Anger is a powerful energy. Being afraid of this energy, we often attempt to deny or hide it. When we cannot contain the energy of anger, we release it on other people or things.
We live in angry times. Folks are angry with their neighbors, politicians, educators, health care providers, bankers, bosses, co-workers, those who are "different" - just angry with one another. What many of us rarely understand is that our anger is directed towards others, the origin of our anger lies within. Anger is an "inside job". While the stimulus for our anger may be external, the source is always within. Always.
Like other emotions, anger is normal. However, when we suppress our anger and allow it to build up, it saps our strength, causes undue stress and disease, destroys relationships and, most of all, prevents us from experiencing happiness.
Anger is an energy. It's not a thought, an idea, or a belief. It's not mental; it's not intellectual. It's an energy we experience, physiologically, in the cells of our body. When you experience anger, notice what happens to your blood flow, tendons, muscles, ligaments, nerves and temperature.
Inner anger is energy that is misdirected, energy that builds up and is discharged in ways that are self-destructive, self-sabotaging, hurtful and harmful to ourselves and others.
For thousands of years, Eastern traditions have referred to this energy as "fire energy." The same tradition pops up in Western traditions, too, where we refer to "heat" (heated argument), or "hot" (hot under the collar). But this fire energy of itself is not anger. The issue is that most folks have never learned how to contain their fire energy.
Why we feel angry
Inner anger is a sign that we are upset at something or someone outside ourselves and that we are upset at ourselves.
There are five fundamental reasons for feeling angry. Feeling: (1) disempowered, (2) deprived, (3) overwhelmed, (4) inadequate and (5) we don't understand the deeper dynamic of emotional maturation.
Disempowerment is feeling a lack control over our lives. We feel we have little to no power to direct our lives, feel a lack of confidence in doing so, or we just don't trust ourselves to do it effectively. Disempowered can lead to using fire energy to act out, become pushy, and shore ourselves up with a false sense of bravado that often ends in a crisis of some type.
Deprivation is a feeling of fear, the flip side of anger. We feel we can't get what we want or think we deserve. Those who feel deprived often engage in acts of greed and ruthlessness and become overbearing and controlling. On the inside, the deprived generally experience low self-esteem, lack of self-management skills, and a lack of will, self-discipline or steadfastness.
The overburdened ("woe is me!") folks feel like victims. They feel they are imposed upon by others and the world at large. The flip side for the overburdened is their need to take care of everyone else, be accommodating and meet everyone else's demands and requests. They need to please.
The overwhelmed feel they have an insurmountable mountain to climb, too many responsibilities and are unable to complete what is required of them. Frustrated, they feel their life is not their own.
The inadequate feel they are never right. They are agitated by feelings of deficiency. They feel guilt, shame and that they are never good enough. Their need to be an eleven on a scale of one-to-ten fuels their anxiety and self-loathing. They have a need to be right and feel threatened whenever their identity is challenged.
In addition to these five common causes there is one more, not so common. Probably the greatest and most misunderstood, stimulus for one's anger is lack of awareness about why one is on the planet.
Most folks want to live on the "happy" end of the "happiness-unhappiness" continuum. They feel entitled to have whatever they want. But because life is tough and challenging down here, they feel angry. They get mad at the Universe, Spirit, Source or God (generic) because they have to experience the human aspects of being a human being.
The antidote to anger
Eastern traditions such as Chinese medicine refer to the element of fire energy. This is a primal energy. It is a natural and animated energy contained in the body. Critically, fire energy is also the energy of "light", of wisdom and intuition.
Our fire energy is generated in the abdomen or belly center of our body. Just think about expressions that refer to the location of the fire energy, such as "gut-check," "no guts," "intestinal fortitude," "have the stomach for," "lily-livered," "have the balls," "fire in the belly," "yellow-belly," and "gut feeling."
Fire energy is manifested as strength, courage, steadfastness, drive, creativity, self-confidence, commitment, and self-love. When we are lacking fire energy, we find it hard to persevere, take action, and forward the action of our lives. Fire energy supports us to be fearless, to be outgoing, to heal and to love ourselves. Fire energy gives us "spirit."
On the metaphysical or spiritual plane, our soul wants to be embodied. It wants to live in this body, this human form and to experience joy while moving through our "human" experience. Anger is the result of choosing not to engage our spirit at the same time we engage our body.
So rather than use our fire energy as a life-affirming force, we mis-use our fire energy to ignite anger. And when we misuse fire energy, we "burn out" – not simply in the sense of experiencing fatigue and exhaustion but also in the sense that we are consistently searching for ways to feel happy and secure. Mis-using our fire energy burns up our liveliness, our juiciness.
When we consciously and self-responsibly connect to our Essential Self, we are able to ignite the fire of our soul, and in so doing, we can contain and appropriately use our fire energy to experience greater well being.
The following tips can help you engage your fire energy in a positive way:
Consistent breathing exercises (NOT "ab" work"!) that focus on the belly center can activate the fire energy. Energy work such as Yoga, Tai Chi and martial arts can also help to circulate the fire energy throughout the body.
As one experiences the (re)generation of the fire energy over time (days, weeks, months), we slowly begin to feel the energy of empowerment and find we need less and less external stimulation to feel satisfied. Letting go of external needs and attachments to experience happiness becomes easier.
Fire energy generates the strength, courage and confidence we need to feel empowered, free, open to exploring the unknowns of life and facing its challenges and pressures with a sense of equanimity.
- How do you normally react in life? Do you tend to be passive-aggressive? Do you manipulate, bully, intimidate - physically or verbally?
- What physiological symptoms do you experience when you're angry?
- Does your anger ever lead to hostility, abuse, anxiety or depression?
- Has anger led you to any addictions (e.g., food, alcohol, shopping etc.)?
- How is anger evident in your home or work environment?
- Do TV shows toxic friends or co-workers push your buttons? How about unmet expectations, feeling you're being treated unfairly, threats to your security or beliefs?
- What emotional beliefs lead you to react with anger?
- Think about a person, place, or issue that really pushes your anger button. What is it that makes you angry?
- What was your experience around anger like when you were growing up?
In the face of anger, rather than act up and become abusive, try to breathe deeply and sense the heat in our body. Sensing the heat, we make the connection between the heat and our soul, welcoming the energy as a healing force – a natural energy of happiness.
The reason we become reactive (angry) is that the human (ego) part of our self is unable to contain the fire energy. It's like trying to contain spilled water with your hands. When our fire energy is dissipating we feel out of control, that others are threatening us in some way. Unable to contain our dire energy, we become reactive. The more we contain our fire energy, the better we can feel centered and disconnect from the pull of others and the less angry we become.
Centering leads to self-validation which leads to a greater sense of self-worth and from this place we create a greater capacity to believe in and trust ourselves!
Finally, happiness depends on a conscious understanding of why we're on the planet. It's not about life being unfair. It's not about bad luck and bad karma.
The evolution of humanity, and that means each of us – you and me – depends on a conscious understanding that life "down here" is about growth. Growth does not take place passively, or only on the happiness end of the spectrum.
Growth demands challenge, and struggle. It is only through such growth that we build our inherent and natural capacity to feel and be strong, courageous, and confident with a real sense of our True and Real Self.
Happiness and satisfaction arise when we douse the heat of anger by consciously containing our fire energy so we can move through life cool, calm and collected.