Anger & Self Assertion

by Nicholas de Castella

Anger as Energy to Say Something = Self Assertion
The essence of anger is energy. When used appropriately it empowers us to instigate change, to stand up for ourselves and assert our rights and regain dignity. We choose to express anger either with respect for others or in hurtful ways. Most anger is resolved when we say what it is that we need to say with the intensity of energy that we feel about it.

Self-Assertion: When Anger is not Abuse
Anger is not the same as abuse, aggression or violence. These are attacking ways of expressing the energy of anger and are totally inappropriate. As children we are trained NOT to say what we feel especially when we are angry and so it tends to come out in indirect ways.

Signs of Unexpressed Anger
*Tightness in shoulders and back of neck Headache, especially in the back of the head
*Tight or sore jaw muscles Clenching jaws or night time grinding of teeth
*Crawling or itching sensations or tightness in upper back, shoulders, arms
*Outbursts at inappropriate times Picking at finger nails
*Chewing gum Smoking and drinking
*Irritability, lack of understanding, patience and tolerance Feeling driven
*Self-criticism and self-hatred Feeling stuck, blocked, hopeless or victimised

Healthy Anger
Anger is present to empower you to make CHANGES – to come forward and stand up and express what you need to say to reinstate your rights and reclaim your dignity.
The bottom line message of anger is “I do not want things to be this way”.
It is natural and appropriate to feel angry when you have been violated, not been treated with respect or agreements have been broken. Anger is appropriate when someone crosses a ‘boundary’ of yours, lies to you or does not keep an agreement. A boundary violation maybe physical such as an unwanted entering into your private space or the use of something you own without your permission or consent.

Unhealthy Anger – as a cover or an Avoidance
Inappropriate anger usually happens when we divert our energy away from what we are feeling into anger because it seems is easier or safer to do so. In this way our anger is being used to cover and avoid other feelings that we have that we do not want to show. It is a form of dishonesty.

Powerlessness – Not being able to change what we don’t want – Inappropriate anger often arises when we have what we do not want but there is no other option, for example, getting angry about the past. Another example is when we are doing something that we are afraid is not going to turn out the way we want it to and so we get angry at others.

As Avoidance of Fear – We may become angry as an avoidance of our fear because we think that it is weak to be scared. Common examples are; getting angry when we feel powerless or out of control. When the oven breaks down, we need it to cook the dinner and so we get sharp at others.
When we do not quite understand what someone is telling us and we get scared that they will think we are stupid so we get angry at them rather than show our confusion.
We may be fearful we are going to be late for work and get angry at the traffic.
Another example would be when we are feeling vulnerable and are afraid to show this to other people and instead we get angry at them, pushing them away in an attempt to protect ourselves.

As Avoidance of Embarrassment – Very often people become angry when they are actually embarrassed. For example, we realise that we have made a mistake (and we feel embarrassed and fearful that we may be punished), rather than just saying sorry we may become angry and aggressive. If we do not like being sad because we think that it is weak or shameful then when we are sad we often fear others’ judgements of us and become cranky or irritable at them.

Reactions based on Assumptions and Interpretations – Sometimes when an event happens that we don’t like we make up a reason why the other person did this. Usually we do not check to see if our reasoning is correct but instead get angry at them for what we assume to be their motive.
For example if someone leaves a message to tell us they cannot go out with us we may reason that they don’t like us, that they are avoiding us.
We feel hurt and become critical of them. In fact they may have just had a crisis in their own lives and may genuinely not be able to make it.
Check out your assumptions before you get angry about them.

Dumping – Another example is when we dump our anger from one situation onto another. Often we take our frustrations out on those who love us and are less likely to reject us or on those who are in a less powerful position than us. This is also called ‘kicking the cat syndrome’. Our families may be the target of our unexpressed anger from our work settings or our work mates may be the target of our anger from a family or life crisis we are going through.

A thwarted Expectation – When we hope or plan for things to be a certain way we build expectation. If things don’t turn out the way we expected rather than feel sad we tend to create either anger or its collapsed counterpart disappointment.
For example we want to spend an enjoyable night out with a friend and end up being confronted
by an uncomfortable issue that the friend wants to discuss and we get angry because it is not what we expected.

Stress Lifestyle & Background Issues – When we are stressed we feel under pressure in our lives and we tend to become less patient and tolerant. It is as if our natural flexibility is stretched to its maximum and we have little room to allow for the ‘humanness’ of others. When they do something that annoys us a little we snap!
Stress may arise because we are experiencing work, family, health, financial or relationship difficulties. Withholding our truth and not expressing our feelings in an appropriate way at the appropriate time is also a major contributing factor to our level of stress.
The greater the number of areas we are struggling with the greater the underlying or background pressure we are under and the more likely we are to snap in anger.
When we feel angry it is important to consider all of the background issues that maybe influencing our reactions before we get angry at others or at least to acknowledge the stresses after we have got angry.

When we express covert anger (use our anger as a cover for some other emotion or as an avoidance of the real issue) we do not get to feel and heal our wound, we do not get our needs heard, other people receive the wrong emotion for the situation, they do not understand why we are angry and will often feel angry back at us because they do not deserve our anger.

God grant me the courage to change the things I can change (Anger)
The serenity to accept the things I cannot change (Powerlessness)
And the wisdom to know the difference

Teresa Ratcliffe T: 0419 586 810 E:
Thrive Coach Breathwork Practitioner Handouts by Nicholas and Susan de Castella. Copyright Protected 2012
Australian Breathwork College T: 03 9739 8889