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What Lives Under Anger

A part of the Radical Humans Series

As I’ve said elsewhere, anger is a protective emotion. It comes online when we feel powerless, threatened, or like an injustice is happening. Its function is to defend that which is vulnerable. The vulnerable people in the tribe, the vulnerable parts of ourselves, the vulnerable emotions we’re afraid to express. Which means - any time you’re feeling anger it’s a cover up job. There’s something more vulnerable being protected or hidden behind the anger. As far as I’ve found this is always true. I have yet to find a circumstance where anger arises and there isn’t something vulnerable being protected.


There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s natural and normal to feel anger. And, if we’re oblivious to the true nature of how it operates within us, we’ll miss the deeper message and miss the opportunity to be skillful with the vulnerability. This is where we have an invitation to make contact with what lives under anger. In our own beings, underneath anger is most often sadness, fear, shame, or some combination of all three. When we make contact with these more vulnerable emotions in a good way, we can express and process and metabolize them fully. And once we do this, the anger no longer serves a purpose, and can therefore dissipate. This is the ultimate goal from my perspective, to get to and address things at the roots.


Now, if anger is showing up repeatedly in your life or in certain situations or contexts in your life, that’s an indication of a broader feeling of powerlessness. The best way I know to work with this pattern is to go directly to the belief “I’m powerless” or perhaps find a circumstantial belief like “I’m powerless when someone blames me.” This will take us deeper into the roots that are generating the emotions, where we can eliminate the belief entirely, and neutralize the feelings of powerlessness. There can also be conditioned anger that shows up in response to specific triggers, which can be neutralized by breaking or deconditioning the link between the trigger and the anger in the brain and nervous system. Fortunately, both of these processes are reliable and repeatable.


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