Shadow Emotion: How to Work With Anger

unknown artist

unknown artist

*originally published on The-Numinous.com

Anger is my favorite shadow emotion. It’s powerful, it gets things done and it is excellent at creating boundaries and change.
 
But anger is also one of the most misunderstood and underutilized emotions. As women, we are socialized in both overt and covert ways to be nice, not make a fuss and not rock the boat. When we are taught by our loved-ones and by our culture to bite our tongue in service of keeping the peace, we can get very disconnected from trusting our feelings and from feeling safe to work with this emotion when it flares up.
 
The thing is, most of us have never seen a healthy expression of anger. We associate it with road rage, throwing things at people, screaming, crying, cursing, fear, abuse, physical threats, danger, and out of control people. These are all examples of unhealthy anger. It’s not an emotion we appreciate so we try our very best to suppress it out of existence.
 
But its actually unexpressed or suppressed anger that can get ugly. And beyond the stigma, all anger is, is a catalyst for change and an opportunity for some honest communication. Anger can actually work for you if you work with it.
 
Anger in its purest form simply says: “I don’t like this. Something needs to be different about this situation.” It’s a call to action! You don’t like it? Okay, change it!
 
One of the best examples of healthy anger is peaceful protest. This is anger put to work—a group of people turning their collective anger into action to create change. We are seeing this right now in politics, the environment, and human rights. It is impossible for anyone with a beating heart to turn a blind eye to what is going on in our world. We are riled up, expressing our opinions and getting involved!
 
We can all do this in our personal lives as well. Anger is a very powerful force and if wielded with grace and finesse, it can move mountains. Where we get into trouble with anger is when we push it down, causing it to build.
 
Anger is connected with the season of spring. This is because it speaks to the catalytic energy surge required to turn a seed into a plant, to push its little head above the soil and reach for the sun! Spring, our liver, and by association the energy of anger, are connected with upward and outward growth.
 
So what happens if your growth is inhibited? What happens when someone tells you “no”? A ridiculous new policy is created at work? What if you are simply just trying to walk down the street and everyone is in your way? You didn’t get the apartment or the job or the acceptance letter, a flight is delayed, a class isn’t offered, you didn’t get the promotion?
 
These are ways that an obstacle interrupts the smooth flow of our life. We don’t like obstacles. We don’t like no. We don’t like interruptions to our plans.
 
And so our natural reaction can be anger. Which is totally fine. We are upset.
 
But to deny this is to block our access our personal power. When we feel guilty about what we feel or label ourselves as being “negative” when we feel angry, we miss out on an opportunity to out-create our circumstances.
 
Rather, if we can sit with our anger, can look at where it’s coming from and why we feel it, we can polish it into a nugget of transformational gold. If we have been hurt or upset by another person, rather than lashing out, we can advocate for ourselves and clearly state our needs to that person. If someone continually disrespects or hurts us, you may need to use that anger to create a change in the terms of that relationship!
 
You may have heard that anger turned inward results in depression—an oversimplified expression, since depression has many roots and takes many forms—but there is some weight to it.
 
When we repress our anger toward a partner, friend, loved one or co-worker by not sharing our truth, we are betraying ourselves. We are inadvertently communicating to ourselves that our feelings don’t matter and we are not worth standing up for. Self-betrayal is the most painful betrayal of all and can decrease self-esteem and confidence—leading to depression.
 
So we stay snippy and unexpressed and we self-medicate even more or our shoulders tense up even more, or our digestion suffers. It doesn’t have to be this way. Use your anger as a call to action to change your circumstances.
 
Breathe it out. Dance it out. Run it out. Write it out. Scream it out (not at someone else!) Sing it out. Create it out. Talk it out. Paint it out. Boot camp it out. Express it out.
 
You have to feel it to heal it. You have to let it out to transform it. Just don’t be afraid of anger.
 
The more you know your triggers and can feel when it’s rising in you, the more gently and safely you can manage this emotion. Anger is so powerful and properly harnessed it can do so much for you. Think of anger as your inner Mama Bear, your inner Kali, and your inner badass.
 
And let it be fuel to create powerful change and transform your life.