“Someone who is very angry also has a lot of energy; that energy is what’s so juicy about him or her.” -Pema Chodron
I am hearing from many of my clients lately about how frustrated they are feeling during this election season. The anger is overwhelming, at times, and seems to be causing an increase in negative thinking, including, how being angry is upsetting in itself.
Anger isn’t bad. I believe that anger is an important signal – that it means something has gone wrong, causing a feeling of disrespect to disempowerment. I haven’t met anyone who likes to feel angry. However, I have talked to many “angry” people, over the years, and sometimes the anger feels better than the despair waiting just underneath the surface.
Pema Chodron offers a perspective on anger which is refreshing and reasonable. She helps us see that we are making a mistake (when we let a feeling take over) which keeps us stuck in, “our own particular style of ignorance, unkindness, and shut-downness…”
The mistakes which keep us stuck involve misunderstanding our anger. One way is to assess it as bad or ugly and to shame ourselves for feeling angry. Another way is using the energy it brings to overpower others. An additional way we stay stuck in anger is to ignore what caused it and try to escape the feeling, denying why it exists.
There is a way to honor the presence of your anger, respect why it has surfaced, and let it be a sign – not something to which you resign. “The idea isn’t to try to get rid of the anger, but to make friends with it, to see it clearly with precision and honesty, and also to see it with gentleness,” Pema gives us a way to process something we avoid.
It’s important that we don’t repress our anger. When it shows up we can respect it by being precise in looking at what caused it to arrive, be honest about our role in how it arrived, and be gentle with yourself as you experience one of your strongest emotions.
One Thing to Do: Learn how to assess anger with gentle-accuracy.
- Stop judging yourself as wrong or bad.
- Stop glorifying it as “right” or more right than someone else.
- Stop rationalizing that other people “deserve it” because they are stupid.
- Start seeing your anger as a protector of your story.
- Start identifying which part of your story is changing.
- Start listing the pros and cons of taking charge of the change.
- Start letting go of the anger and moving with the action you can take.
- Enjoy the wisdom of keeping anger useful rather than toxic.
Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.