Channeling anger in healthy ways is a major key to personal empowerment. But you have to first appreciate the true nature of this highly misunderstood emotion.
Our limbic systems are “hardwired” to experience both fear and anger. Fear is our innate response to a situation in which we perceive danger. And anger is our innate response to a situation we perceive as unjust. Both emotions prompt us to take action in our self-interest. When it comes to a dangerous situation we have two basic choices: fight or flee. And when it comes to unjust situations, we can either lash out or take other action to rectify things. Now, fighting for what’s right in a properly disciplined way is inherently empowering. It’s the very heart of assertiveness. (See: Aggressive and Assertive Behavior.) (See also: Principled Fighting Defines Assertiveness.)
I mentioned earlier that anger is generally a highly misunderstood emotion. Some regard anger as simply a bad thing. But as I mentioned, in reality, it’s nature’s way of propelling us into corrective action.
Now, of course, anger can be problematic. Too much anger too much of the time can be really bad for your health. But anger is rarely a problem in itself. Besides, most of the time, with disturbed characters, anger is not the core problem. Even how anger is expressed is not the core problem. Rather, undisciplined agression is the usual culprit. And as strange as it may seem, most of the time that aggression is not fueled by anger but by desire.
Now, I know what I’ve just asserted above about anger and agression seems counterintuitive. After all, we all know anger and aggression go together. But they don’t always go together the way most of us believe. True, aggression can indeed flow from anger. (And that’s the principle by which most anger management programs operate.) But in many disturbed characters, the anger they show is more often the result of frustration they experience in their inordinately aggressive pursuit of their goals. Aggressive characters don’t go on the march because they’re angry. They go on the march because that’s just what they like to do. They get angry (or even rageful) whenever anyone or anything gets in their way. (See also: Aggressive Personalities and Managing Anger and Aggression.)
The Folly of Focusing on Outcomes
Channeling anger in productive ways requires that we give up focusing on outcomes. Doing this is harder than it might seem. When we’re in an unhealthy relationship, we tend to focus on what might happen or what the other person might do when we take a particular action. However, concerning oneself with outcomes is not only energy-draining but also a truly dead-end path. You’re always second-guessing. And you tie up all your attention and energy in matters you can’t possibly control anyway. (This is the behavioral “formula” for depression!) Fuming, lashing out, protesting, etc. might give you a moment’s relief, but ultimately, won’t make your situation better.
Channeling anger productively means directing your attention and energy only where you have power. You have the power to act – to take actions in your own behalf. And while you might very well anticipate some of the shenanigans a toxic current or former partner might engage in, to allow those actions to dictate your response only keeps you a hostage. To be truly free and empowered, you have to do what you know to be in your best interest in virtual indifference to the antics of the person at risk of losing power. Disturbed character generally don’t take losing easily. So, it’s natural for them to fight. You can expect it. But it needn’t stop you. (Still, some abuse situations require special consideration. See: p. 109 in Character Disturbance.)
Announcements are coming soon about the new Character Matters podcasts. I’ll also be announcing a new way for folks to directly ask questions and get answers on the program.
I’ll also be giving a number of interviews on other programs in the coming days and weeks. First up, is an interview giving Veronika Archer in just a few days, to be podcast in September. Stay tuned for further details.