How to Manage Anger & Its Energy? Insights & Strategies
Our daily life is like a pendulum that constantly oscillates between action and reaction. Be it our childhood, youth or old age, our whole life is, in a way, a portrayal of the way we have reacted to various thoughts, actions and situations. Whether we are joyful, sad, disappointed, hopeful, anxious, delighted or scared, react is what we do. The habit is so deeply entrenched within our mind that one may consider the ability to react as a sign of life itself, as visible as a beating heart! Anger is one of the most familiar emotional reactions in the world. It takes many forms — words, gestures, actions of all sorts. Moreover, this emotion isn’t unique to humans. It is very much prevalent in all kinds of animals, big of small. So the question arises, what makes us human beings different from other animals, when it comes to expressing anger? Are we the same as a street dog barking at people or a pair of deers locking horns in the wild? How can we justify the notion of being the most evolved creatures of this existence in terms of the way we react?
The answer is that unlike animals, human life is not just about the struggle to survive. Our purpose in this existence is much more diverse and profound. We are blessed with a sharper intellect and the invaluable possibility of experiencing the eternal consciousness that pervades the entire universe. We may have the tendency to express anger, but we also have the tools to manage the energies of anger in a way that helps us evolve mentally and spiritually.
However, before we learn about managing anger, we must know what it actually means. We have to understand the underlying reasons behind anger as well as its consequences.
Contrary to popular opinion, acts like frowning, shouting, arguing, fighting or shedding tears etc. are all ways of expressing anger, but not anger themselves. Sri Guru defines anger as: An emotion that flows within, when our belief system is threatened or when our expectations are not fulfilled. For instance, if a person firmly believes that the earth is round but others challenge his belief by saying that earth is flat, then the feeling of disagreement and disdain within that person is anger. If an athlete preparing for a race does not achieve the position he expected, the feeling of disappointment in him or her is anger. This indicates how the attachment towards our preset beliefs and expectations is associated with anger.
Like all other emotions, anger too is characterised by the release of energy. In fact, in case of anger, the amount of energy released is maximum, far greater than emotions like lust, ego or delusion! This is why managing anger is of such importance, so that we can utilize that enormous amount of energy in a more productive way, which may otherwise be wasted during the moments of anger. Among other ways, meditation and yogic Kriyas (like the SwaRaj Kriya given by Sri Guru) practiced under the guidance of an enlightened master certainly help us manage anger by redirecting this energy for better use.
Why Do We Get Angry?
Sri Guru often says that like all other feelings (joy, sorrow, fear etc.), the source of anger lies within us. The external circumstances may provide the stimulus but the reaction, in the form of various emotions, always emerges from within. Imagine a vessel lowered deep inside a well — whatever lies within the well is what will come out! In the same way, if there is love within then love is what will come out. If there is anger within us then anger is what will surface. However, there are certain external reasons too which take the form of anger. These are:
Whether it is our academics, professional work environment or domestic life including our family and peers, we tend to have some expectations from the people around us as well as from ourselves. And every now and then, things do not turn out the way we want them to. It could be a delay in completion of a task at work or even a forgotten promise among friends. When our expectations aren’t met, we feel disappointed. And when this disappointment lingers on for long, it eventually takes the shape of anger.
Sometimes, even after putting our best efforts at planning, we experience failure. A failed exam, a loss in business or even a broken relationship in family, all such instances make us feel burdened by defeat and frustrated, as we are unable to deal with the outcome. As a result, these emotions push us towards anger and jealousy.
3. Feeling of Rejection
Rejection hurts our belief system. There can be many situations wherein we face rejection like when our suggestions and proposals are opposed or abruptly dismissed by others. Also, feelings of inferiority and lack of acceptance from our peers at the workplace or in our neighborhood can incur feelings of shame, sadness and grief which consequently turn into anger.
4. Sense of Being Judgemental
Many of us have the tendency to form unjust opinions and judgements about people and situations, without having the complete knowledge of facts or on the basis of hearsay. This is a toxic trait which has far-reaching consequences on our entire personality. A judgemental attitude makes it harder for us to accept our mistakes and reprogram our wrong beliefs, even when we get to know the truth. Rather than rationality, it leads to anger.
It is the most subtle emotion which is directly associated with anger. Fear of losing control of the situation, fear of losing our present level of convenience and comfort, fear of changing our long held beliefs, fear of failure — the energy of fear directly fuels the emotion of anger.
Expressions of Anger
All the above emotions ignite a spark of anger within us, which gets further aggravated in various forms. Sri Guru gives us a detailed view of how anger unfurls in different ways:
The external expression of anger is quite well known. We become angry with something and it reflects in our body language, words and actions. But a more subtle expression of anger is when it happens internally. It arrives in the form of lack of enthusiasm, a sense of guilt or a feeling of worthlessness. We are constantly annoyed with ourselves for the way things turn out. This silent but powerful build-up of anger is far more injurious to our health and well-being as we are using our own energies against ourselves.
Nature of Reaction
With anger, we usually react in two ways — The first one is retaliatory, that is with a revengeful attitude of ‘an eye for an eye’. The second one has a more resistant tone. It may include bad mouthing someone behind their back, slowly poisoning their peers’ mind by spreading false information about them, creating obstacles in their work for selfish reasons etc.
As we are aware, anger and displeasure can be communicated both physically and verbally. The physical mode comprises inflicting pain on others or ourselves. For instance, physical violence, corporal punishment, hurting oneself etc. The verbal mode may involve name-calling, use of harsh and abusive language, shouting, arguing, quarreling etc.
Magnitude of Anger
Depending upon the magnitude (intensity) of anger, it may be expressed in either controlled or uncontrolled manner. Uncontrolled anger can arise due to a spontaneous reaction to a situation or due to a gradual built-up of negative emotions which quickly escalates beyond our control. Controlled anger is where we become aware of the upcoming outburst and fall back before it becomes difficult to control. It has an attitude of “Let Go” which comes through active introspection, reflection on Sadguru’s words and through meditation practice.
The objective of anger can be restorative or punitive. Restorative anger, as the name suggests, is to ‘restore’ the rules and regulations of a certain group or organisation. It is actually necessary when deeds of a few tend to harm the welfare of the entire group. It is a useful form of anger when expressed in a purposeful way. Punitive anger is when someone is punished in order to set an example for others.
The Effects of Anger on our Physiology
“Anger is a poison that we drink ourselves for the mistake of others while wanting them to die instead.” — Sri Guru
The moment the first spark of anger ignites within us, it triggers a chain reaction of biological processes inside our body. This illustration depicts the various changes that occur in our brain and body due to anger:
First spark of anger → Amygdala gets activated → Hypothalamus → Pituitary Gland → Adrenal Gland → Secretion of stress hormones
Research indicates that increased secretion of the stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline by the adrenal glands has following results:
- The calcium receptivity in the body increases. Due to this increased absorption of calcium, the firing of neurons in our brain & body is accelerated. We notice the effects in the form of increased feelings of agitation and irritated behaviour. This frequent irritation further ignites the sparks of anger and the consequent firing of neurons, thus trapping us in a vicious cycle!
- The strength of neurons in the prefrontal cortex of our brain reduces, which diminishes our ability to properly analyse the situation and therefore leads to poor judgement. This is why we are told to never take important decisions while being angry as we aren’t making use of our best judgement.
- The neurons in the Hippocampus region of our brain also decrease in number. As a result of this, we experience a temporary loss of memory. While talking, we tend to deviate from the actual matter and say unnecessary things which we otherwise won’t say.
- The scarcity of neurons also prevents the formation of new memories, including the good ones. Anger hinders our ability to see and appreciate the joyful and positive things happening around us. Instead, we develop a habit of complaining about petty issues. It also prevents us from being empathetic to others’ problems.
By looking at the above results, it becomes more and more clear why anger is synonymous to fire — it literally burns down the neurons that help us analyse things, form good memories and remain calm in situations. We also realise that by learning to just take a step back at the first spark of anger and delay our reaction, it saves us from so much physical and mental distress. With a little mindfulness we can conserve the energies, which otherwise would be needlessly exhausted in the above processes, and focus them to mend the damages caused by anger as well as for our spiritual progress.
Managing Different Types of Anger
Now that we have understood the meaning of anger, the numerous forms in which it is expressed and its physiological effects, we can proceed with the different ways of managing anger.
 Assertive Anger: This form of anger is used by enlightened masters and those who are at an advanced stage of self-realisation to invoke positive change in others. When expressed in a purposeful manner, it becomes a powerful, motivating and non-judgmental way of teaching us to do righteous things. Manage it this way:
- Be mindful of the words, tone of expressing and actions.
- Avoid using harsh words which may cause pain or mental agony in future.
 Behavioural Anger: This type of anger is physical and aggressive in nature. It is a behavioural trait most of us have surely exhibited at some point in our lives, where it has caused harm to both objects and our social relationships. Here’s how to manage it:
“Anger works best when served cold!”
- Learn to delay the temptation to immediately react to the situation. This cools down the initial urge to speak and gives us the time to ‘explain’ our anger rather than expressing it.
- Take a deep breath and engage in self-talk.
- Before confronting, carefully reconsider the situation and ask yourself whether the anger is justified.
 Chronic Anger: It is the unaddressed resentment and anger, due to small issues, that keeps on accumulating within for a long time. Such unaddressed frustration is like a slow poison that silently contributes to several mental and physical illnesses. Here’s what we should do to manage chronic anger:
- Reflect upon the underlying cause of anger.
- Analyse whether it is possible to confront the situation or to “let it go”.
- Learn the right process of forgiveness.
 Judgemental Anger: It is the anger that arises out of the habit of wrongfully judging others without any regard for the actual truth. Ways of managing it:
- Accept the fact that people can have different personalities and viewpoints.
- Every person visualizes the situation with a distinct perspective. Therefore, instead of labeling someone’s opinion as ‘wrong’, use words like ‘different’ and ‘unique’.
- Learning to respect other people’s viewpoints allows us to see the goodness in them and at the same time enjoy these diversities in life!
 Overwhelmed Anger: We feel this when we commit to more no. of responsibilities than we can actually carry out. Strategies to manage it:
- Be mindful of the capacity upto which you can comfortably carry out all the responsibilities. Do not over-commit.
- Talk to people and seek support. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your family, friends or colleagues for help in any form.
 Passive Anger: It builds up in people who cannot assert their anger aggressively out of low confidence, so they choose to express it via revenge, non-confrontation, avoidance, taunting, sarcasm, mocking etc. Managing passive anger:
- Do not drain one’s anger onto someone else. It will only hurt our relationship with them.
- Lack of communication skills is a big reason for passive anger. So, learn the art of assertive communication so that you know the right way of conveying your feelings to others.
- Don’t overthink about ‘what might happen’ and let go of the fear of talking.
- Always remember the feeling of lightness after compassionate communication as it keeps us from resorting to passive anger in the future.
 Retaliatory Anger: This can be impulsive or intentional and is expressed to either protect oneself or to assert one’s dominance. Here’s how to manage it:
- Learn to reprogram the mind using P-C-I-H mechanism (Pause — Calm — Induce right thoughts — Heal from within).
 Self-Abusive Anger: The feelings of unworthiness, guilt, self-shame, self-hatred ultimately take the form of self-abusive anger. This type of anger is increasingly visible in today’s world especially in youth. For instance, stress-eating, prolonged starving, self-harming etc. Ways to manage it:
- Learn about cognitive reframing techniques.
- Practice regular meditation as it helps in reprogramming the mind.
 Verbal Anger: It involves shouting, quarreling, making threats, sarcasm, over-criticism, blaming etc. Here’s how to manage it:
- Words can be hurtful. Therefore, learn to delay speaking out, even if the words are on the tip of your tongue!
- Consciously alter your vocabulary to communicate the same matter in a calmer way, instead of using harsh or abusive language.
 Volatile Anger: This is a very destructive form of anger as it is unpredictable in nature. It may rise out of nowhere and quiets down just as spontaneously once it is expressed. Thus, it can very easily harm our social relationships beyond repair. Manage it this way:
- Become aware of the signs and physical symptoms that arise before volatile outburst of anger.
- Meditate regularly to boost self-awareness.
This is a very useful guide to effectively manage different kinds of anger. However, it is possible that one might not be able to specifically identify the form of anger he or she has. Hence, Sri Guru has given us these remedies that generally work for any of the above types of anger:
- When you feel a spark of anger, follow the P-C-I-H mechanism: Take a Pause. Calm yourself. Induce good thoughts. Heal from within.
- Choose to ‘explain’ your anger through the right communication skills, rather than expressing and reacting impulsively. While communicating stick to the ‘I’ statements that clealry expresses your point of view rather than putting blame on others. Adding humour while talking out anger is also one of the way of right communication. Do the mental rehearsal for complete preparedeness during conversation. And lastly, diffuse your anger energies by trying to get into the conversation as early as posibble. You should delay reacting out of anger, but not the conversation to resolve things as it helps to diffuse the anger swifty.
- Learn the art of forgiveness.
Our energy is what drives our thoughts, emotions and actions on this journey of life. As human beings, we have a choice whether to use this energy to fuel destructive emotions like anger or to use it wisely for our spiritual evolution. It is upto us whether to damage our well-being with compulsive reaction or to strengthen the virtue of Creation.