It’s quite common in spiritual circles to put down anger. Anger is bad, they say. Or anger is unenlightened. We must transcend our anger. We must think loving, good thoughts, and put all that anger out of our mind.
Saying that anger is bad, whether it’s tacitly implied or directly stated, is just another way that we beat ourselves up and deny our truth and empowerment. It’s an easy way to judge and criticize ourselves or others for anything less than perfect behavior.
Anger is just as human as any other emotion. If we deny any of our human emotions, we become sanitized, without life, without authenticity. And we feel we don’t have a voice, can’t speak out when something happens that disturbs us. [For more about this, read my article “Authentic and Heartfelt NO!”]
There is a difference, however, between healthy and unhealthy anger. There is good reason why many spiritual traditions have attempted to banish it, because unhealthy anger expressed outward can be violent and hurtful, and repressed inward can result in resentment, disempowerment, and illness.
A healthy approach to anger is to understand it as an energy, like electricity. It is neither good nor bad, but it has an important function: to get us to pay attention and to take action. It lets us know something isn’t OK with us. It tells us when a boundary needs to be set – “no, I will not tolerate that!” It is often a cover for a deeper emotion, usually fear. Anger tries to keep us safe by holding up a caution sign. It also gives us the energy to be able to take appropriate action.
Anger can be positive when understood for the warning signal that it is and utilized to prevent harm to ourselves or another. It is a powerful energy that, when used with mindfulness by expressing our feelings or taking care of ourselves, can create a greater sense of safety, authenticity, and security in our relationships and lives.
As evolving human beings, we can learn to listen to the messages in our emotions – including anger – and consciously respond to them, rather than react. Then, anger can become healing and transformative, rather than an unwanted, “negative” emotion.
For more on healthy expression of anger and its spiritual implications, listen to my radio show “Spiritual Anger!”
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