It’s OK to get angry.
Not a message you hear very often, particularly at work.
But just imagine a life without emotions.
I don’t know about you, but back in the days when I was deep in the corporate rat race I was fortunate (?) enough to be sent on any number of courses to help me learn how to suppress my emotions. This was supposed to lead me to a state of inner calm that could never be shaken, no matter how stressful things got or how much I yearned to fight the system.
Fortunately it didn’t work. Why do I say fortunately? Because emotions are such an essential part of life.
Just ask anyone who is taking medication, to reduce their emotions. The drugs numb out the good emotions, along with the less desirable ones, and people often describe it as existing, rather than living.
I have seen that first-hand, with people I love.
Then there’s the so-called “spiritual bypass”, which works in a similar way to mood-suppressing drugs. You go around pretending that you’re not really feeling angry, scared, guilty or any other so-called “negative” emotion. But really you’re faking it. And that’s a recipe for long-term unhappiness and dis-ease.
So why are we so obsessive about getting rid of emotions?
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Because dealing with logical, rational people is more predictable. It’s perceived as being more professional.
It’s easier for everyone else.
Yet to shut down emotions is to deny a core part of our identity.
All emotions have a light and a shadow side: for example, many people feel fear and excitement in the same part of the body.
The thing is that if we suppress our emotions, we either find ourselves shutting down or the negative emotions shout louder until they feel they’re being heard.
Negative (yucky feeling) emotions are simply an early warning system to tell us when something isn’t right. To deny that is to deny your intuition.
Of course there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of expressing emotions, but not expressing them at all can’t be right.
And why is it so important to allow yourself to feel angry?
Because anger and passion are felt in the same part of the body. Kill the anger and you suppress the passion. Anger is a major motivator towards creating change. Imagine a world without it?!
So my message is that the emotions we feel that are NOT the problem, but the actions we choose to take as a result of them.
And we always have a choice.
Swami Vivekananda in his book Voice of Freedom (a weighty tome, but inspiring reading!) reminds us that it all goes wrong when we identify with the anger – when we become one with it. Then the anger becomes our master and we lose control.
Talking about someone behaving badly towards him, he describes:
At first I thought “I am going to be angry”. Anger was one thing and I was another. but when I became angry, I was anger.
Whilst our anger is still at the “seedling” stage, we can still choose how to respond.
Once we have become one with it and are telling ourselves that we are angry, then any choice disappears. It has become part of our identity and will drive our behaviour. The trick is to spot the seeds of anger early enough so that we can choose how to respond, rather than triggering our historical auto-pilot programmes.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic. Please feel free to share via the messages box.