A Psychological Model of Anger
There comes a time in all of our lives when we need to psychologically explore and learn how to express and understand our anger. Our anger has several facets. It can be a protection against our hurt and vulnerable parts, and it can also be a projection onto another of what we do not like about ourselves. Anger can also be a suppression of our essential passion, purpose, and initiatory strength in the world.
It is necessary to build a strong separate/ego self to survive in the practical world. Our psyches are made up of different parts, sometimes called subpersonalities. Each part has it's own perspective, feelings, memories, goals and motivations. Let's explore two of the parts that we all have inside, the inner child and the protector/guard in relationship to anger.
You can also read a good article on anger here for therapists by Jay Earley PhD. I have simplified his understanding here and added my own understandings.
Anger to Protect Against Inner Pain
The inner protector/inner guard's job is to handle the world and protect against the pain of your disowned and suppressed pain from childhood. Your inner guard protects against pain in a variety of ways - closing down feelings, anger, caretaking, pleasing others, avoiding situations that might evoke a trigger of pain, judgment of self and others (projection), and a variety of defense mechanisms.
The inner guard uses anger to defend against and avoid the pain of exiled feelings. The key to working with your protector/guard is to build a relationship with it from the aware, witnessing part of your mind, which you can call your Self or your Higher Mind. The Self/Higher Mind can ask the Protector/Guard what pain it is protecting.
Your higher mind can ask the guard to talk about the childhood incident or family situation where it shut down from the pain and took on the burden of pain and negative beliefs. The Self witnesses the story and the release of feelings around the story. Or it can simply be conscious and feel the pain until it is gone. Stored childhood pain is often the root of depression. Once the original pain is finally released the protector can let go of its anger.
Appreciating your anger as mechanism to protect you from hurt and pain builds an inner compassion. In some cases releasing or unburdening the anger in an expressive way in therapy, in art-making, or with a trusted other can help dissipate the charge that is covering up the inner pain and make room to feel the inner hurt that the anger is masking.
Suppressed and Disowned Anger
Often however, even our anger gets suppressed by another protector/guard, especially if anger was not allowed in our families when we were growing up. Often we have type of guard that manages our expression of anger and suppresses it. So now we have 3 layers - a managing guard, an angry guard and an exiled child part of our mind that is holding onto our suppressed pain. If a managing part of ourselves habitually suppresses our anger it is helpful to find a conscious and healthy outlet.
Years ago for example when I was going through my divorce found that going for long runs helped me work through my anger on a physical and emotional level. Often in therapy anger can be exerted in a controlled way to help a release, such as punching or yelling into a pillow. We can express anger without danger and often when we do, the original pain that the anger was protecting, will also release, often with tears and a sense of relief.
When to Express Anger and When to Witness It:
Sometimes anger needs to be witnessed and in some cases discharged.
1. Witnessing Anger - Your protector/guard serves a defensive purpose and needs to be listened to and understood. Encouraging the protector/guard to express anger will simply encourage its defense system. Your protector/guard needs to learn how to express anger constructively and learn to delve into the roots of the hurt, heartbreak and pain that the anger is protecting. Feeling and releasing the original pain disassembles the guard’s defenses, as there becomes less of a need for protective anger.
2. Expressing Anger - Exiled anger, such as anger originating in harmful childhood situations, may need to be witnessed by the Higher Mind and a trained therapist or trusted other, and spoken by the child self that originally shut down it's anger. When intense anger has been suppressed for a lifetime, often it is helpful to free up and give permission for the expression of anger in a safe therapeutic environment while your Higher Mind witnesses the process. This reduces the intense charge of your anger and allows the therapeutic work to continue with more ease. Disowned anger needs to be reclaimed and expressed outwardly as a way of accessing inner strength, passion for life and healthy and necessary assertiveness to get through the vissitudes of life in a healthy way.
A Spiritual Model of Anger
I have been writing a book called A Course in Miracles for Creative Women and these particular lessons explore the spiritual roots of anger. On a deep and spiritual level anger is a form of projection and through deep inner accountability we can often heal our anger at its root. When we are angry we are burying the things we do not like about ourselves and then project them out onto the world around us.
Psychologist Chuck Session writes it this way:
"What we see in another is what we have projected, what we think we are. The negative things we see in people are what we actually believe about you. We know this because when we can forgive those things within you, they no longer seem to bother us. What we see in another is what we think about you. If we do not change our judgment on another person, we will be stuck with what we see in them."
When you are feeling angry these two lessons may help deepen your understanding of anger.
"I am determined to see things differently."
5 times, for 1 full minute each - repeat the idea, "I am determined to see things differently." Then close your eyes and search your mind deeply for any situation at any time that arouses anger in you, no matter how mild.
Hold each person or situation in you mind and say, "I am determined to see - specify person or situation - differently." Be very specific, even to the point of naming specific attributes in specific people that anger you.
The degree that we feel anger does not matter. Whether it is mild irritation or intense anger that you feel - nothing is too small to include in this practice. This exercise is meant to get underneath the small irritations and see the truth that there is no small anger. Anger is anger.
The Course says, "You will become increasingly aware that a slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury."
All forms of anger arise from the same source within the psyche. Allen Watson points out about how some schools of psychology maintain that everyone carries around a deeply suppressed, primal anger. Underneath our subconscious lies an intense and violent fury. The Course metaphysically views anger as a deep, primal self-hatred that is buried and denied. The self-protective ego that was born in fear and separation cannot love itself and this makes it endlessly angry. Only when we turn to the Source of our own unique souls can we find the love that is ours.
The displacement of anger onto others is called projection. We are enraged at ourselves for separating from the Divine Source and we feel a submerged, salient anger at ourselves that we in our ego selves want to project outwardly. We are endlessly trying to prove that the anger we feel is caused by something outside of ourselves but it is really the roots of own disconnection from Creator and our own creative souls that fills us with unjustified fury.
"There is another way of looking at the world."
2 times, morning and evening, for 5 full minutes go back and forth from glancing around your outer world to closing your eyes and observing your inner world. While doing so repeat the idea unhurriedly” There is another way of looking at the world." Regard both inner and outer worlds with equal casualness, and detachment.
The instant any situation disturbs you apply the idea specifically, saying, "There is another way of looking at this." Do so immediately, rather than waiting until you have tried to fix things on the outside. If your feelings do not clear up right away, don't give up. Spend a minute or more repeating the sentence over and over, closing your eyes and concentrating on the words you are saying.
We can consider with this lesson that do not need to view life through our defense system. Indeed when we do, we actually create the very thing we are trying to avoid. People feel our defenses and ultimately we unconsciously put out the vibe, "stay away from my sore spots - and so we continually feel separate. When we look at life "my way" we miss the Larger Picture and actually miss the creativity of seeing life in a myriad of different ways. If we took the time to look at a life event from the point of view from each person involved we would begin to experience life as more multidimensional.
If we saw the world from a friendly perspective and understood that everyone flourishes with love and kind attention and we could extend that love, we can shift how we see the world - and indeed affect the outcome of any situation. Our attitudes and perspectives make a very really contribution to outcomes in our daily life. We can assert that love is here and it is up to us to extend it. And it is this way of looking at the world that creates a New World.