Over the last couple of years, I have had an almost allergic reaction to most activists in that I don’t want to allow them into my space. Initially I noticed this but could not understand why as often they represent great causes. I myself was very proud about being one of the people who marched against Tony Blair’s decision to declare war on Iraq for example. And as those that know me well would recognise I am a very passionate person. Then I realised that at some level the disconnect was coming because they tend to be angry people who justify their way of being by saying its righteous anger. I had a major aha moment. Being passionate has enthusiasm and encouragement as its source of energy; anger of any kind is based on negative energy and is ultimately destructive. I share this because it is what in part has motivated me to write this post.
Myth 1: Anger is a source of energy
Some justify getting angry as they claim to get a surge of energy and say that it motivates themselves or others into action. This is only a partial truth let me share the chemical reaction that happens when you are in a rage. Anger starts with the amygdala perceiving a threat and therefore needing to protect you. Without getting too technical, there is a surge of adrenaline and nonadrenaline which can provide a temporary feeling of greater physical strength aka the incredible hulk. However when your anger subsides you will feel exhausted and what is very important to note is that it can take up to two hours for it to subside and for you to return to a relaxed state. During that time you are more prone to being triggered and getting angry again.
If you keep getting triggered you can cause permanent damage. Chronically angry people may not produce acetylcholine, a hormone which tempers the more severe effects of adrenaline. Their nervous system is constantly working and can eventually become overexerted, leading to a weakened heart and stiffer arteries. Research published in the Week magazine in March 2014 suggests that such people are five times more likely to suffer a heart attack and three times more likely to have a stroke. As Mike George wrote in his book, Don’t’ get mad get wise, getting into a rage causes you pain and is the equivalent to emotional self-harming.
Myth 2: righteous anger is justified
No anger is ever justified because even if it is not physical, it is a verbal form of violence. Your trigger may be that life is unfair to certain individuals or groups of people and therefore it is right to express anger on their behalf. Imagine what would happen if you threw a bit more self-awareness into that moment, you might see that you have made yourself a victim on their behalf and are suffering in the same way you see them suffering.
This is like someone who is drunk trying to help someone else who is drunk….your so-called “righteous anger” shuts down your capacity to empathise and be compassionate also ~ Mike George
Getting your own back
What about those times when you have been unfairly treated or misquoted? Only today I went into a difficult meeting which needed to happen to get the best result for my daughter. I knew ahead of time it wasn’t going to be easy and thought I had prepared myself for every eventuality. It all got a whole lot harder when I found out that someone had taken something that I had shared on Facebook out of context and in effect spread half truths about me. Part of me yearned for justice, to find out who could have done such a thing and have words with them. But how would that have helped?
Facing my upset full on and acknowledging my true feelings and finding a safe space to express them and be supported by those who knew my intention was pure has enabled me to step back and let go of this. If I had chosen to wreak revenge who knows what else would have happened or where this would have ended? And yet there is so much in the media that encourages us to do just that. All that does is to perpetuate negative energy.
These may not be beliefs that you buy into at the moment and yet I hope it is food for thought. Let’s assume for now you recognise the dangers of anger then the next question you will be asking yourself is how can you act on this information.
Three steps that will free you from the anger habit:
- Understand why anger is unhealthy;
- Accept responsibility for your anger whatever form it takes, at all times and in all situations – no one has made you angry; and
- Be prepared to uncover, question and change the beliefs and perceptions you hold, which are creating your emotional pain.
It is not easy but remember this we are designed to be loving peaceful souls. You can find your way back to your true essence by learning and practising a form of meditation. It is one of the reasons I teach mindfulness as it is so restorative and enables mindful communication. Why bother? Because as you tune into these truths something shifts not just at an individual level but also at a collective level which means ultimately there is more harmony in the world.
Kate Griffiths works with individuals and business owners to create more ease and flow in their lives. Clients include conscious business owners and leaders who recognise that the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining what the new ways of doing business look like. She is passionate about creating conversations that lead to change and has developed her own process to do that called connection through conversation. If you would like to learn how to use mindfulness for yourself then do check out Kate’s two day mindfulness course at the end of November.