One of the most dangerous and pressing dilemmas facing humankind today is the way we deal with personal and communal anger! Anger is like a virus that infects and spreads through people the world over and at every level of human society. Anyone can be anger's victim at varying degrees at one time or another.
When the energy of anger is understood in depth, anger can have tremendous potential to transform our lives. A positive, creative use of this commonly expressed emotion can be found when we understand what I define as its "soul." The "soul" and original root of the word anger was associated with the concepts of distress, sorrow, fear and deep grief. These profound emotions underlie our angry reactions. When we get in touch with and become honest about these feelings, we can choose to respond in ways that are more proactive then reactive.
The practice of compassionate forgiveness which puts us in touch with the bonds that lie within our common humanity will eventually overcome the desire to lash-out and attack others. It becomes evident to us that many provocations are a loud cry for help and do not have to nor should they be taken personally.
The child psychologist, Dr. Gail Gross, describes how in her Judaic tradition, the body is seen as a vessel that holds the light, the soul of God. This divine essence connects us all. When our light is obstructed by anger, what Carl Jung calls our "shadow or disowned part," we can become ill, disconnected and isolated. In some cases, we project our insecurities and fears onto others.
When we experience fear, we feel in some danger or apprehension. Beginning in early childhood, we learn certain fears such as the fear of rejection. To cope with these fears, we find ways to please others in an attempt to avoid their anger and receive their love. Internalized anger in a child can grow beyond timidity to deep-seated repression that manifests in directing the anger onto one's self and others. Because of the fear of being hurt and a need for self-protection, a denial of the truth of what is being felt internally often becomes a way of life.
These hidden patterns can be very resistant to change. Destructive addictions like drug abuse, alcoholism and eating disorders are connected since such hurtful behavior can be considered a form of anger and violence against oneself. These, and other compulsive behaviors, can be extremely painful and sometimes appear to be long, drawn out "suicides." The entire family of those addicted are affected and drawn into a seemingly unending cycle of pain and suffering as well.
Since most of us have not been trained to acknowledge or discuss our anger, we see anger as a 'bad' thing that we try to avoid, but this avoidance only makes it build up even more. Life can change dramatically when we as adults practice, and in turn teach our children, that all of our emotions are important and need expression. Only then can barriers be overcome and new ways of relating can be encouraged and established. Often, the miraculous creation of positive, healthy habits and the redirecting of the emotional energy into various ways to help others will come about. Ultimately, this change can lead to alleviating the suffering and injustice in our world.
Just think how different the outcome might have been if all the young people who have committed horrific, violent acts over the years could have discussed their anger or frustration with a trusted person who listened with compassion and helped them see that anger is a normal human emotion. Such intervention can help angry children to direct their energy towards perhaps helping others. The resultant feelings of usefulness and self-worth can have a positive impact on the lives of others. We can look upon anger as a doorway to something positive. The pain that it triggers can be a catalytic experience, a message that can lead to incredible metamorphosis. In fact, joy is waiting on the other side of that door when we begin to treat ourselves and others with compassion and thoughtful observations instead of angry reactions.
You can probe with honest introspection into the origins and cause of your own anger. Are you ready for the challenge to understand and use this powerful emotion in your life proactively? We have split the atom and made unbelievable technological advances, but have yet to learn how to live together harmoniously with compassion towards ourselves and others. Mastering this skill is the key to our civilization's survival. Whether we are aware of it of not, all forms of communication - from silent thought to spoken words - in all situations have profound consequences.
Mary Cox Garner is the author of "The Hidden Souls of Words: Keys to Transformation Through the Power of Words." She is the Founder of HOPE INC., a foundation which both the spiritual and material needs of children and their care givers. For more info, please visit: www.HiddenSoulsofWords.com.