Expressing Personalized Anger
In the first article of this series on handling anger, we explored the multidimensional option for expressing impersonalized anger. Non-personalized anger is anger that one person vents or expresses around another that is not personally about the listener. In this article we explore personalized anger, anger that one person vents or expresses at another and which is about the listener.
It’s 4pm as I walk past the clock in our living room for the third time. Time to leave for my yoga class but Jonathan has the car and he is not back yet. If I don’t leave in the next few minutes, I’ll be late. Five minutes … ten minutes … go by. I finally hear him drive into the driveway. I struggle with my anger over missing class, over feeling that I’m not important enough for him to be on time as we agreed … the list goes on. I struggle with how to handle my anger and hurt once he walks through the door.
As we explained before, venting anger is a difficult thing to handle. Anger is fiery hot and can create trauma in the person to whom it is vented whether personal or not. There are those who would say that we shouldn’t have anger much less express it. Our society denounces it and the New Age movement goes further stating that to be spiritual, we should somehow eliminate anger from our being. Anger cannot be eliminated from our being. It’s a protective response used by our Inner Child and is as vital to our well-being as love. It is a tool that when used properly keeps us healthy. At some point we must make the decision to see it in a different light, to stop running from it or avoiding it. We must to work with it instead of against it. Once we do that, we are ready to harness its power and use it for the good. Yes, anger can be a positive thing. We just have to learn how to make it so.
Fortunately Jonathan and I have agreements about handling anger, in this case for handling personalized anger. And from painful experience, I have learned to apply them when I am angry. Here’s our personalized anger agreement. I’ll take you through it one step at a time and show you how I applied it to the situation above.
Jonathan and I agree to allow ourselves to express anger at the other without fear of being invalidated, made wrong, fixed or shut down. We agree that when one of us is angry at the other that person will listen to the vent and validate the angered party without defending, apologizing where necessary. Once the injured party has been validated and had time to calm down, he/she agrees to look at how he/she may have helped to create the situation which caused the anger, and to take responsibility, apologizing where necessary.
Jonathan and I agree to allow ourselves to express anger at the other without fear of being invalidated, made wrong, fixed or shut down.
When working with anger it is crucial there be some agreement that makes it safe to express. We vent pain to get rid of it. We get rid of it because it is toxic. When we have experienced anger, the body (also known as the Inner Child) will naturally try to expel it because it knows that the energy of anger is harmful if not released. So when we do express it, we need to know that we won’t get emotionally annihilated in the process. Some of the ways we do this as a listener is invalidating the pain causing the anger, “Why are you making such a big deal about that?” or telling them they are wrong to be angry as in, “I don’t know why you’re so angry about….”, or fixing it as in “Okay, tell me what you want and I’ll do it”. All of these actions frustrate the process of venting and cause the ventor to have to hold on to the anger and find another way to express it. And from my experience, the longer we have to wait to vent the anger, the worse it gets.
Referring to the issue above, once Jonathan is in the house I say, “Jonathan, I need to talk to you about something.” He responds, “Okay.” We sit down and I begin.
We agree that when one of us is angry at the other, that person will listen to the vent and validate the angered party without defending and apologizing where necessary.
Now this is a big one! One of the ways that we prevent the release of anger is by defending. As soon as we say, “But” we have shut down the ventor. Why? We have made their vent about us. To successfully release anger, the ventor must be allowed to express fully focusing all of his/her energy of getting rid of the pain.
I began expressing my hurt by saying, “I’m really upset over not getting to go to class today because you were late. I feel as though I’m not important enough for you to be on time. Didn’t we have an agreement about what time you’d be back?”
This is the hardest part about being the listener in my estimation because the listener, Jonathan in this case, usually has a good reason for being late and if I’d only listen to him, I wouldn’t be angry. What we had to learn was that it doesn’t matter what the truth is, at that moment when the angered person is expressing, the listener must not interrupt, especially if we want to have our side of story heard. But it hurts to be blamed. It hurts when others project their pain onto us whether we are responsible for that pain or not, so learning how to listen and validate takes effort but the reward is well worth it. Once the angered party has been heard and validated, he/she can then be a good listener and hear your side of the story, seeking to understand why you would act as you have with the intention of removing any blame.
Jonathan listens to me express my hurt and anger, projecting the pain triggered by my fear of not being important enough onto him. He doesn’t’ defend his actions, he listens and responds to my hurt with, “I can see why you are so hurt. I caused you to miss your class—something that was very important to you and I’m sorry for that and for causing you to feel you weren’t important enough to me for me to be back on time.” When asked the question about the agreement, he responds with, “Yes, we do have that agreement and I acknowledge that I broke it.”
By listening and acknowledging my hurt and loss, in this case the class, I felt that I was heard and my pain validated. But before we get to that, let me explain what we mean by validating. Validating is honoring the right of the angered person to have his/her anger. Jonathan validated my pain by saying the words that spoke to my pain. He said that he understood that the class was important to me and that because of his breach of our agreement, I lost the opportunity to attend. That’s what we call speaking to the pain. The best way I know to be able to validate is to put myself in the injured party’s shoes at that moment. In our situation, Jonathan put himself in my shoes for the moment. By doing so, he doesn’t necessarily have to agree with my perspective, after all I don’t have all the facts yet, it just means that he acknowledges my right to be angry based on my current perspective of the situation.
Validating does an amazing thing, it enables the ventor to totally release the pain of the anger because it says, “He sees my point and acknowledges my right to have it.” In my experience, angry people stay angry because no one has validated them. So they walk through life, continually venting in hopes that someone will come along and validate them so that they can finally release it.
The most important point here is that we can vent anger, letting off the steam but the pain of that anger cannot be released until we have been validated, first by being heard and second by a sincere apology that speaks to the pain (I discuss apologies in the next article). Validating an angry person’s pain allows him/her to let go of the pain.
Once the angered party has been validated and had time to calm down, he/she agrees to look at how he/she may have helped to create the situation which caused the anger, and to take responsibility, apologizing where necessary.
It’s quite magical to witness the transformation that takes place when an angry person has been validated. With the pain gone, my angry red face returns to normal, my heart rate slows and I become surprisingly open to seeing Jonathan’s side of the issue. Now is when he reaps the reward that comes from not trying to jump to his own defense before validating. With the pain gone, I can now think straight, (doesn’t pain make you crazy sometimes?) and seek resolution. Now I am ready to hear why he was late. I listen very intently as he explains that there was a car accident that stopped traffic causing him to run late. I listen as he explains how he kept looking at his watch, concerned that he might be late. I can feel from his words that he really tried to be on time, he cared about me getting to class on time. And I can see that I assumed he didn’t care. Now it’s my turn to apologize. I say, “Honey, I’m sorry for assuming that you were late because you didn’t care. I realize now that you tried very hard to be on time and that you understood how important the class was to me. I realize that you could not have foreseen the accident.”
Making assumptions is the best way to ensure that there will be a lot of conflict, hurt and anger in your relationship. It is so natural to see other’s actions through the filter of our own perceptions that changing this behavior can be difficult. But change it must if we are to avoid unnecessary anger and create a sense of emotional safety in our relationships. I assumed that I wasn’t important enough to Jonathan for him to be on time when the truth was that he did care and was upset that his running late caused me to miss my class. As soon as he came through the door, I let him have it! If I want to avoid conflict, I must avoid making assumptions. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be angry, it means that I will stay open to there being a good reason that he is late. In other words, I give him the benefit of the doubt. So, when he walks through the door, I’ll say, “Honey, I’m glad your home. Is there some reason that you’re late?”
Many times I find that his intentions were not as I suspected and vice versa. Most often it is just a miscommunication or misinterpretation of his actions that led me to assume something that was not, in fact, real. But, I won’t know this unless I first give him the benefit of the doubt. Of course, is harder to do when there are layers of stuffed anger covering the love that first brought us together. Another reason to handle anger as it comes up.
Finding and owning the mirror
Finding the mirror is a term we use to describe the process of finding our part in co-creating the conflict that resulted in hurt and anger. We can’t fully clear the pain of the event, nor learn how to prevent the same response, until we see how we used our power to create it and the reason why. To accomplish this, we use the Formula of Compassion . Finding and owning the mirror is not about assessing blame or being right or wrong, it is the part where we move to the higher perspective in order to pinpoint the belief that led to the creation of the event, and the fear that caused us to react as we did. The purpose, of course, is to change the belief and integrate the fear. We will always know how much we are controlled by a fear and its corresponding belief by how intensely we react to someone triggering that fear.
Jonathan and I realize that in every conflict there is a mirror … reflection of a belief and fear that we have and that is being mirrored back to us by our partner. In this conflict the mirror for both of us involves a belief that we are worthless. By my reaction, anger and jumping to the conclusion that Jonathan doesn’t feel I am important enough, I can see that I am not able to completely validate my self-worth and need Jonathan to give that to me by being on time. The message I read into his actions was, “You’re not worth me being on time for.” Though that was not the case, he really did care about being on time, my lack of self-worth caused me to interpret his actions differently. This conflict showed me another area in which I still look for outside validation of my self worth. And, that as long as I need others to validate my worth, I will be vulnerable to hurt in this area. With this understanding, I could own the mirror, the reflection of my fear.
For Jonathan, my actions triggered his fear of being inadequate and made wrong and thus worthless. For him this means that he has been imperfect and as such, no longer has the right to exist. This is perfectionism in action and I just triggered that fear. This conflict showed Jonathan another area in which he still believes that he can lose his right to exist by being imperfect and thus worthless. No matter how hard he tries to be on time, things can happen to stop him. He sees that he must allow for these things and realize that when it occurs, as long as he has put forth his best effort and his intentions are good, that he will be okay. And that the right to exist is an inherent right for all souls. It’s not based on performance or worthiness. Now that he understood the fear I was mirroring to him through my behavior, he could own his mirror. So what we discover is that we co-created this conflict to work on areas where we still have self-worth issues. But, we would not have discovered this without expressing our anger.
Once we acknowledge the mirrors, we can move to the final step, compassion. I feel tremendous gratitude and appreciation for Jonathan’s’ willingness to play this role to show me where I still give my power away and vice versa. We both realize how fortunate we are to be with a partner who can move through anger and this knowledge along with the willingness to express the anger draws us closer together, strengthening the bond of trust between us.
Key Points to remember:
- Anger is a part of being human and serves a vital purpose.
- Anger must be released from the body in order to remain healthy.
- To handle anger properly, we need agreements in all relationships for it.
- Validation is the key to releasing the pain of the anger from the body.
- Once we are validated we can then be open to seeing the other side of a conflict and not until.
- Once we see the other side, to clear the conflict and restore the balance, we must own our part in co-creating the conflict. We must see the mirror.
- Once we see the mirror and own it, we move into compassion … gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to clear our emotional baggage and obtain that soul growth that caused us to incarnate in the first place. And just as important, we express appreciation and gratitude for the partner, friend or loved one who cares enough to participate in the learning with us.
- To avoid conflicts, instead of jumping to conclusions and making assumptions about another’s’ actions, give them the benefit of the doubt. Ask questions to make sure you have a reason to be upset. The more we integrate our fears, the easier this will be.
In closing, I realize that this article doesn’t cover all the various situations that can occur when we are angry, but I do hope that with the agreement example in this article as well as the one of the previous article, and the steps provided, you can develop your own agreements for handling anger. Now that we have the two major anger agreements, in the next article, I’ll cover making apologies, a vital step in releasing anger and one that many of us have not been taught how to do in such a way as it totally validates pain and anger allowing them to be totally released from the body. When we give real apologies, no residual anger, resentment or bitterness is harbored that can lead to future conflict.
Written October 23, 2003
 The Formula of Compassion is the first of The 7 Multidimensional Keys of Compassion. Through this key, we are able to see and understand the lesson behind any challenge in our lives. This includes past issues as well. The Formula of Compassion enables us to clear and heal old wounds with family members, friends, business associates, the guy who hit our car, the woman who ran over our cat, etc. It releases us from feeling victimized and experiencing the helpless rage associated with that state of being. Click here for the 9 Steps of the Formula: http://www.nibiruancouncil.com/html/formulaarticle.html#