Anger is a primary human emotion. It has an adaptive meaning that evolved over millennia as a way to defend ourselves when someone or something gets in our way, interrupts something we’re doing, or prevents us from completing a goal. Anger also occurs when our bodies, our expressions, or our words are attacked, threatened, or hurt. Anger is a possible response to pain, betrayal, abandonment or loss of something we considered ours.
Anger becomes dysregulated when we can’t find the means to feel it and safely metabolize it. Dysregulated anger (fighting) takes the form of acting out, rebellion, hostility, violence, malice, threat, glare, threatening, intimidation, harm, death, abuse, or assault. It can also take the form of depression, as the anger turns inward, a feeling of paralysis, or passive-aggressive behavior (freezing).
Some forms of dysregulated anger are the result of childhood or later stress and trauma. If we were injured or attacked in a situation that was dangerous, where we were alone and unable to defend ourselves, such as in child assault and sexual abuse, dysregulated anger can transform into acting out, becoming a bully, abusing others, or in paralysis, repression, denial, becoming a victim or giving up.
Dysregulated pain and attempts to avoid feeling it make it more likely that we will try to escape the feeling by lashing out at others. We can always be on edge, ready to pounce on anyone or anything. We may say negative or hurtful things, or want to hurt someone physically or emotionally. We can use anger to cheat or lie or feel justified in taking and using anything. Sometimes we can boil over in a fit of anger and we can’t control it. We can easily reach a physical and emotional breaking point. Dysregulated angry thoughts can also be directed at oneself in the form of shame, inadequacy, self-harm, guilt, or self-blame.
We are completely disconnected from the possibility of facing these painful feelings that can trigger anger and that we need to feel to get out of this state of dysregulation. Engaging with these feelings provides the possibility of bringing us to a place where we can truly acknowledge and acknowledge how we have been hurt by what they may have done to us.
In modulated anger, there can be the same types of angry feelings as in dysregulated anger: impatience, frustration, guilt toward oneself and others, revenge, irritability, resentment, burning, or simmering. Modulating these feelings is achieved through active self-control over our actions, such as pushing ourselves to overcome these feelings, not wanting to talk about them, focusing on “good” things, trying to forget, and perhaps other cognitive-behavioral strategies for dialogue. internal. Alternatively, we may decide to discuss these feelings with another person in a way that may lead to compromise and negotiation, an agreement to move on, or possibly forgiveness; these are verbal and communicative strategies for self-modulation.
A collaborative study conducted at Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, and Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado at Boulder, examined how employees at a large corporation handled everyday stressors at work. Those employees who exhibited “sportsmanship,” defined as a willingness to tolerate work annoyances, such as distractions, discomforts, or demands, without complaint, were better able to modulate their initial feelings of disappointment and anger. They were better able to calm down and feel better about themselves compared to employees with shorter fuses, and were more likely to show irritation and complaints.
On the other hand, being a good athlete gets old quickly if the work environment doesn’t improve. Many organizational settings are not open to employee feedback, especially when the organization maintains a culture of sexual or verbal bullying or harassment, or other forms of negative or dismissive leadership styles. Whistleblowers in these environments are at real risk of losing their jobs, sustaining toxic workplace culture and forcing employees to continually modulate until they “lose” in an unregulated outburst and/or are fired or resign.
Workplace and other environments that encourage emotional sharing and listening to employee complaints and concerns result in an increased employee sense of belonging, feeling heard, and a reduction in overtly expressed angry responses. This means that the way we modulate difficult emotions, any emotion, in fact, is often not dependent on the individual, but rather is a direct consequence of the social and relational environment.
In modulated anger, we may say, “I am angry,” or we may think or talk about how someone or something made us feel angry and why we might feel angry. We might think about what to do or say, who might be at fault, and why. We can convince ourselves to feel more or less angry. And we can share these thoughts with others.
There is a way that a potentially toxic emotion like anger can not only be modulated, but can also be restorative. As with all forms of restoration, this requires that we let go of control, stop thinking and explaining, and simply sit in the felt experience without acting on it. Feeling anger as stillness is not a particularly easy path.
For the hurts that are the most intense, learning to tolerate and talk about these feelings in Modulated Embodied Self-Awareness (ESA) is an important transition step, one that can take years and a lot of help from others, most likely trained therapists and THIS. As practitioners entering restorative states of anger, we also have to tolerate feeling how anger has affected our bodies and our relationships, and perhaps how, when unregulated, we can hurt ourselves and blame others. Anger is perhaps the most potentially toxic emotion in that it invades the body like a virus and resists our attempts to accept it.
Anger is restorative only if we can fully feel its immensity without acting it out or clinging to hate or revenge. Anger, as intense as it may be, is just a feeling, and like all feelings, once we allow it to be felt, it will pass. All forms of restorative emotion have a natural onset, a rise in intensity, and a natural decline that is accompanied by a felt sense of “picking up,” “descent,” and fullness as the body moves toward parasympathetic relaxation.
This is part of the healing power of Restoration: as we learn to trust letting go of control and allowing our true feelings to emerge, our nervous system will lead the process in supporting all other systems in the body to metabolize the emotion and come back. rest.
Restorative anger can feel empowering, transforming into feelings of inner strength, personal power, and passion. These feelings do not need external retaliation: they are filled with a sense of our own integrity, a clearer sense of the possibility of defending ourselves in the future. Restorative anger can transform into parasympathetic relief as the body “gets it” – yes, that’s how we feel, that’s what we suffer from, and we no longer need to hold on to that unrequited anger.
Restorative experiences of anger may require many repetitions of this sequence and a long period of time for the body to fully metabolize the toxicity and for our own strength to emerge to stand in the center of the storm.