Sunday, July 19, 2020

Self-Awareness, Anger and Our World

Today I wanted to talk about Self-Awareness, one of the Four Wings of Transformation, and how it can inform one of our most common emotions, anger. In this blog, I will discuss this emotion from an individual standpoint but also address it from a global perspective. I apologize in advance if I confuse my readers in the process. 

Our emotions are not good or bad. They are messengers. Strong emotions offer the possibility of self-awareness. They contain information about who we are, what we want, and our relationship with others.

Anger though, if not properly processed and expressed, can result in some of the most primal and aggressive forms of human behavior. And we too often see this played out in movies, society, and the media. We haven't quite gotten a handle on anger, and the truth is it too often controls and overwhelms us. 

We've seen way too many examples of this lately. Maybe this is because some of us feel that simply expressing our anger using our words has not been enough.  

If our emotions are to serve us as a society, and they should, two things need to happen. 

We need to learn how to understand, process, and communicate our own emotions. And we need to learn how to listen with compassion and respect when others express theirs.   

In this article, I will be focusing on the former, but I stress that the latter is just as crucial. 

"Our need to learn how to understand, process, and communicate our own emotions."

What causes us to get angry? There are many common triggers to anger. 

  • fear of rejection or abandonment
  • a sense that our needs, wants or even fundamental rights are not respected
  • fear of not being heard
  • impatience
  • feeling our opinions or our efforts are not appreciated
  • injustice
  • worrying about our problems

Often, we do not even get to the point where we've understood exactly why we are angry. We go immediately into a fight or flight mode. Our lizard brain takes over, and we react to how we are feeling.  

Anger = Counterproductive Reaction

These knee jerk reactions are not always in our best interest or the best interest of those around us. 

Some of these reactions might include:

  • yelling, screaming, name-calling
  • lashing out with accusations and blame
  • talking trash behind someone's back
  • revenge
  • and at worst violent, aggressive or dangerous behavior

When we go immediately from anger to reaction, we usually make things worse.

Adding a filtering element between the anger and the reaction allows us to process and find a more suitable way of dealing with the anger. We let the prefrontal lobe part of our brain, step in, and manage the primal lizard brain.  

Anger + Filtering elements = Productive and Peaceful Actions and Solutions 

So what are those filtering elements? The following questions can help identify them.

  1. What is the underlying cause of the anger?
  2. What is the underlying need or want?
  3. How can this information be communicated calmly and productively? What tools and resources are available?
  4. What is the feeling possibly hidden behind the anger? Fear? Sadness? Frustration? Worry?
  5. Once the underlying emotion is processed and expressed, what would be the ideal outcome, the desired result?

Anger often has one or more underlying emotions. These underlying emotions are indicators of the root cause of what we are feeling. The following "Feelings Wheel" can help you better understand your anger. This understanding can allow you to identify your desired outcome. 

For example:

  • if your anger stems from worry, you can find strategies to manage stress and anxiety. 
  • If your anger stems from impatience, you can work on expectation management.
  • If your anger stems from frustration, you can develop awareness around what you do and do not control in any given situation. 

The point is, clearly identifying the filtering elements will allow you to pinpoint the best possible actions and steps you need to take to solve the problem that created the emotion in the first place.  Let's be clear.  This is a process, and it takes time.  This is not a quick solution to every one of our challenges.  What it is, though, is a fundamental self-awareness skill and ability that we can all develop and master over time, which can create profound and positive changes in our relationships and lives.

Now, I want to address the elephant in the room.  

How we sometimes feel the need to defend some who have reacted out of anger. We do so out of compassion because we have seen certain individuals suffer at the hands of selfish and narcissistic tyrants. 

We do this understandably. 

That is why we not only need to learn how to understand, process, and communicate our own emotions. We need to learn how to listen with compassion and respect when others express theirs.   

And the truth is that there are narcissistic individuals out there who are incapable of doing the latter. But resorting to reactive behavior will not change these individuals. They usually just up their selfish and egotistical game. They do not care about the chaos and destruction left behind in the process. 

Fortunately, most of us, on this incredible planet, are not in the category of narcissism. Most of us care about our fellow humans and want peace, harmony, and love. When we react out of anger, it's merely out of ignorance or fear. Self-awareness allows us to change that. And I believe that when enough of us do, we will reach a critical mass—a critical mass from which will emerge a synergy of peace, harmony, and love.



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