Anger is something that is quite often misunderstood. Anger is often deemed as bad, wrong, unkind, bad energy etc. Whatever narrative and story we have about it usually depicts the energy of anger as negative. We tell these narratives about anger because we are unconsciously scared of it.
Anger itself is neither bad nor wrong. It is neither good nor right. Primarily it is a force of energy.
Anger is our power. It is the energy behind setting and sticking to a strong boundary. It is the energy that makes ‘NO’ MEAN NO! It is the energy that gives our words authority. If we shut it down we can get stuck in a victim identity and if we use it irresponsibly or unconsciously we can become the perpetrator.
If our primary care-givers shamed us when we experienced anger or if we were simply taught that feeling or showing anger is not ok, if we felt love was withdrawn from us when we showed anger, then what can happen is that suppressing our anger gets directly linked to our survival instinct. Because our unconscious and our body perceive our parents and elders as our source of survival, expressing anger then becomes perceived as threatening to our survival so then in order to survive we believe must shut it down. This concept applies to all emotions and parts of our psyche that remain orphaned and unintegrated. It is a question of survival.
If this is the case (as it was for me) and by my observation is the case for lots and lots of individuals in our culture, then anytime we go to set a boundary, any time we go to use our voice, any time we go to step into our power we will go into FFF (Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn). Our system will collapse into utter powerlessness and shut down, or we will feel the need to run and head for the hills. This is because our body’s very survival instinct shuts us down.
Experiencing and expressing anger is perceived as a threat to our survival because we believe unconsciously that it is safer to shut down than to express our voice and our power.
And this may have genuinely been the case at a certain point in our lives but the patterns echo long after we have left the situations that caused it, and that is a simple description of trauma. This pattern can also show up as outbursts of rage. Because this part of us is shut down it is experienced as such a strong stress contraction that the system explodes. We are unable to hold in the experience. When this happens nothing integrates, it is simply letting out a little pressure from the pressure cooker.
To integrate anger we have to re-train our nervous system. We have to teach our unconscious and our body that is safe to express anger. We have to learn to have a different relationship with anger by making the current one conscious. We have to bring safety to this part of us that approximates expressing our power with death.
As we begin to integrate anger it is less and less experienced as anger and more and more experienced as power.
The habit of projecting it outward in the form of outbursts, blame, resentment, mental storylines, etc lessens and we learn more and more to stand in our own two shoes. We can begin to feel our victim identity crumble. We begin to learn to be our own authority instead of giving our power away to others and we stop perceiving others opinions and ideas as a threat. This is something that takes time and we have to be compassionate with these parts of us that feel unsafe. We breathe compassion into these parts that are hooked up for survival before we can step into our power. We bring safety to the feelings of being not safe. When our system starts to recognise that it is safe, only then it will start to allow us to fully experience anger. Prior to that, any attempt to step into our power and experience it will simply be an attempt to override our survival instinct by an act of willpower which is impossible.
Keeping all this in mind I would like to mention that this can also swing in the opposite direction. Some people (like people who identify as 8 on the enneagram) can fall into the identity of perpetrator. So as a survival mechanism, they unconsciously go into extreme power and become abusers in order to stay safe. Their system becomes hooked up to protect themselves from the vulnerability of dropping into the powerlessness of a victim, the system believes that it is safer to experience extreme and unhealthy amounts of anger in order to protect themselves from vulnerability because at some point being vulnerable approximated death. Instead of suppressed, anger becomes projected which still keeps it from integrating when expressed. If this is the case, the relationship with anger is primarily still one of survival and protection, but in this case it swings to the opposite extreme. What I’m describing here can be looked at as the cycle of victim and perpetrator. Depending our how our system is hooked up, how we intemperate each moment is the deciding factor as to which survivalist’s pattern we will become habituated to.
Matt Nettleton is a certified Kiloby Inquiries Facilitator and Trainer. He will be co-leading the September 2020 Facilitator Training & Certification Program with Julianne Eanniello. Learn more here. Register for the free facilitator training webinar here.