Dealing with anger: the fire down below

2009

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.

Inner anger
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.

Fire energy
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.

SOME QUESTIONS FOR SELF-REFLECTION

  • 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.

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.

Older Comments

I find this article really insightful!! I have felt anger at times throughout these years, and most articles and books I have obtained basically give methods that are comparatively superficial, such as 1) deep breathing before you scream 2) go for a walk before coming back to the issue 3) put yourself in the shoes of the person you're angry with. Most of the time, they fail to point out the fact that anger originates from the self, not external factors, which is the core idea of this article! Impressive!

Patricia Singapore

I have been struggling with anger for a few years, and it is so difficult to get to the core reason behind what drives this energy, but as a mother of a 2 year old, I had to find my angers root cause asap! I have been doing self reflection, and speaking with a professional on such matters and my answer finally was found one evening and it has changed my attitude about life in ways I could never have imagined a month ago! I realized then and have been conscious of anger as an energy, and even though I didn't look to Eastern Philosophy, I self described the feeling as coming from my stomach as a heat, and it would rise up to my throat and warm my whole body. I would feel like I was going to explode by either yelling or crying, which many times I would find a safe place away from my child and do just that. Now, just knowing the cause that I don't need to write about here yet it needed mentioning because of its importance, I now do not have many feelings of anger like previously. If I do feel the knot in my belly, I catch it there and think through what is driving my physical response. It is absolutely amazing, and my family is impressed, friends are somewhat pessimistic because my life has been on a 1-10 scale of stress a good solid 9-10. I think some may think I have just lost my mind, or have been brainwashed, but they also want to know how I have genuinely alleviated an emotion that had been ruling my being and it physically hurt to carry all of that energy inside me, and left me miserable and exhausted. Thank you for a wonderful article. It is spot on!

Cheers! Sandra

Sandra Sezol Texas

It is true in what you say that the 'external world' can act like stimulus for our anger and it is correct to state that the source is always within ourselves that when triggered, the fiery energy of Anger can consume and deplete us leaving us weak. It is good practice to take deep breaths or a walk outside where anger can be lessened but this just solves the effect but not the root cause of our anger. I would like to share a wonderful story with you and others that perhaps will help enlighten everyone even further.

There was a very young boy together with his younger sister that was being raised by their father since the mother had passed away. The father was not a very kind man and was either drunk or just plain unkind & abusive to his children most especially to the young boy. The father was verbally abusive and whenever the young boy would trip or fall down while playing the father will always yell and call him 'stupid'.This young boy then sought help by seeking out a Buddhist Monastery near his home and approached a Master living in the monastery to teach him the Path to Enlightenment so that he can experience peace and most especially not to grow up to be like his father who is filled with Anger. The Master took compassion to the boy's plight and in return the Master asked the boy to help with the chores around the Monastery, this way the young boy can prove his intent & sincerity. Seeing the boy performed the chores around the monastery without complain the Master started instructing the boys of the Teachings.

The young boy studied & practiced diligently with the Master and obeyed the Master's without doubt or questions - he was steadfast in his studies and intent. A few years had gone and the young boy can now enter deep meditation almost immediately every time he sat down tor meditation. One day, the Master advised the boy that it would be all right to bring his younger sister to monastery grounds where he can keep an eye out for his sister while she plays who adored her older brother for his kindness of heart and watching over her. That afternoon, as the younger sister was playing with the other children visiting the Monastery, she tripped and fell down and started to cry, Instead of the young boy rushing to his sister's side, he caught himself about to yell at his sister and call her 'stupid'. Before the hurtful word could come out of his mouth, he rushed immediately to his Master.

The Master was sitting quietly inside the temple and as if knowing that his young apprentice was about to approached him due to what just happened, The young boy approached his Master with his head bowed down and tears in his eyes. The Master asked him what was the matter and the boy replied 'Master, I came here and studied diligently in order to become a better human being and not grow up to be like my father who has mistreated myself & my younger sister with very unkind words. Today, while I was doing my chores around the monastery grounds, I saw my sister tripped and fall but instead of rushing to her side and comforting her, I caught myself about to yell at her and call her 'stupid', just like my father did everytime I fell. I thought I had overcome Anger within myself through my spiritual practiceover the years.' The Master then said ' My child, when we are born into this world, our minds were clear and untainted. Our minds were fertile grounds and ready to learn about this world we live in and we being to observe our parents actions & examples without our parents being aware that they are being watched. These actions and examples of our parents and others are like seeds that they have planted in our fertile minds. Now just like seeds, it only sprouts when the conditions are right such as the length of day, temperature and so forth. In your case, when you saw your sister fell down, the seeds of anger planted by your father sprouted immediately because the conditions were right which in your case, your sister playing, falling down and crying.' All our practice can only see the effects of Anger which is likened to the stalk, leaves, flower & fruit of a plant but the 'root cause' is buried deep within just like the plants roots are hidden from our view for they are beneath the soil's surface therefore making us unaware unless we go deep within the soil. Wjen the conditions are no longer right, our Anger retreats just as when fall or winter approaches, the most plants die but they're really merely hibernating under the soil awaiting Spring when the conditions are once right, Any conditions that are similar will also trigger the Anger the lies dormant within us'.

The boy then asked 'So is there no hope for me or anyone since even in meditation it is hidden from my sight'. The Master then replied 'There is only one way that can eradicate the roots of anger and that is through the light of 'AWARENESS' for everything hidden from your sight will be revealed. Like when we enter a dark room, we keep stumbling at the same spot but once the light is turned on, we then see everything in that room clearly tand that the stubling we experience was cause by a small peace of furniture along our path and we can correct the problem.

May you and your readers achieve peace & tranquility.

Rene