From Anger to Love
If it is you who is struggling with anger, or someone you know well who seems angry all the time, you have experienced how powerfully physical and body bound anger can feel.
If you can remember single occasions that you have been angry, you can identify the cause of these moments of anger. Your moments of anger feel justified because you identify the cause for anger. Anger is always related to some kind of injustice; and can always be felt physically.
Because anger affects all the muscles and blood vessels within the body, getting angry increases the risk of a heart attack nearly fivefold, and the risk of stroke more than threefold (The British Heart Foundation).
Moments of anger may have been like a kind of red mist of chaotic feelings causing you to lash out in some way, or hold back a deluge of anger and resentment.
If you are lucky, anger has felt like a bright inner light that filled you with energy for controlled and effective action.
In some cases people say that they don’t seem to be angry enough. For example, hopelessness and lethargy overwhelms the majority of people when they hear of injustices. The most common example at the moment of this lack of energy that comes from unacknowledged anger, is the plight of refugees.
You may have felt this lack of anger, for example, we know that more people than we can imagine are in desperate need at this very moment and yet to think about them brings a kind of paralysis and exhaustion rather than energy for action.
Anger in its right place leads to highly productive and effective action that we need in the world. It will also lead to being able to love. But, anger that collapses inwardly (not rising to the injustice and suffering of others) undermines and reduces energy and hope.
The most debilitating and socially destructive kind of anger is body bound. It creates a constant state of strain in a person that the muscles are permanently tense. Because of this it is possible to feel angry all the time, as if there is no need for a cause to be angry, but the anger becomes a kind of perpetual readiness. But this readiness is suffering, and leads to suffering.
It is likely that most of us have anger trapped in our bodies that leads us into conflict and makes us ill. This kind of anger is very dangerous and destructive. To understand the nature of anger, think of what you have experienced with anger, think of how it seems to live in the muscles of the body. I can identify long-term anger problems in people because it becomes visible in their posture and movements. I can see it in the sturdy legs, braced back and shoulders, and characteristic movements of the body.
In my practice I see the red mist anger as unidentified injustice or misidentified injustice. Here a few examples of this kind of anger.
A mother assumes that her daughter has knowledge equal to her own so she berates her daughter and shouts at her for not getting dressed by herself. But this mother has misidentified an injustice because she believes her daughter is to blame. She misidentifies the injustice because she assumes her daughter has the same mind as herself. But her daughter is four years old and has no concept of time and no reason to know the importance of getting dressed to go out on this occasion.
A man feels acutely bad when his wife is disappointed about something. He is so blinded by his terrible feeling of being bad that he begins to believe that she is the cause of his anger. But, the unidentified injustice is that he was unfairly held responsible and made to feel very bad when he was four years old. The real injustice continues to live in him unidentified, and his anger grows and grows. Later he has built up so much anger at his wife that he screams at her calling her foul names and strikes her so hard he breaks her arm. From that day on he is trapped in his feelings of being bad and he becomes permanently angry. Then his wife and children need do nothing for him to threaten and beat them.
My third example is of a woman who believes her friend will be approving when she shares her enthusiasm for her new interest. Her friend feels she is being asked for her approval or advice, and tries to persuade her to take up a different interest. The woman becomes very angry with her friend because she sought approval but now she identifies the friend’s response as a personal rejection (misidentified injustice). As a result she feels acutely bad and has nothing more to do with her friend. The real injustice is to demand approval in a friendship, and in this case neither the woman nor her friend can accept each other’s choices of interest.
Punishments, harshness and cruelty in childhood causes people to become over-reactive to danger coming from others and instances of misidentified and unidentified injustice. Later in life this will become body bound anger.
Most cases of underlying anger have their root cause in childhood. There are ways to reach the unconscious body bound memories and begin to reduce the permanence of anger. The main way to overcome this condition is to learn that the feeling of being ‘bad’ when very young has produced the problem. Recent research shows that forgiveness and compassion for others can be learned. Also, practicing mindfulness calms the inner rage as it begins to teach the mind to live in the moment rather than stay tortured by the past. In my courses LEARNING HOW TO LOVE (a parenting course), ACTIVE PRACTICAL LOVE and HOW TO LOVE ANYONE (practical courses on understanding and improving relationships) I give exercises that have the potential when practised to overcome these permanent feelings of anger or injustice.
See my video on Youtube
Finally, I would like to offer hope as there are many ways to uncover and release body bound anger. I have identified ways through thinking, feeling and joy-filled activity. Here are a few of those ways;
Meeting in groups *
Joy-filled activity -
Daily walks *
Practical mindfulness *
Bodily care *
Awakening your senses *
* areas of special interest to me in helping reduce body bound anger