Emerald Heart Elder and Teacher, Lynne Shaw, takes us on a journey to help begin to understand anger when it triggers in us. Exploring, feeling and dancing are terms one may not readily associate with anger management, but as Lynne explains, are key to handling this often overpowering emotion.
My Dance With Anger
Learning how to dance with my anger is a life lesson for me. I come from a family of fiery women and I was in fact born bright red, covered in eczema. A skin condition that often reveals suppressed anger and rage. It seems that there was no avoiding dealing with my relationship to anger in this lifetime as whenever I would get angry or stressed because I was not expressing my true emotions, my skin would itch and I would scratch to the extent that I would make my skin bleed. It was a vicious cycle. This did not mean that through this uncomfortable physical experience I actually learnt this lesson well however, I was often a sulky, scowling child who was really angry that I could not play and function like other children. This of course only made the situation worse!
Our beliefs around walking the Spiritual Path
When I stepped onto the Spiritual Path I believed like many others, that experiencing certain emotions was somehow out-of-bounds, or a sign of failure, and to be avoided at all costs. I now understand that this makes little sense as this is really like saying that you are only going to enjoy certain colours of the rainbow and not others. Feeling the entire spectrum of emotions is in truth, a part of being human. I learnt that it is essential to remember that emotions are just energy in motion and that is the most important thing to do, keep them flowing rather than stagnating.
How anger can be a friend
However, I believed naively, as many people do, that I should no longer be in touch with anger. One of those emotions that seems to be particularly troubling for Spiritual Seekers. There is often a notion that if we feel our anger or express it, then we have somehow taken a step back in our evolution. I had been an angry child who then became an angry young adult as my family dissolved around me with relationship, financial and health crises. Because I did not know how to express my anger in ways that did not hurt me or enrage me further, I just wanted to rid it from my life. I did not realize that in actual fact, anger could be a great friend when worked with wisely. How wonderful it would be to be taught that anger might rise up in us as a sign that we have been disrespected, or perhaps our boundaries have been trampled on. It may reveal that we are feeling misunderstood, or that communication is not clear. If we look beneath the anger for the reason we are feeling triggered, we can be proactive in how to move things forward. We can seek transparency and clarity in our communication, we can reinforce our boundaries and the respect that we have for ourselves, so we can reinforce this with others. I was a very angry child who became a very angry adult. Everything that was wrong in my life I believed was down to someone else, as my anger masked the other emotions that I was really feeling about the situations I encountered. The truth is that I was out of control with my anger and this did a lot of damage to myself and others along the way.
Investigating the real reason anger has arisen
I have learnt that it is important to ask when you are feeling alive with anger, what is really behind this? That it is necessary to take out your investigative Sherlock Holmes detective hat and make some enquiries as to what is going on. You may be feeling anger at being rejected for example, but it is hard for you to connect with this reason for feeling angry when in the heat of the moment you are feeling complete indignation and outrage.
Allowing ourselves to work through our anger
When we are feeling the heat of anger it can be very tempting to vent or project our anger onto others and really that is our challenge. To allow ourselves to work through our anger, rather than releasing a tirade on those around us. This has been the greatest gift to me. To respond to the person who has brought us the gift of anger in a way that evolves the situation rather than inflames it. I am still not always able to do this, but it is my goal. However, it is important to let yourself be angry rather than suppressing it. But it may at times be prudent to do this by yourself. Sit with it, feel into it, walk or stamp your feet to let it move through your physical body. Give it expression. Take time to yourself to be with it and really get to the bottom of what is going on. If you are able too, you must address the reason for your feelings of anger, don’t allow it to fester. At these moments we benefit from the awareness that we can choose how we react to situations but we cannot change the person who delivered the opportunity for anger to alight within us.
What happens when we don’t express ourselves
When we don’t give anger the space it needs to unfold, it can morph into many different states. Depression, frustration and resentment are among them. I have danced with them all as I tried to cut off feeling and expressing my anger. These are of a much lower vibration than anger because there is not the same aliveness and vitality to them. Often these feelings reveal that our emotions have become stuck and may be beginning to stagnate and fester.
The need to forgive ourselves and others
Often times the greatest anger we feel is with ourselves, because we did not do something or say something that we believe we should have done. Or that we should have behaved in a different way. This is a sign that we have actually stepped into self punishment and we need to do something to come into the present moment as this is the only time we have control over, our actions in the present. We can make choices informed by our experience of the past, that is how we learn and grow. But going over and over certain experiences and wishing things were different keeps us in pain. It maybe necessary to work with a forgiveness practice for ourselves and others, so we can let go of experiences and make healthier choices for ourselves.
But first it is important that we really allow ourselves to embrace the whole spectrum of emotions so we can connect with the truth of our experiences and our lives. This freedom from censoring what you should or shouldn’t feel frees up your life force and allows you to have greater compassion for yourself and those around you who are struggling with allowing themselves full expression.
I am currently working with the essence of Extreme Anger to transform and free that which still needs expression, and I am grateful to have access to such a tool for transformation to support my dance with anger too.
I wish you all great freedom of expression on your journey and a healthy dance with your anger!
Much love and many blessings,
Elder of the Emerald Heart Light of Enlightenment
New York, USA