While researching emotions, one quickly discovers that there are variations on which ones are considered as basic emotions and even in the way they are classified. Whatever the differences, one thing is certain: anger is always there.
And anger is also certainly one of the most misunderstood emotions.
Being angry has been associated with negativity, destruction, bad manners, fear and even shame. This makes one wonder how come an emotion like all emotions, that is chemistry in our brain and body, part of our biological, emotional and mental life has been so misunderstood. It also raises questions: how our cultural settings affect that, did we have the chance to be met in our anger while growing up, were we allowed, were we punished for it, was anger played out in the family, and if yes what did we actually mirror – anger or rage, do we even understand the difference?
Observing human behavior, one striking thing concerning anger, is that most people feel unsafe when feeling it, others bottle it up inside and have no connection with it, others act it out all the time and again have no connection with it. And it is tremendously sad to see an emotion that has as one of its primary roles to protect us and make us feel safe, having such a distorted relationship with us.
Anger is an emotional response, and yes it is indeed powerful and intense, and this is part of its beauty. Our anger is activated usually when something is perceived as threatening, provoking or violating our personal and territorial boundaries. It can also be triggered by experiencing something that goes against our norms and values. Body sensations related to anger are high heart rate, elevated blood pressure, redness, rising body temperature, tightening of the muscles around the eyes and mouth etc. A body movement that can be associated with anger, may vary from person to person, but will most likely involve a physical or an energetic movement of pushing away, of protecting our space and our physical, emotional and mental well-being. And if anger could speak, then surely “no”, “stop”, “enough”, “I do not like this” among others, would be in its vocabulary.
Anger is there to protect us and connect us with our power; it is not there to harm anybody. This is a crucial point in our understanding and acceptance of anger. Anger, like all emotions, is conscious and it is this consciousness, the fact that our frontal cortex is there assisting us, that distinguishes it from rage and instincts. The moment we start wanting to hurt somebody, the moment that we feel so violated that we jump to our reptilian brain – we are already on our way to instinct. And let’s clear something here, instincts are what they are, they are part of our development, they have their role and their importance. In extreme situations our ability to jump to instincts can be lifesaving. The issue arises in everyday life, when we are not facing life threatening situations and yet we tend to jump there.
According to Bodynamic theory (L. Marcher) there are two different, yet linked functions of our ego. One is related to our ability to set boundaries and the other is our ability to manage our emotions, our inner limits. And whereas boundaries can be symbolized as an eggshell surrounding us, our inner limits are more like an internal vessel/container. We could wonder for a moment, how good are we in setting our boundaries and can we keep them and what is the capacity of our inner vessel, is it big, small, does it fill up too quickly etc.
By setting and keeping our boundaries we give time and space to ourselves so we can comprehend, sense and understand an action, emotion, idea, that is coming from outside and is aimed towards us. At the same time if we are good at keeping our boundaries, our inner limits are not overstretched and we prevent our container from reaching its full capacity suddenly and abruptly. If now for some reason our boundaries are not clear, are volatile or not very present, then whatever comes from outside would tend to directly hit our body ego, our skin, and once that happens the system would immediately scream danger. If we have sufficient inner limits we will most probably manage not to explode, although this would surely require immense energy and effort. If on the other hand our capacity is small, then an explosion is just a matter of time.
Anger, like any emotion will have a start, a peak and an end if we just embrace it and make space for it. It will not last forever and will certainly not cause any catastrophe. Sensing our anger is like sensing that something that is happening is not right for us, it is like something pushing us to move, to protect our space, to defend our sense of dignity and individuality. Our ability to allow space and time for ourselves internally and externally is by itself an act of creativity.
Creativity is not a simple topic; so many things have been written about it. It could be described as a phenomenon where something (material or immaterial) new and in a sense valuable is formed. Creativity incorporates notions of authenticity, of individuality, of inspiration, of novelty etc. We cannot be creative if we do not feel safe, we cannot be creative if we are not authentic, we cannot be creative if we do not feel our individuality and we cannot be creative if we do not feel dignified.
Anger is the emotion that makes sure our boundaries are in place. It is the emotion that facilitates the feeling of safety in our personal space and allows this safe space to transform into a space of expressing our inner self. And that act of expressing is an act of creativity. In such a space we can stand strong with our individuality, our dignity and an open heart to connect with ourselves and with others. The ability to be ourselves, to create the space and the time for us is by far the greatest and most valuable act of creativity.
by Agapi Gegisian, edited by Alena Ryzhykava
- Marcher, L. & Fich, S. (2010). Body Encyclopedia. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.