Monday, June 13, 2011

Ask Parvati 16: Anger As An Ally, Part 2: Look Behind The Anger To Act Awake



(Continued from Knowing What You Feel Gives You Power)

We receive powerful information when we listen to our emotions. What we do with that information separates the wise from the foolish. The challenge with anger is that, like fire, it is quick, sharp and potentially destructive. When we feel angry, we must learn to take time to cool down before we act.

We must learn to read the early signs of anger in our emotional landscape. Usually we first will feel uneasy, restless and tense. Then we may feel irritated. This leads to feeling annoyed, then angry. The movement towards feeling angry can be surprisingly slow, even over a long period of time. But once we become angry, our mood can quickly escalate into feeling irate, raging, wrathful, violent and hateful.

Once we feel anger, we have awakened the beast within. We have become the lion that roars, the gorilla that thumps its chest, and the shark that attacks. All we see is the need to defend. Just like many animals, we instinctively attack when we feel attacked. But the difference between animals and humans is our ability to act with awakened consciousness.

When we react in anger, we usually create pain for ourselves and for others. We say things we later regret. We destroy things we later wish we had kept. We break trust we later wish we still had. Following the impulse of anger rarely serves the greatest good.

When we go deeper, we learn to touch what is really driving our anger. In my experience, at the root, we always end up touching fear. In the case of the roommate with the noisy TV, we could say simply, we were afraid that we were not going to get enough sleep. At one level, surely that is true.

Perhaps, deeper still, our roommate with his noisy TV has given us an opportunity to realize that in fact, we never really feel safe. Perhaps we have felt a low-grade anxiety all of our lives, a pulse that moves us to feeling separate and unsafe. When we touch that pulse, we see that our deepest fear is our fear of not being loved.

Our anger shows us the ways we believe we are separate; the ways we don’t feel loved or supported; the ways we don’t believe love exists.

In Marianne Williamson’s words, “What is not love is fear. Anger is one of fear's most potent faces. It does exactly what fear wants it to do: It keeps us from receiving love at exactly the moment when we need it the most.”


(Continues tomorrow: The Irony Of Anger)



  1. For me, it has been the work of the past couple of years to begin to become aware of how much time I spend feeling unsafe, disconnected, cringing from the next bomb blast. As you note here, irritation with noise (which is one of my issues) can indicate a deep current of fear and anxiety that I cannot safely be myself, cannot relax and trust in the support of the Universe. So easy to make it be about the noise outside and not the disconnect inside. The Williamson quote is very apt!

  2. As a yogic practioner I practice a mindfulness exercise to respond and not to react. This means witnessing and then responding and certainly not reacting in anger which is typically rage!

  3. I'm only starting to learn about listening to my emotions. Looking forward to learning more tomorrow.