Feeling anger does not make us perpetrators. It is what we do with these feelings that could.

When we make anger bad and deem it the cause of the world’s suffering, we’ll likely banish our own into the recesses of our unconscious, choosing not to give it a place in the spectrum of our emotional lives. We also set ourselves up as judge and jury towards others around us who are expressing anger; that they are “out-of-control”, “scary”, or negative people.

This relationship to anger is one of victim to perpetrator. Anger itself is the perpetrator who we blame, who we fear and judge. Yet by doing this we become fixed in the energy pattern of identifying as a victim. We are perceiving reality from the illusion that we must keep our anger at bay, because it will harm us and others if it’s released. We must also avoid angry people or try to make people happy, so they don’t get angry.

What you may find in people who repress their anger is that they feel victimized in multiple ways by external sources in their lives. Their boss or job, their relationship, their friendships, other drivers on the road…are all potential perpetrators. With their own anger unavailable to them, they will see it in the world around them, and project it into others. Often they wonder if people are mad at them. I know this one quite well. My husband has heard me ask many times, “Are you mad at me?” He’s always surprised. “No. Not at all. I’m just distracted.” he’ll say, full well knowing its my projection and I have anger within me that needs dealing with.

Not until we can honor the energy of our anger, will we feel once again powerful in our ability to protect ourselves, thus shifting the pattern in our energy field. This doesn’t mean that we feel empowered because we can yell at someone, what I’m describing is an internal liberation from suppressed emotions and from the false stories that made us suppress them in the first place. The knowing that we won’t collapse in the face of criticism, conflict or an aggressively angry person, does feel empowering. Because we’ve explored the terrain of our own anger willingly, we are not intimidated by it in the world. And if anger does get toxic and violent, our instincts are now free to kick in and move us to safety. When we are suppressing our anger, we will tend to hide away to be safe or move towards conflict like a magnet, unconsciously trying to resolve the inner-imbalance.

I worked with a young woman professional in the holistic health field who had this very pattern. She came to see me in deep despair, unable to break free from a frozen state of protection. The month before she had been dropped by a beautiful, narcissistic man who had seduced her into a steamy affair. As well, her manager at work was treating her with disrespect and frequently criticizing her.  She was going into depressions that lasted for weeks, and felt out of control of her life.

I asked her if she’d ever released her anger in a safe way – for example hitting pillows and allowing herself to yell. She said that in the past she had expressed her anger easily and would do things that were hurtful to others. Once she started studying Buddhism, she realized that she must tame her aggressive tendencies and focus on compassion. Since then, people had been walking all over her and she felt she didn’t have the spiritual right to feel her anger about it.

I helped her to understand that in the past her anger was coming from an immature place and was exploding outward and hurting others. That was aggression. But here with me, in the session room with pillows, allowing herself to feel her authentic pain and anger in a safe way – this wasn’t aggression, this was honoring her emotional intelligence and tending to the health of her nervous system. Not to mention respecting the relationship between her adult consciousness and her inner-child who had lost trust in her since she stopped protecting her.

I supported my client in accessing her hurt by having her talk out loud to the man who had dropped her suddenly after professing undying love. As she spoke to him, I tracked her “care-taker” and reminded her not to edit herself. I also reminded her that compassion is her nature and comes easily for her, while anger is the emotion that has been repressed and is harder for her, so how can she  really make the space for her anger right now and not have to be nice or care-take. This was all she needed to let out some screams and punch the pillows on the floor in front of her.

A week later she came for a session. She looked very different – color in her cheeks, walking erect and smiling. She said that after our session everything shifted. She had emailed her ex and gave him a date and time to pick up his possessions at her house. She planned to not be there when he came. She also had received three compliments from her critical manager at work, which had never happened before. She saw clearly the connection between repressing her anger and the energy pattern of being a victim and how it had created suffering in her life. Through reclaiming her fire through honoring her authentic anger, she was able to feel safety, strength and self-respect as she walked through her days. Anger was an equal at the table of her emotional spectrum.

I want to emphasize that it is not the fiery emotion of anger that is dangerous. Fire is just fire. It burns the fuel in it’s path and then dies away. Our anger is similar. It is an energy within us that must move or it will smolder and smoke everything up! It doesn’t go away if we repress it, it smolders in the background becoming a lens through which we view reality. “We live in such an angry world. I just want peace. I just want people to be happy.” This kind of belief comes from repressed rage.

Fire burns anything in its path. Our anger will find fuel from our beliefs, whether they’re founded in truth or not. That’s why I am a strong advocate of safe containers (somatic therapies) to release anger without judgement on ourselves. In this kind of container, with a skilled guide, we can release appropriately and ultimately realize what stories have been running our lives.

For a long time I controlled my anger and feared it. Rather than feeling my hate at my father for the abuses he perpetrated, I hated myself. I took my anger out at myself, afraid of becoming like him, or that others would see how damaged I was. In my mid-twenties I found a group practicing a community-centered healing modality called co-counseling. They helped me to acknowledge and validate my rage. With their help I released layers of pent up emotion. This was not easy to access at all! It took tremendous courage from me and trust in my helpers. At first it was difficult to express my hatred, because I went to Catholic school and had it drilled into me to turn the other cheek… Also, being multi-dimensional in my awareness from birth, I could see every angle of a situation and knew that it was my father’s own abusive childhood that molded him into the tyrant he was. Yet, once I opened up my voice and began releasing, my power started returning.

As the decades have passed, my commitment to emotional intelligence has led me into more and more spaciousness and freedom in my heart. Today, I choose to feel my authentic anger and also understand its origins. If the originating belief underneath my anger is untrue, I will uncover the truth and open to my authentic feeling about that. This is especially helpful when watching media and receiving so many contradictory messages about the state of the world. I refuse to have emotions based on lies. I refuse to be manipulated into feelings.

I choose to be in truth and to feel my sacred emotions purely. Meditation and tuning into vaster fields of spiritual information has allowed me to live in this new relationship with my human emotions.

You might be saying, “That’s what Buddhist teachings guide as well. To watch your emotions but not identify with them.” Yes, exactly. The example of my client above shows a woman who used this philosophy to validate her fear of her anger and to cop out of dealing with her strong emotions. She was afraid of being taken over or overwhelmed by them. The result was depression and a sense of feeling trapped. Once she honored her emotions and came into balance with and respect for them, rather than avoidance and fear, then she could graduate into a higher relationship. Otherwise, my friends, you are just spiritually bypassing.

We grow out of the Trauma Triangle through self-honesty and humble steps of healing; by maturing in our relationships with all these parts of ourselves; by coming into authentic compassion.

We must embody spiritual wisdom through living the truth of life.