
Examples may be when:
- someone did something to frustrate you,
- someone said something to frustrate you,
- something you hoped would happen didn’t happen
- you feel frustrated about not having had a good upbringing, and not having had the best chances in life
- you feel frustrated about being stuck in a job you don’t like
- you feel frustrated about being unable to attract love into your life
- you feel frustrated at yourself for not being good enough at something. When anger is directed at our selves, the consequence will often be feelings like guilt and depression. Internally-held anger is like a distorted mirror at a funfair – when you look through its eyes, you don’t see the real “you” or how life truly is. Anger distorts our view of reality and causes us to miss out on living a happy life.
- The list goes on…
Repressed anger happens when little things that frustrate us and rile us build up over time, often without our realising what’s happening, until we reach our breaking point and get really angry. This is when anger can turn into blind rage and this is when we have a sudden, disproportionate outburst of anger and emotion. At this point, anger controls us and we lose our control over ourselves.
b.) Anger from suppressed Disappointment
If our expectations are not met, we can feel a wide range of emotions and anger can be one of them.
Many a time we get angry if our expectations are not met. People arrange to do things with us or for us, and they let us down. They say they’ll meet us at a certain time, but they arrive late, or even worse, they don’t show up at all. The little red monster inside you starts stirring. Then someone else does something that lets you down again, and the little angry monster grows bigger.
Anger is a messenger, communicating to us that we have been hurt and have not yet dealt with this hurt. In the wise words of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, “Hurt is present pain, while anger is often lingering pain.”
What are you doing with all these feelings? Do you tell others that they’ve disappointed you? Or do you keep quiet, seething and eating yourself up with what’s happening to you? Or perhaps you joke about the let down, but underneath still feel angry and unable to let go of your feelings.
When someone stands us up or cancels on us at the last minute, we feel rejected, forgotten and we feel inadequate in many ways. Many of the limiting beliefs and worst fears that we’ve been holding onto about ourselves have been confirmed by such disappointments, and the resulting feeling that these fears may be true can be expressed as anger.
Before a disappointment occurs, if you hold on to limiting beliefs and fears about yourself, according to The Law of Attraction you are increasing your chances of attracting disappointment to you. If this is what you believe, this is what you’ll keep getting until you change your thoughts. The Universe helps us by bringing situations into our lives as opportunities to help us grow and learn. We meet repeating themes of challenges until we learn how to handle these situations. According to spiritual thought, every challenge we overcome pushes our souls closer to the ultimate goal of being totally enlightened and filled with love. Most of us are on this path, making our way in the best way we can. If anger is an issue for you, your present challenge is how to overcome anger and its triggers.
c.) Anger from suppressed fear
Common to almost all angry feelings lurks an underlying fear of something.
It might be:
- Fear of being disliked (which in itself may have many roots. For example for some people it may come from an insecurity about your parents’ love, or from experiences of bullying and exclusion in the past).
- Fear of not being good enough (which may be for example because you were not an A-student at school)
- Fear that you are not attractive enough (where clues could be if you can’t bear to be outside without make-up or without having your hair just so!)
- Fear of the full force of your anger and what you might do if it is unleashed.
- The list goes on…
In holding such fear and negativity about ourselves, how on earth can we feel positive? The Law of Attraction states that you will attract to yourself the experiences of which you think. If you are vibrating on the level of all these fears and destructive thoughts, these are the experiences you will inevitably bring into your life. If you feel undeserving of love and positive experiences, the Universe unfortunately affirms these experiences because your energy is vibrating on what you don’t have rather than on what you truly want. This is why our worst fears are sometimes realised. It is because we have been concentrating all our energies on lack rather than on the good we really want.
Aside from anger being a symptom of suppressed emotions, it may also be due to other reasons:
2.) We hold on to anger because it makes us feel alive
People with suppressed emotions may revel in feeling *anything* – so when anger rears its head, there is a part of them that is glad to feel anger because it makes them feel alive. If this is what you are doing, becoming aware of this is a necessary first step to helping yourself move forward to something more nurturing and positive.
3.) We hold onto anger because it makes us feel powerful
Anger is a very strong emotion and when we feel of little value or low in self-respect and confidence, anger can make us feel more powerful, but it does so in a negative and destructive way. This is what happens with bullies. Because of the power of the emotion of anger, people are duped into temporarily feeling “powerful.” Once again, if this is what you do, becoming conscious of this is of utmost importance so you can begin to feel powerful in more positive and healthy ways.
4.) We feel strong anger if our base chakra is our of balance
For people who are more spiritually minded, they might consider the ancient Indian Vedic scriptures which suggest that excessive anger may be caused by an imbalanced base (or root) chakra.
Here are some anger management techniques to help you deal with anger:
1.) Identify your emotions:
Becoming aware of your feelings and admitting them to yourself is the first step to making yourself feel better.
When an emotion arises, do not suppress it: Observe the emotion and let it dissipate. Allow your self to move through the angry feelings and come out of them in a better place.
If we get angry at something, we must allow ourselves to feel this emotion, moving through the feeling and then letting it evaporate. If we allow ourselves to feel it, anger will not necessarily adversely affect us in the future.
Becoming aware of your anger is the first step so that you do not suppress it.
Anger is a very strong and often negatively directed emotion that needs to be identified and acknowledged.
Admit to yourself that you have a feeling of anger. Don’t say: “I am angry” because that gives anger too much power, equating it with who you are. Relegate anger to its rightful place: it is merely a feeling and feelings can be changed: therefore, “I have a feeling of anger” is where you can start.
If you are not aware of how you are feeling or why you are angry in the first place, perhaps these are the steps you need to take care of before you can start transforming anger and bringing yourself to a more positive place.
Getting in touch with how we feel.
As unbelievable as it may sound, sometimes we either don’t know or have forgotten how to be in touch with what we are feeling. Our flesh and blood bodies are what we feel with, so we need to go into our bodies and tune in to how anger feels for us. Notice your language when you describe how you feel. You may find yourself using the word, “think”. Thinking is an intellectual process therefore we realise we are not yet “feeling”.
Exercise for Gauging our Feelings:
- Ensure you are well-grounded, sitting upright and relaxed in a chair, feet firmly rooted to the ground.
- Close your eyes, place your hands on your stomach and take 3 deep breaths from your belly, 3cm below the navel is where our Tantien or energy centre is located.
- Ask yourself in your mind’s eye: Where is the anger in my body?
- How does it feel? Locate where in your body you feel the anger or any other feelings that are connected to it that may arise. Allow yourself to focus on any feeling in your body that arises. Notice where the feeling is. Does it feel like a sharp pain in your chest? A tightening in your throat? Tension in your shoulders or neck? etc. What does it feel like?
- Other feelings may start coming up too. Where in your body are you feeling them and how do they feel?
- Feel how you are feeling. Allow the process to take its course…..
You now know how anger feels.
2.) Understanding the emotion
Once you identify that you have angry feelings, look behind them and ask yourself: “Why? What happened to make me feel angry? I have a feeling of anger now; what happened to make me feel this angry? What did “someone else do to make me” have such a strong and even overpowering reaction like anger?”
Many of us look for the answers to these questions elsewhere other than within ourselves. We find any person we know to take the blame for our anger, be they family, friend or foe. The reality is however, that no-one can do anything to you without your agreement. On some level it is you, yourself who chooses to take on things that happen, for better or for worse. No-one is inside your head and tells you how to react or respond. All this happens within you, and usually you are not even aware of what you are doing to yourself. It is only when adverse consequences affect us that we suddenly realize we are off balance. By opening your eyes, you can become aware and gain control over your responses and reactions and then how you ultimately feel.
As you learn to understand the emotion of anger, you will most probably discover all sorts of lingering emotions. Emotions you’ve been subconsciously holding onto hiding under the anger. As mentioned above, the emotions may be varied, for example, being the result of incidents of loss, rejection, abandonment, abuse, disrespect, not being loved, not feeling adequate etc. A new incident that occurs could serve as a trigger for some deeper feeling/s and fears you’ve been nursing, possibly for a very long time.
Once you identify your trigger/s for sparking off the anger, you can then understand yourself better and appreciate where you are coming from. You will eventually learn to be compassionate with yourself and decide to make changes in your life. Remember things change only if you change them. The power is all in your hands!
You realise how you are feeling and now that you are mindful of what underlies the anger, you have the power to change your life.
3.) Do not blame: Blame helps no-one
Blaming someone else for our anger is not helpful and I can assure you it will not make you feel better.
We may go back to our childhood and blame our parents for the way they brought us up. We get angry at them for falling short of doing the right things for us as our guardians. When we feel this way, it can be helpful to ask our parents about their upbringing. It may help to lessen our anger at them and spark off understanding and feelings of compassion when we discover what they went through as children. They will unwittingly pass on what they were taught until we come to a point where we are so angry that we decide enough is enough, and the chain of generations of destructive family behaviour has to change.
No child is born with a parenting manual, so our parents do the best they can with what they have and their tools often contain what they experienced from their parents.
The exercise of simply talking to our parents can be very powerful and enlightening. In our day and age too many people just get angry instead of communicating in more effective ways. Solutions are often very simple in life. It is we who complicate things for ourselves. So ask your parents about your grandparents and how they felt growing up as children. Some Spiritual Counsellors and Hypnotherapists are able to facilitate “dialogues” for you even if your parents have died or you just can’t bring yourself to speak to them in reality. It is never too late to change your life for the better. You only have to want to do so.
You may say “they should’ve known better!” Perhaps if they had known better, they would’ve done better. No matter what the result, they did the best they could at any point in time, even if you now judge them as being inadequate.
Blame is not restricted to parents. Anger-fuelled blame may be directed at anyone.
Blaming others might temporarily relieve the strength of your feelings but in the long run, it doesn’t help you learn how to deal with the challenge effectively, so life will bring you that challenge again until you overcome this challenge. Unless you let go of the habit of blaming others, anger will be perpetuated as anger-triggering experiences will repeat themselves over and over again until the Universe sees that you are getting your life in order and learning from these lessons.
We are responsible for our own lives and only we can change them. No-one has the power over us to do anything we don’t acquiesce or agree to. We need never be victims again. We decide what we want and what we allow to happen in our lives. We are in control.
4.) Consider having someone guide or help you through these difficult emotions
Talk about anger to acknowledge it and help release it: Some experts say that anger needs to be expressed so we can release it. Not all therapists agree with the “talking it out” methods, however if this is what you choose to do, there are a great variety of talking therapies to choose from.
Some experts say that you can “act it out” by doing things like punching pillows and screaming. Again, other practitioners believe that doing such things only feeds the anger and doesn’t really deal with it properly.
If you need professional guidance, you can find a trustworthy practitioner and there are many good people out there willing and able to help you.
Should you choose to go it alone, you can use your awareness and consciously analyse what happens to you in your life so you give yourself a good, happy life. Don’t forget to check feelings in your body. And remember the famous Law of Attraction:
What you think and feel is what you get.
5.) Practise positive thinking
Ensure you both feel and think positively of what you want and focus on this and fill your thoughts with positive ideas and affirmations. The brain has a limited capacity. If you fill the space with helpful, positive thoughts, there is no place for negativity and no place for anger anymore.
6.) Transmute the anger into something positive
Some experts suggest transmuting our angry energy into something positive. There are a multitude of ways to do this and you need to find what resonates with you. People who become involved in causes or working for charities for example, often direct their strong feelings like anger into other more positive activities. Other people transmute their feelings into art, music, some other creation, or their work. Be careful however that you are transmuting and not suppressing or running away from the problem.
7.) Bach Flower Remedies to support you
Bach Flower Remedies are a form of energy “medicine” and contain the energy of each plant, tree or flower without containing any physical part of them. They work on an energetic level, helping us to raise our vibrations so that we feel better and regain our balance. The following Bach Flower Remedies are particularly useful for dealing with anger:
8.) Balance your base chakra
For spiritually minded people, it could be helpful to look into base/ root chakra balancing and healing exercises to help overcome frequent anger.
- “Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers
- “Don’t Get MAD Get Wise: Why no one ever makes you angry!” by Mike George
- “Ask and It Is Given” by Esther and Jerry Hicks
About the Author
This article was written by Spiritual Counsellor, Janice.
See other articles in the psychology category including:
- Why do I have high or low social status?
- Feeling Down: Why do I feel bad?
- Why do we need a sense of belonging?
- Holding hands: Why do romantic couples hold hands?
- Perfectionism: Why do I want to be perfect? and How to over come perfectionism