Can Anger Be Good?

Competent anger can help men to live better – a third way to anger management.

In 2018, Tracee Ellis Ross gave a TED talk. She said, “Your fury is not something to be afraid of. It holds a lifetime of wisdom. Let it breathe and listen”.

She was talking about Feminism, and as a dad of two daughters I welcome her fury as a pathway for continuing the liberation of women in the face of male domination…but, that’s an argument for another blog-post.

I practice as a psychotherapist. I move my body daily – cycling, stretching, walking, lifting. I use anger to give me momentum, so I like anger. I try to help people to express their rage through personalised forms of anger management. I also value diversity, equality, and liberation of self. Expressing anger is liberating. Believe me – I go to the local Trench Boxing club and it makes me a better person. I breathe fire and it helps me express anger (this is a conscious use of yogic breath rather than a circus act).

SO, I say ‘yes’ to anger!! Anger is a basic emotion we need to embrace, before it embraces us and takes action by itself. So how do we manage anger to become better people?

1.      Expressing Anger

Have you ever exploded at someone, and afterwards, felt guilty? Okay, that is a rhetorical question, as anyone who hasn’t is either a Buddha or was praised as a child for their even temperament, and now views this as a part of their identity for which they continue to receive positive strokes. The Philosopher Aristotle discussed anger in depth, he said, “a good tempered person can sometimes get angry, but only as he ought to”…”such a person might get angry too soon or not enough, yet still be praised for being good tempered”.

Anger needs to come out. Our guilt is feedback from our emotions telling us that we have wronged or hurt someone. The message here – listen to your guilt and you will manage your anger better.

Back to Tracee Elliss Ross, who says, “Acknowledge your fury. Give it language. Share it in safe places of identification and in safe ways”.

We NEED furious anger. We REALLY need furious anger. In Gestalt therapy we say that unresolved anger, sadness, fear, and pain must be alleviated through accessing it in the here and now, and expressing that emotion in the present moment. So, why do we need anger? My answer to this lies in what it is masking. What lies beneath? If we ‘dig a little deeper’ we can find a gem in there. A gem that can give us information about what is important to us.

A central question comes from this – how do we access our anger without shutting down, going into overwhelm mode, or hurting others?

1.      The Body Base of Anger

A little bit of brain science – our Amygdala is the alarm bell for danger, which is connected to the PAG (periaqueductal grey). When the alarm bell rings the PAG is alerted and we do one of three things – fight, flight, freeze, and sometimes a fourth, we flop. These are the reactions of trauma, which most of us have experienced in our lives.

So how do we get through the anger shut-down to mine the gem beneath? This is where breathing comes in. Breathing is one of the best and most effective ways of calming the central nervous system. It can also have an expressive effect too. Expression of anger, possibly.

After doing Yoga for years, I recently trained in CRM (Comprehensive Resource Model). This is a model of psychotherapy that combines Yogic breathing with brain science. The result is that we can support people to access their trauma, ‘non-verbally’. And this is the important bit, as a part of this trauma is stuck in the PAG zone of our brain stem. The result is that we can’t access the trauma through language, but we can access and manage anger via the body. So, please join me in an experiment.

1.      An Experiment for Managing Anger

First, get comfy in a chair!

Breathe in through your nose (5 seconds) and out through your mouth (5 seconds), don’t not pause at top or bottom. Do this 5 times and focus on relaxing your jaw on the out breath. F-e-e-l the calm.

Think about a situation from the past that provokes anger in you…locate the feeling in your body. Breathe into this feeling for 20-30 seconds, give it space and place.

Begin to breathe more deeply, and on the out breath, breathe fire like a dragon (the sound is (haaaaaagh – from the back of your throat, and push this breath out with your diaphragm. Notice what happens – are you energized, are you shaking, are you …? Do this 5 times…more if you need to.

(If you feel light headed, overwhelmed, or stuck, then stop for a moment, ground yourself using ‘grounding breath’)

Grounding breath. Feel your feet on the floor and inhale deeply, drawing energy from the earth into your lower abdomen and pelvis area. Pause for a few seconds and breathe out whilst allowing a sense of calm to embrace you. Repeat until you return to calm again.

Come back into the room by looking around you, reminding yourself it is today. Ask yourself what truth there is to learn from this experience? When you catch that truth, repeat it, and again.

HOMEWORK: Do this daily for 5 days.

If you want to, leave a comment on what you experienced, do so in the box below and we will get right back to you.

Thanks

1.      What next?

– A morning routine can help you to manage emotions

– A yoga mat can support you to access the space to do anger and other emotional work

– A call to me could help your anger management