Saturday, December 13, 2008

Anger, Anxiety and Reaching Your Goals

If you would like to read more of Jennifer's writing see

We have been taught to deny anger and repress anxiety, but is this the best way?

Anger: evolving from blindness to awareness to conscious utilisation

In the course of the last year, but more consciously in the last month, I have been observing anger - in myself and in others. The first thing I noticed is how much we resist anger. We are scared of it, we have been taught that we shouldn’t be angry and we deny it. We are so unhappy in the presence of anger that we close our eyes, in the process making ourselves blind to everything else as well.

The beauty of anger

I like anger. It is powerful. Repressed and explosive it can be dangerous but in its pure form anger is an exhilarating and exciting emotion, more directed than happiness and more propelling than grief. The most useful thing is that it identifies obstacles to what we want.

It is important to keep our senses and mind functioning through anger, to stay conscious rather than switching off, so we can learn from it.

Training ourselves to harness anger

This takes practice. My process was first to practice staying conscious in the presence of other people’s anger; to call it what it is, translating those insidiously misleading words “frustration” and “annoyance.”

I would give them space to express their anger, to process rather than resisting it. People were grateful: it’s a rare thing to be at peace in the presence of anger, and they appreciated the acceptance and understanding.

Next I started to acknowledge anger in myself. Deliberately let loose and still not fully under control it would sometime rise powerfully. In those situations I removed myself from the company of those who would be scared by it. I have some wonderful friends who allowed me to express my anger and helped me explore the nature of it. Or I took myself off alone, into the countryside, to my room, felt my heart beat steady and hard.

Consciously observing

Once I was practiced at staying fully conscious and observant, I began to see detail, and then it came to me: we get angry when something gets in the way of what we want. A little more observation and enquiry in the specific situation and it is easy to identify what is happening, easy to identify a course of action. With the energy from the anger we can easily blast or brush aside the obstacle and propel ourselves on the path to our goals.

Anxiety: modifying forethought, setting deliberate goals

Next, anxiety and worry. In “Stealing Fire From the Gods” James Bonnet cites the story of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to human beings. Prometheus means “forethought” and it is this gift that enables us to set goals and make plans. Bonnet points out that an unpleasant side-effect of forethought is worry. (Prometheus’s story represents this in his punishment, an eagle gnawing on his liver day after day, Groundhog Day a nasty twist.)

Worry, however, is also useful. It tells us when we are foreseeing something which displeases us. Once again, staying conscious is the key: asking ourselves what we are imagining that causes the worry.

Foreseeing our goals engages our subconscious to take us towards them. If we replace the image that is troubling us with one which pleases us, anxiety reduces and again we are propelled on our path towards our goals.

Step-by-step Summary

· Work at becoming comfortable with anger, in yourself and others
· Practise staying conscious in the presence of anger
· Observe your own anger to identify what you are angry about and what it is stopping you getting
· Use the power of the anger to brush or blast aside the obstacle and move towards your goal

· Become aware of anxiety
· Observe what you are worried will happen
· Replace this future image with one that is in line with your goals
· Take action towards that positive future image

If you would like to read more of Jennifer's writing see

1 comment:

Prashant said...

Right, sometimes we are "rightfully" angry. During those times, we need to practice expressing it effectively. If we can use use the anger power judiciously, towards solutions than creating problems, some good can definitely come out of it.

I have discussed this on my website:

Thanks for the article.