Many of us were taught as children to hold in our anger and to hide it. We didn’t feel safe to embrace our emotions or to express our truths. Many of us believed – and still do – that our anger is bad and hurts people. So, we hold it in, often to protect those we love.
This strategy becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. We hold in our anger as long as we can – like a balloon that we’re filling with more and more hot air – until it just can’t possibly hold any more. Then it pops. It explodes, and this is the part that can get pretty ugly. Because by the time it happens, we don’t usually have much control at all. We may end up saying or doing things in the heat of the moment that we quickly regret. Instead of being angry at someone or something out there in the world, soon we’ve created enough chaos around us that we are angry at ourselves. Ashamed, we may even decide to double down our efforts in the future to hold our anger in. But this only intensifies the cycle, as we begin filling our next balloon with more and more hot air.
The truth is that anger – like all of our emotions – is simply a messenger. It’s not good or bad in itself. What determines its value is how we interact with it – whether we project it onto others, use it to beat ourselves up, or listen carefully to its message.
Like all of our emotions, anger’s job is to bring important information to our attention. As soon as we acknowledge that message and honor it, anger’s charge dissipates, and it flows away – like everything else in our stream of consciousness. The problem is when we don’t fully acknowledge or honor our emotions. This is when they grow louder and louder, insisting that we truly hear, embrace, and understand their message.
So, if we want to release our anger, to free ourselves from its grip, and to protect those around us from its wrath, we must open a patient, loving space to hear its message. Mindfulness is a beautiful way to do this, and I’ll include some suggestions below in case you’d like to know how to go about it. But you might also be wondering what anger’s message is. You’ll have to listen yourself for the details, but I will tell you this:
Anger is like our own personal guard dog. It barks when our boundaries are being violated – for example, when someone or something is not honoring our space, our energy, our time, our work, our needs, our love, our gifts, our feelings, or our beliefs.
Anger is an alarm bell alerting us to exactly the places where we need to heal our boundaries. And like our own personal guard dog, anger, though it bares its teeth and growls, is actually quite gentle, respectful, and playful on the inside. What it wants is only for true love and respect to come close, to sit at our hearth, and to enter our inner space. When we make friends with our anger, it teaches us not only to heal our boundaries, but to connect with that sacred fire – with that inner source of power, magic, strength, and creativity.
Now, you may be thinking that all this is interesting, but your anger is already too loud. Or you may be afraid that its message will be too dangerous. However, anger is only loud when you are not fully listening. And it is only dangerous when you push it away from your wise self who knows how to stay in control.
I invite you to make friends with your barking dog. Sit down, offer your hand to anger, and be patient as it allows you to pat its head and to scratch behind its ears. You’ll see how beautiful it is to sit by the sacred fire that your anger has been guarding. And I promise, when the boundaries of your hearth are honored, you’ll have more than enough love for yourself and for all around you.
Here are some additional suggestions for working with anger mindfully:
- Try my breathwork exercise on Aura, “Breathe Frustration Out.” (You can claim your free 30-day pass here.)
- If you have instruments, play an angry song expressing your feelings. (This is your permission to “bang” on the piano. Or to make a drum with pots and pans.)
- Go for a run. Imagine your feelings playing out in front of you as you run through them.
- Give yourself a journal prompt and write about why you are angry.
When you listen to your anger, it will show you where to heal your boundaries and will reconnect you with your inner fire – your source of power, magic, strength, and creativity.