Anger can flare up at a moment’s notice and at times it can be big, quick, unsettling, and frightening. In some cases we do not even know why we are angry or use anger as a last resort in getting control over a situation. Anger can be bottled up inside of us and ignored or projected out to the people we love the most. Often times our loved ones become the victims of our anger because they are the people we are most comfortable with. Anger is always connected to control and in so many cases what lies underneath our anger is some type of fear or hurt that we have not fully acknowledged. Anger gets our attention when it stirs up in other people and in ourselves, but we can develop the skill to tap into our anger and understand what part of ourselves needs more attention and healing. In return, we end up sparing those that we love from our wrath and begin to articulate exactly what we need from ourself and other people.
Imagine yourself as a young vibrant child; imagine that you could walk around with your adult self and be a witness to everything that you did. This young, curious, and impressionable child would see every way that you react to situations and it would affect him or her immensely. This child would always be there and how you reacted would be based on this part of yourself. If you became angry and defensive with another person, you would be farther away from this loving child. Your defensiveness would be based on this child so you would be protecting or defending this part of yourself. This is a great visual of what happens when we project anger out onto another person and how it ends up damaging our relationship with ourselves. Sometimes anger can be a wonderful reminder to look deeper inside for an answer as to why we feel like we need to control or change another person or situation. Anger is synonymous with control in our environment and a need to quickly change the circumstances that make us feel scared or threatened by another person. I like the idea of having ourself as a child being a witness to our actions and reactions because it means that when we are angry, we have to look back into our history to discover what hurts and wounds we are attempting to protect and defend. Very rarely are the people that we are currently angry with the cause of our reaction. It is almost always tied to a past events where we felt hurt, abused, or in a situation where we had no control. If we are able to look back at that child then we may be able to quickly find what we need to provide for ourself so we no longer use anger in order to demand it from other people
I want to use an everyday example from my life on a situation where I became angry. I think this simple example can provide you with a practice on how to look deeper at what is causing anger so you can provide for what you need in the moment you feel angry and also to begin to lessen the reactions that can cause tension in your relationships. My example came from meeting a person at Walmart and when I saw this person they looked irritated and distant. The exchange was awkward and while I had a lot of shopping to do, they were done with their journey through Wal-Mart. My reaction was to be angry and impatient as I attempted to get the person to stay with me as I shopped. It was clear they were not going to stay with me so I dismissed them and went about my way. I noticed myself staying angry and disappointed with this person. I had thoughts about them such as “they are never here for me”, or “they are always angry and distant from me.” I was extremely angry and, in my mind, it was all their fault. Looking back at this situation, I can see where my anger was coming from; in the moment of being angry there is an opportunity to see the bigger picture. Of course we are allowed to be angry at the people that treat us poorly and in the situation with the person in Wal-Mart, it was healthy for me to communicate that I was hoping for more receptivity when we first greeted each other. But this does not dismiss the fact that my reaction does not stem from this event; for me, it goes back to that little boy who is always with me; I can see that there is a history of feeling alone and helpless in supermarkets when I was little. I know this sounds trivial but I remember my mom rushing around to pick up items at the store and me attempting to catch up to her. I often would lose my mother and walk around the shopping market searching for her. When I would catch up to her, I was told not to touch the shopping cart which I held on to so I could stay close to her; I was also not allowed to grab the items on the shelves that I longed to hold and eventually consume. Of course I can see now that my mom was trying to get through the shopping store as quickly as she could and my constant grabbing and getting lost was irritating and slowing down her progress and I have a lot of compassion for her now. This does not dismiss the fact that as a little boy I felt lost and confused. For me I see a connection with that little boy and I am wondering if you can also make a connection even in moments that are small flare ups of anger or frustration with another person. Being aware of the everyday occurrences means that you are staying vigilant and honest with what is really going on inside of yourself.
When looking and facing anger it is helpful to distinguish between adult needs and child hood needs. I have noticed that when I am angry with another person it is often because I feel that they are not fulfilling my childhood needs. From my experiece while shopping, I was hoping that this person would guide me through the store because I felt helpless, just like I did when my mom was unable to slow down and be patient with me while shopping. I was looking for this person to make up for my insecurity. If I am trying to get someone else to fulfill my childhood needs, then I will find myself caught in the grip of anger and victimhood. In the situation at Wal-Mart I wanted someone to help me through the store; I wanted someone to be nice and pay attention to me because my mother could not; and if this person was not going to do what I wanted, I was going to be pissed at them and play the victim in this situation. Another way of saying it is that I was trying to control the person that I was meeting in order to fulfill needs that were not met when I was a child. My anger was a way for me to manipulate another person into being for me what I could not be for myself.
By being clear about my childhood needs I can decide to lessen my anger by beginning to respond and articulate clearly what I need as an adult in this situation, I can see that I would like the person that I was meeting to treat me with love and respect when they see me. I also would like to ask them if they would like to walk with me through Wal-Mart to help me find some items that I could not find the last time I was there. If they say no, then I can see that they are tired of being in the store and I can let go of my desire for them to be with me and have the confidence to find my way through the store by myself. I am no longer the little child that needs to be guided through the store, but I am present for my feelings of insecurity about shopping and am able to stay connected to myself rather than needing to react and control someone else so I feel more secure. From responding to my own needs as an adult I am beginning to provide for myself in a situation where I felt angry and beginning to let go of the person who I am attempting to control. This gives me the ability to articulate my needs as an adult to the other person and to stay connected to myself rather than resorting to anger and victimhood. A good sign that we have resorted to our childhood self is when we feel silently resentful and a desire to change their behavior in order to feel better. The result is always the same it creates little fires that over time lead to a break down in connection and intimacy.
Anger is not wrong and sometimes is necessary when we need to let people know that they are hurting us or not respecting our boundaries. Being fully aware of where anger is coming from is essential in giving us the tools to be fully present and aware of our past hurts and pains. If we attempt to control someone else to get our needs met, then chances are our loved ones will feel the wrath of our anger and will keep us caught in feelings of being alone and victimized. If we stay connected to the source of our anger and begin to provide for our own needs, then over time we will find ourselves being more relaxed and more understanding with other people. We have to constantly be in a space of self-reflection, aware of how we may be trying to control other people in order to fulfill our childhood needs.