How To Transform Toxic Anger For Better Health And Relationships
My jaw clenched, my hands formed into fists as heat rose up my spine into my neck and face. My heart started to thump in my chest. Within a split second an intense whirlwind of energy took over my brain sending me into a vortex and I lost all control of the present moment and my mind.
I was angry. No – I was in a state of rage. And nothing could stop this intense reaction from exploding like a volcano leaving everyone (and me) damaged in the aftermath.
This is the angry response many of us know, hate and want to eradicate.
So, what do we do instead? In an attempt to control the explosions, we go to the other end of the spectrum, attempting to swallow the anger down only to result in passive-aggressive seething resentment that ends up eating our insides.
If not, then perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who learned how to be with and process your anger in a healthy way. But, the reality is that most of us did not learn how to handle this intense emotion in healthy ways, resulting in either pretending we don’t feel it and hence repressing it, or lashing out, leaving us feeling embarrassed, and full of guilt and shame.
The good news is you can LEARN a healthy way to be with and process anger, leaving you full of life force energy and more in control of your life!
Why Rage And Repressed Anger Is An Unhealthy Learned Response
So much of the way we handle ours and others emotions have to do with what we learned through our relationship with our caregivers and how we were socially and culturally conditioned. This includes anger.
How did your parents, caregivers or teachers respond to you when you got angry as a kid? Most likely, they responded with disapproval, lack of love or more anger. What did this teach you? Anger is bad (so I am bad for expressing anger); anger is not acceptable and I must find a way to deal with this big emotion all by myself.
Most of our angry reactions are learned through what was mirrored to us, and what beliefs we formed about having angry emotions. So, we learned to suppress it, only for it to build and build and erupt like a volcano or eat away at us leaving us powerless and frustrated.
We all know the unhealthy aspects of rage. What many of us don’t know is the unhealthy aspects of burying our anger and it’s connection to also burying our life force energy.
The Connection Between Anger And Life Force Energy
How can an intense, potentially damaging emotion such as anger be connected to life force energy? Well, I’m not talking about toxic rage or repressed anger showing up as passive-aggressive comments or resentment. These ways of being with anger deplete your life force energy or keep it trapped inside your body. They also do damage to not only yourself, but others too. What I’m talking about is HEALTHY anger. Yes – it actually exists!
Dr. Peter Levine, author of numerous books on healing trauma in the body and awakening life force energy, speaks of anger as a primal emotion that has physiological roots and needs to be expressed or it can get trapped and deplete life force energy. Anger is an emotion, which is energy in motion, and to keep the flow going in your body, this anger must flow up and out. If it doesn’t, then this energy gets trapped and along with it, our life force energy can become trapped and show up as PTSD, fatigue, and lack of energy and interest in life.
The reason for this is that anger is part of our life force energy. When we are able to truly express all parts of us, and listen to and follow what anger wants us to do, then we are also able to be with other aspects of life force energy, including creativity and purpose. The expression of healthy anger is also connected to our will and true power, which are expressions of our true authenticity.
Expressing healthy anger is the ability to notice anger rising up, be with it while keeping your higher thinking brain (frontal lobe) online, understand it and what it’s trying to tell you, and take action from it that allows the intense energy to be released and your authenticity and life force energy to stay intact.
How Authenticity And Healthy Anger Get Derailed
I speak of authenticity a lot, as all of my coaching practice, whether it’s helping people heal from a chronic illness or helping parents to be better parents, is about coming back to who you truly are and expressing that authenticity so that you can live a life of thriving vs. just surviving.
Since healthy anger is part of your evolutionary physiology then how do we end up with unhealthy ways of expressing anger in the form of rage, passive-aggressive tendencies or repression? As I mentioned earlier, a big part of the way we learn to be with anger has to do with what we learned from our caregivers and from society about anger. Other reasons toxic ways of expressing anger show up is due to a need for protection and drawing boundaries, the violation of our beliefs and values, old wounds being ignited, inherited/generational trauma in our system, our attachment history with our parents/caregivers, and possibly even biological reasons such as chronic illness and pain.
As you can see, much of anger is based on reactions in the present due to things of the past.
So, how do we get back on that authenticity path, keeping our life force energy intact, and heal our toxic anger reactions to people, life and ourselves?: LEARN a new way (the healthy way!) to be with and process anger.
How To Transform Toxic Anger To Healthy Anger and Life Force Energy
Healthy anger, or healthy aggression is needed in life, is part of our physiological response to life and is an important part of expressing our will, purpose and authenticity. Since many of us have learned unhealthy ways to be with this very important and valuable emotion, it is now our choice to learn a different way to understand, be with and process anger.
Step 1: Awareness of body – know your body’s anger response
Think of the last time you got really angry. Where did you feel it in your body? What were the sensations? Oftentimes, our body responds to situations way faster than our thinking brain. If we can catch the anger rising up, then we can be with it with more awareness and not let it override our higher thinking brain.
As the anger rises up, you can start breathing to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (the calming, rest/digest system). As you do this, your brain and body will start to learn a new way to be with anger and with time you can train your system to have a new response to anger.
You can do this exercise with your iom2 device and practice thinking of angry situations and then use the device to bring yourself back into the calm zone with your breathing. It’s an excellent feedback tool to help you deactivate your anger reactions and train your nervous system to have a different response to life’s challenges.
Step 2: Awareness of mind – get to know the angry part of you
The truth is we are made up of many parts, and the angry part of you is just a part – not the whole you! By getting to know this part of you better, you can learn a lot about what triggers the anger outbursts or what makes you repress the anger.
Take a moment to get quiet and think of something that made you really angry. Then ask that angry part of you a few questions like: What is making you angry? How are you trying to help me? What are you afraid will happen if you don’t get angry (or if you don’t suppress the anger)?
We can learn a lot about ourselves by getting quiet and asking this protective part of us why it does what it does.
Step 3: Use self-compassion to have a different experience of anger
The reality is that most of us view anger as bad, not appropriate, and guilt-worthy. So, what happens after we get angry? We often tend to shame ourselves and sit in a pool of guilt or resentment.
Bringing in self-compassion to the experience of anger helps us to tolerate this strong emotion with courage and connection. Think of your little child self having a tantrum full of rage…What would you have liked to receive from your parents in that moment? Compassion for your struggle of having such big feelings and not knowing what to do with them? Or anger, shaming and punishment? What would have helped you to learn how to handle your big emotions?
Self-compassion is a powerful tool that can help bring you back into a heart-centered space and soften your body into relaxation in the face of this stressful emotion. From this place you are much better able to handle your anger and respond vs. react. Self-compassion activates the self-care network in the brain, allowing our fight brain (amygdala) to calm down in the face of stress.
The next time you feel really angry, put your hand on your heart and say to yourself: “this is a difficult moment, this is hard for me, I am feeling angry and I don’t know what to do with it, I am human and this is a part of being human.” Allow yourself to soften as you do this. The more you bring a compassionate response to your anger, the more your anger will shift and soften in both your mind and your body.
For those of you who have experienced trauma in your life and have a lot of anger buried in your system, I highly recommend working with a trauma trained therapist or coach. You can also check out iLS’s Safe & Sound Protocol, designed to help shift your nervous system into a more calm emotional and physiological state.
The Path To True Freedom From Unhealthy Anger
No matter what has happened to us in our lives, and no matter how much we may be struggling with our anger reactions in life, we know from science and research that neuroplasticity allows our brain and nervous system to shift and change. Nothing is fully hardwired, so there is always hope.
The path to true freedom from your emotions controlling you, including anger, is to learn a new way to be with these strong emotions. What you resist persists and what you be with, in a different way, transforms.
You can learn a new way to be with and process anger. Your life force energy depends on it!
Join me on the upcoming Passionate About Parenting FREE Online Summit:
If you want to learn a new way to be with anger and turn it into love and life force energy, you can watch my talk in the upcoming Passionate About Parenting Online Summit, airing January 11th and featuring 20+ experts talking about how to keep calm, lead with love, and be the loving mother that you are. You will also get access to my free MasterClass on How To Transform Toxic Anger For Better Health And Relationships. Sign up here for free: https://passionate-about-parenting.app.virtualsummits.com
Afshan Tafler is a Whole Life Coach who helps clients transform their health and their lives through a holistic approach to healing. Using a combination of Mind-Body Coaching and, scientifically-proven, energy psychology techniques to help her clients achieve optimal mind-body health, she’s become a sought-after wellness and parenting expert. Afshan’s been featured on leading Parenting summits such as Mindful World Parenting, Beyond Parenthood, Thriving Children and Parenting Like A Pro. Afshan is also a mom to a special needs child and is a proponent of Conscious Parenting and is passionate about coaching parents with sensitive and spirited children to thrive in their relationships. You can learn more about Afshan and her services at www.illuminateu.ca.