De-armoring takes guts and curiosity. We owe it to ourselves to ask: what’s behind the shield?
Lu Hanessian, MSc
When you get angry… how would you describe your reaction?
Slow-boil or Mt. Vesuvius? Does it come on like a tsunami or a lightning bolt? Linger for days or quickly dissipate?
Do you stuff it or spew it? Stonewall? High decibel or silence? In anger, do you say things you can’t take back? Or camouflage, slip into hyperdrive, pretend everything’s fine?
Anger is a high information emotion. What does it tell us about who we are and what we need? Anger’s a signal, a response to a perceived threat. We might feel unsafe, unseen, and undone, depending on our story around anger.
Anger is deeply familiar with our narrative self.
The way we’ve created our narrative is based on our experiences, how emotion and how conflict were modeled for us when we were young, and what we’ve practiced over the years.
Anger gets a bad rap. But, why?
Anger is generally perceived as a negative emotion. In early years, we might have received the message that our anger was inappropriate, impolite, threatening, frightening, overpowering and disempowering.
We may have learned that anger can scare others into submission or shrink people into oblivion. Maybe we learned to shapeshift for approval, to forfeit our needs, put up barricades.
From home to school and beyond, we got the message that when we’re mad, we’re out of line. Out of order. Out of our minds. We bought into the false narrative that we can’t express anger without going too far, being cast out, or cut from the team.
Little wonder we often say anger is messy. It’s full of contradiction — and pain.
That’s because anger is wrapped tightly around themes of abandonment, disappointment, inadequacy, rejection, fear of being alone, danger, and loss.
In fact, neuroimaging studies show that social rejection is registered in the brain as physical pain.
The thing is, we didn’t just outgrow these anger messages. We practiced and embodied them. Now, as adults, even with all of our…