Where is your finger pointing?
Scary picture, isn’t it? You wouldn’t want to get too close to that guy, would you?
Notice his body language. You don’t need to hear what he is saying to imagine he is saying something like ‘You are… going to pay for this; you are….. in trouble; you are… an idiot…” (feel free to fill in the gaps yourself :)).
And it is not hard to remember what the original purpose of anger was. When you or your family were threatened you needed that surge of adrenalin in order to scare away, to intimidate, to mark the boundaries. This man would have had an important role to play in the group in earlier times. We may have felt safe with him.
However, now? Would you like to be around this man? Probably not so much. As the reality is, there are now very few and specific moments in life, when we need to get that angry. Most of the time our anger like stress has become a problem if it has reached that man’s level.
This doesn’t mean that anger is no longer important. Like any other emotion it is still very important and still serves to communicate something that needs attending to. But usually what needs to be attended to now is not something out there but something inside of us.
SO we need to turn the finger around so it is pointing at ourselves.
Not, I hasten to add, in order to attack ourselves. We don’t need any more guilt in our lives, thank you very much. But we need to turn the finger round in order to understand what our anger is telling us about ourselves and what we need to change in our lives, in order to feel less angry. Before, it was simple. There was an external attack. You got angry and hopefully it went away. You stopped feeling angry. Your body went back to relaxing.
Now the world and our brains have evolved and things are not so simple. But instead of turning our finger towards ourselves to understand what it is about this situation, this person, etc that is upsetting us, and therefore what we need to do, we can still get caught up in the adrenalin rush and turn the finger outwards in order to blame and attack.
Some of you reading this may think that recent situations like events in Paris are obvious reasons to get angry. But have you noticed how many people are getting angry because this has received so much coverage when other atrocious events haven’t? So the anger grows which further serves to divide people. But If we turn our finger towards ourselves and ask what can I do in my daily life to engender peace on a micro level?
Turning the finger towards ourselves takes a great deal of courage and it is much harder work than just letting our adrenalin run the show. But if we don’t ask ourselves what WE are doing to contribute to this situation that is making us so angry; what WE can do differently to bring about what we want. Not, what the other has to change. But what WE have to change. Then guess what? We usually just keep feeling angry.
This does not mean we need to feel guilty. This does not mean we need to deny our anger. It means we first need to turn the emphasis back onto ourselves…. to sit with our anger, listen to it and see what is it trying to tell us and then when we have an idea of that, we can then think about what we need to do with what we have learnt. What changes we may need to make in our lives in order to manage our anger.
The task is not easy. That is why if your anger is causing you a lot of problems in your life, therapy can help……to have someone to help you to answer these challenging questions and to support you when you try to put new behaviours in to place.
Aristotle says it well - though I don't agree that it is not in everybody's power. For some it may just take more work and determination!
Anybody can become angry – that is easy – but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.