The Shadow WarriorBy Paul Murphy & Tim Drown
The warrior archetype is incredibly prominent in our society. In the child, the hero is a pre-cursor to the adult warrior. Although they are frequently considered to be alike, significant and important differences exist.
The hero belongs to the immature (or undeveloped) masculine, the source of what is known as the Peter Pan syndrome. The hero is an ego-centric and self centred character who thrives on the attention and admiration of others. The hero is often so driven by the need to be acknowledged that he will make little assessment of risk to others or collateral damage as he sets out on his many endeavors. At worst, he leaves a trail of destruction as he carves his path through life, convinced that he is acting in the best interests of others.
At best, the hero’s ego-centricity leaves him driven and unattached – a lone ranger in life as he unwittingly mistakes approval for love and praise for intimacy. The emptiness that drives this knight in shining armor is but momentarily fulfilled at the peak of each achievement, before it is relegated to his long list of achievements and he moves on to the next quest. Sadly, the lover is often held hostage by this undeveloped warrior and the conquest of love results in intense, flashy romances in which he quickly loses interest as the relationship becomes a sure thing. Once married, the hero will resent his wife and family for clipping his wings or carry on merrily unaware of his absence in the family home as he finds another windmill to attack.
The hero is a valid component of childhood development. But as a young man’s deep needs are fulfilled and his accomplishments acknowledged, he grows into a sense of well-being and self-confidence that is the foundation of the warrior. As the warrior is initiated, the very different qualities such as courage, honor, chivalry, valor and duty emerge. The light side of the warrior never freelances but knows the value of community. His cause is his family and community. Out of love and necessity he carves a path through life. There is no collateral damage and he does not rush to war but is a strategic planner and takes into consideration the needs of his family and community. The most effective warriors are found in the service of a king. The hero, however, stands alone.
A good example of this is found within Japanese culture. Samurai means “knight” in Japanese. Knighthood traditions are very similar to samurai tradition. Both traditions, rising out of the archetypal warrior, tend to dominate the psyche of their people. The warrior is the archetype who enables us to achieve and express ourselves in the world. It is an assertive and empowering energy. The artist who sets goals and sees them through to completion is able to make his vision materialise with warrior energy. He may start over and over in his quest for completion, drawing on reserves of perseverance, stamina and at times facing opposition.
No institution is more clearly dominated by the warrior archetype than the military. Here too, heroes are found. The strict discipline of the military is necessary to tame both the unfulfilled hero and the adrenalin driven aggression of the immature warrior. While the military provides the perfect opportunity for rites of passage to be fulfilled in the male journey, sadly the emphasis is almost always external (egotistical) and the rigorous inner training that allows insecure heroes to mature into confident warriors is not undertaken.
The warrior is prominent in religion, clearly seen in the drive to proselytize and the Islamic concept of Jihad, or holy war. Business, politics and sport are likewise heavily influenced by the warrior. Business is filled with warrior terminology such as “back-stabbing”, “hostile take-overs”, “corporate-espionage” and global companies guard their market strategies with the intensity of a nation at war.
The brawls of politics appear on our screens all too frequently, and it’s a rare politician who does not take every opportunity to discredit the opposition, if they have to tie themselves in knots to do so. The potency, power and influence of this archetype is without comparison.
The shadow warrior may express itself in the need to win, a tendency towards heroism, resentment or lack of fulfillment in a man’s life path. A hero not functioning in the light may have a tendency to depression and may live a life of disempowerment, manifesting in passivity, avoidance or anger and aggression.
For initiation into the light warrior, consider a mentoring session with AMA.
The Shadow Warrior and Angerby Tim Drown
Anger. There isn’t a more harshly judged or critically condemned emotion than that of anger. We strive for happiness, we empathise with guilt, even the hardest of men have some appreciation of sadness. But show your anger – even just a little – and you’ve stepped into a social minefield.
The emotion of anger is the realm of the shadow warrior. The shadow warrior relies on strength, power and fear to maintain the dominance in his relationships that is so crucial to his self-worth and sense of well-being. Anger is quite frequently a default emotion for men, and we have had little guidance or modelling as to how to express it healthily.
Some men have given up caring about managing their anger. They rage out regularly with perhaps only secret regret. They master the art of justification, excuse and blame to avoid feeling the guilt and shame that so often follow an outburst or in order to dismiss the consequences of uncontrolled rage.
But rage and aggression are not the only signs that we are struggling with anger. Depression, sarcasm, cynicism and a critical nature are all signs that anger is at work behind the scenes, subtly influencing our lives.
Many men are prone to unwanted attacks of rage – caught hopelessly in cycles of anger they long to break. Just when things appear to be going ok, something small triggers a flood of rage. Harsh words are spoken, doors are slammed, walls are punched and belongings are broken. Once the anger subsides, guilt and shame rush in. Apologies may be genuinely offered, but our families grow tired of hearing them and just want the aggression to stop.
I write without judgement, full of empathy and even a hint of sadness as one who has struggled with anger my entire life. My anger is rarely seen until I am in the comfort of my own home. The people I relate to on a daily basis have virtually no clue that I wrestle with bouts of rage. Things have improved greatly over the years as I’ve worked through personal issues and applied a myriad of techniques to manage and reduce my anger. But still today, if I am tired or have failed to express my anger assertively and honestly, I feel the pressure building and too often, I only realise when it’s too late.
This is the story of my desperate journey dealing with the demon of anger that has, at times, threatened to swallow me whole.
There are many childhood experiences I could look to for insight and clues to my struggle with anger. But I have learnt over the years that no matter how much of my history I resolve, the struggle persists. I have come to believe that there are more factors contributing to anger than we like to admit. “Problem anger” has been over-simplified in an attempt to deal with it quickly and tidily by providing a quick solution to a complex problem.
In the same way that AA tells alcoholics they are powerless over their addiction, there is an element of powerlessness in the cycle of rage. I don’t like the person I become under the influence of rage. If I could be different, I would. I even work hard at managing my anger, yet it still manages to creep up behind me if I'm not alert, erupting suddenly with devastating consequences, leaving me filled with regret and shame.
This occurred over and over again as a younger man. When the pain of my behaviour became too great, I set out to unravel the source of these outbursts that were sabotaging my life. The first thing I learnt was that my demonisation of anger was the beginning of my problem.
Anger is an emotion, just as sadness, fear, joy and happiness are. Feeling angry is not “bad” – it is the smoke that indicates that somewhere in my life lies a smouldering (or billowing) fire. Yet how difficult it is, in a society founded on Judaeo-Christian values, to come to accept that anger is an ordinary emotion that needs to be honoured, accepted and expressed.
Early in my life I learnt that anger was “wrong” or “bad”. I experienced being punished, shamed, mocked and belittled by parents, teachers, employers and even friends just for feeling angry. So I mastered the art of hiding my anger – or so I thought. This was the beginning of a deadly cycle of repression and explosion. One can only hide so much angry energy before it erupts like a proverbial volcano. I could go for weeks without any evidence of feeling angry, only to have something small set me off.
I spent a long time searching through my past, excavating the anger I had never faced. Below these smouldering coals I discovered enormous sadness and pain. I was sure dealing with these issues would resolve my outbursts of rage. It helped, but the cycle continued. I then learnt that I needed to deal with my anger daily, rather than letting the little things build up. Why is it so hard to say “I’m angry about that”? When I finally managed to put my feelings into honest words, my statements were loaded with energy and understandably, people reacted. Eventually I learnt to cool down before I spoke, yet even then I felt unheard and misunderstood. I learnt that very few people wanted to know I was angry, which hindered my attempts to express it gently.
Our society persecutes anger. Ironically, it is a dominant emotion modelled in our world. In our schools and even as parents, it is so often anger that drives the discipline of our children, and perhaps even anger that calls for discipline at all. I remember clearly how I looked up to the youth leader, the teacher or even the parent who had the confidence to rant and rave at a group of kids, putting the fear of God into our souls. I remember thinking to myself “I hope I can be like that.” Sadly, I achieved my goal. I remember being guided by the memories of these role models years later, even though it didn’t sit right. Sure enough, I’ve lived to regret those choices.
Anger is much more than an emotion. It’s closely linked to physiology. Testosterone in particular, appears to significantly affect anger and rage. Over 90% of violent crimes world-wide are committed by testosterone fuelled men. It appears we may be at a disadvantage when it comes to managing this primal emotion.
I was in my thirties before I learnt that my anger also expressed itself passive-aggressively. Cutting remarks, undermining gossip (as I “got things off my chest”), a cynical laugh and sarcastic jokes - all driven by simmering rage. Passive-aggression is an ingenious method of getting rid of uncomfortable anger. So often disguised as humour or witty put-downs, it draws a laugh from the crowd while leaving its victim feeling that something isn’t right, but with little evidence to show they have just been targeted by subtle rage.
As I’ve explored the causes and practised the techniques, they have all helped to bring about change. I am grateful that the rage that once visited almost daily, now only appears from time to time. Yet I have learnt that no matter how much work I may do or how infrequently I succumb, unmanaged rage and passive-aggression have devastating effects. Thus I need to be continually alert.
People don’t think I’m an angry man. My wife, and possibly my dog will tell you differently! I once read that the things we struggle with the most are the things we are here to teach. It seems to have become that way with anger. Over the years, I have collated numeous insights and tools that really do help. I have taught them in groups, shared them in counselling and seen both men and women find varying degrees of relief from their problem anger.
This is the first of a series of articles in which I hope to share some of these insights and techniques with you. Managing and resolving problem-anger is in itself a rite of passage and initiation in life that is necessary to reach full maturity. My experience tells me there is a way through our anger – whether it manifests in depression, criticism or rage. We are incredible human beings, capable of great things – the greatest of which is change.
Anger ABC'sBy Tim Drown
There are many mistruths about anger that have been drummed into us over the years. My experience in working with problem anger is that these ideas and misconceptions serve only to fuel our anger. So let’s start by laying a few ground principles.
1. Anger is Energy
Anger is emotion, and emotion is energy. We know this because when we experience a build-up of anger we often say we are going to explode. Joy is an emotion.
When we feel joyful or happy, we are motivated to do wonderful things. We have a spring in our step and a smile on our face. This is a result of the energy of joy.
Understanding this basic principle is important, because the basic laws of physics state that energy flows from an area of high concentration (i.e. where there is lots of it) to an area of low concentration (where there isn’t much!). Energy wants to move. When we are angry, our angry energy needs to flow, and if we keep it bottled up inside it’s effectively like trying to plug a volcano, or blowing air into a balloon until it bursts.
Managing anger is about managing energy. If we can start by identifying that we are angry, we can consciously find ways to move the energy out of our bodies. This might be through exercise, stretching, howling at the moon (if you’re a hippy from the 70’s - don't laugh, it actually works, just looks weird!), writing it down, or even talking about your anger. All of these activities allow the energy to flow and lessen the concentration within us, reducing the feeling of anger we are experiencing.
You might be thinking those ideas are crazy and your anger is much too overpowering and explosive to resolve by just talking about it. If that’s your experience, it points to two very common conditions. The first is a long-term build-up of internalised, repressed anger. Many people repress their anger. Rather than responding to the hundreds of little instances of anger and dealing with the energy productively, they ignore their anger in the hope it will go away. The result is a build-up of high-pressure, internalised anger that is ignited by the tiniest spark, flaring into a fit of rage. I will dedicate an entire article to dealing with repressed anger. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes when we i) learn how to prevent anger building up and ii) deal with our resentment from the past.
The second condition relates to the habits we develop around managing our anger. Anger can’t be retained in the body without serious consequences. Angers wants to move from high concentration to low concentration and will search for a way out. As we resist this process or manage it poorly, we develop habits that eventually become automatic. If you are in the habit of repressing your anger, allowing it to build up until you are triggered into rage, you will not notice any of this happening and it will feel like you have no control over your eruptions at all. The reality is, habits are made up of a series of events that have become automatic. When we learn to identify the process that has become a habit, we become more conscious of the signs, triggers and events that it contains. Each small part of the process is an opportunity to manage our anger more effectively.
2. Anger is not violence
For the most part, we have learnt to directly associate anger with violence. Anger is an emotion. Emotion is energy. It’s a powerful energy and explosive at times, but it is how we express our anger that can be violent, not the anger itself. The association of anger with violence is one of the reasons we don’t want to acknowledge when we are angry. Acknowledging our anger without shame or judgement is the first step to managing it effectively. If we associate anger with violence, we will not want to think we are angry, simply because we consider violence to be bad. If violence is bad, then anger is bad. If anger is bad, and I’m angry, then I’m bad. This is simply not true. This leads us to the third point.
3. Anger is not bad
Anger has long been labelled a “bad” emotion. This is completely understandable, because poorly managed anger frequently produces painful results. We’ve all been the target and even the victim of someone else’s poorly managed anger at some time in our lives, and it wasn’t pleasant. It usually makes us feel pretty bad. Therefore, we conclude that anger must be bad.
Back to principle 1 – anger is energy. Energy is neither good, nor bad. The sun produces solar energy. Solar energy is a wonderful thing. With it we grow crops for food and generate electricity to power our cities. Yet solar energy can also shrivel our crops, dry out our soil and inflict fatal diseases on our bodies. But is solar energy bad? No. It is neither good nor bad.
Likewise, angry energy is neither good nor bad energy. It is simply energy. Most people I have worked with in relation to their anger believe at some level that anger is bad. The reality is, when we fail to manage our anger effectively, it usually produces bad results in our lives, producing further evidence that that anger is bad. Anger is simply anger. If we can acknowledge our anger, find acceptance around it as an every-day emotion and find a way to express it productively, we will find it creates much less pain in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
4. Unmanaged anger follows the path of least resistance
What is easier? To build a house or to knock one down? To paint a masterpiece or tear one apart? To establish a forest or burn one to cinders? The answer is obvious. It is much easier to destroy than to create. Anger automatically takes a destructive path, because this is the path of least resistance. To be creative requires thought, planning, intention, inspiration, motivation and commitment. Very few of us put this kind of effort into addressing our anger. We mostly deny it or just hope it will go away. Energy flows, and it flows downhill (the path of least resistance)! If you really want to deal with anger in your life, you will need to put in a great deal of effort. You will need to be motivated to change, committed to the process, inspired by a vision of yourself as a changed person and develop strategies to deal with your anger. If you are committed in this way, anger can be managed effectively.
5. Anger has many disguises
When we think of someone with an anger problem, we think of people that can’t control their temper. That’s the most obvious manifestation of unmanaged anger. But problem anger presents in many more ways. Problem anger leaks. Sarcasm is the most common expression of this. We live in a society that applauds sarcasm as the humour of the day. People often say to me that sarcasm is just a bit of fun. My response is, yes for sure, but you try living with a sarcastic partner, father or mother and see how good you feel about yourself. You try weathering the little digs, the veiled put-downs, the mistrust and pessimism and the passive-aggressive comments of the sarcastic person and you’ll soon find that you begin to carry a heap of negativity that doesn’t belong to you.
From a personal perspective, sarcasm is an indication that I am angry about something and I am not acknowledging my anger. Sarcasm allows anger to escape slowly. The sarcastic person won’t feel the overwhelming pressure of repressed anger as it builds, and won’t need to rage out to release their anger, because they let it off in little bits. However, it never all goes and as a result there is a gradual build-up of negativity. Additionally, sarcasm is transferred anger. Because it so cleverly disguises anger, we open up to a sarcastic comment and absorb the angry energy behind it. Sarcasm subtly passes angry energy from one person to another, spreading it like a virus.
Another destructive expression of anger is depression. Depression is often defined as “anger turned inwards”. If I don’t have a healthy outlet for my anger and refuse to let myself explode in rage or express it creatively, my anger turns in on myself and I implode. Instead of being angry with everyone else, I become angry with and blaming of myself. At this point, my thinking becomes hopeless and my world spirals into depression.
We’ll look more at the disguises of anger when we explore the passive-aggressive spectrum and the various levels of anger. We’ll also discuss the miraculous way that a having language around anger releases so much of the explosive energy and shifts it harmlessly out of our bodies. We’ll explore our personal causes of anger and the cycles of thought that keep us angry and we’ll discuss some ways of communicating that help us to express our anger more productively.
I have seen many men shift from being powerlessly controlled by their anger, fuelled by negativity and sarcasim, or plagued with depression, to having the capacity to freely express themselves without experiencing the escalation to rage. It won’t happen overnight, but with the right support, you can manage your anger in a way that is empowering to yourself and to the people you care about in your life.
Navigating the Emotional Landscapeby Tim Drown
Most men have come to believe "emotions are a bad idea”. Emotion is depicted as a sign of weakness, and is often discouraged, mocked, manipulated and even punished in boys and men. So we try live in a world void of feelings and emotion … the trouble is we can only pretend they are not there. While we’re happily pretending that we’re
emotionless, bulletproof he-men, our emotional energy slowly compounds, looking for an outlet. As the pressure builds within, it is inevitable that we will either spill-out, implode or chase the next feel-good experience in an effort to run away from our true emo-tional state.
Whether it’s an embarrassing night out with your mates, a battle of the wills with your partner or the overwhelming impulse to tell your boss where to shove it, we’ve all encountered the overwhelming emotions that drive us to regretful behaviour.
Many men suffer from other debilitating emotional disorders, such as excessive anxiety, high stress, rage attacks, depression, binge drinking and alcoholism as a direct result of being unable and unwilling to confront and work with their very real emotional energy.
As I said in the previous article, emotion, like anger, is energy. Energy needs somewhere to go. We might be able to hold it together for a while, but one day a spark sets us alight and an inferno ensues.
Working with anger means understanding emotions. Yes, we’re going to have to go there. But before you hit the back-button on your browser, consider this challenge.
Most men I know like to think they would climb mountains, trudge through jungles or fight to the death to protect their loved ones, a noble cause or their freedom. Men tend to be wired that way. Yet most men I know also agree, that despite this fierce courage to take on any physical challenge, they would rather turn and run a mile when it comes to feeling their pain, expressing their sadness or dealing directly with guilt or shame.
So we’d take on the world, but we run from our feelings… there’s nothing particularly manly about that! So my challenge is, have the courage to read on and discover your emotional landscape. Emotions are a crucial part of managing anger and we can’t do it without knowing more – so buckle up, strap on your sword and let’s begin our journey into the unknown world of emotions.
Ten Facts About Emotions
1. Emotion is energy.
2. When we let our emotional energy build up, we either implode, explode or leak.
3. When we acknowledge and express emotional energy, we move it out of our bodies, releasing it from our lives.
4. Emotions are different to feelings. We feel many things (hungry, tired, overwhelmed, angry), but emotions are specific type of feeling that we must identify and work with constantly.
5. There are five categories of emotion: Sad (disappointed, upset, miserable), Bad (guilty, ashamed, embarrassed), Mad (frustrated, annoyed, angry, pissed-off, enraged), Glad (happy, joyful, grateful, excited, ecstatic, over-joyed) and Afraid (fearful, afraid, anxious, nervous, terrified, petrified).
6. Just identifying and naming our emotion releases the “pressure valve” and reduces its power over our life.
7. Emotional energy arises from our core beliefs about ourselves, others and life, and feeds our thoughts, generating new and different emotions, or a more intensive experience of our current emotion.
8. When we let emotion run our lives, we tend to react to circumstances rather than respond and deal with life from an imbalanced point of view.
9. When we ignore our emotions, they have more power over us and tend to drive our lives even thought we think we're in control.
10. Some people are very emotionally orientated. These people tend to find that their emotions are "bigger than they are" and are frequently overwhelmed by their emotional energy. This is both a strength and a weakness. These are usually very sensitive, compassionate and empathic people (given the chance). If you identify as one of these people, you will need to work a lot harder at containing your emotion than the average man.
Want to know more? Read on for A Quick Guide to Working with Emotion.
A Quick Guide to Working with EmotionBy Tim Drown
In “Navigating the Emotional Landscape”, we covered the five categories of emotion. In the ten facts about emotion, we explored how ignoring or repressing emotional energy causes a build-up of emotional pressure, with potentially devastating consequences. Now here are some simple steps to express and release your emotional energy with positive results.
1. Acknowledge Your Emotion
You’ll be surprised how often you have emotional energy present in your body. Even now. Stop for a moment ... relax ... slow down ... take a few deep breaths. Now tune in to your emotional energy. What are you feeling? What part of your body can you feel it in? For example anxiety often creates butterfiles in our stomachs, tightens our chest or seizes the muscles in our neck and shoulders. Sadness can feel like a heavy weight in your chest, heart or eyes. How would would describe the sensation of emotion within your body?
Everyone experiences emotional energy in a different way. It’s usually noticeable in your body or your thoughts. For example, if you find yourself fantasizing about keying your bosses car, consider what kind of thoughts they are… probably angry thoughts! This tips you off to the fact that you are probably feeling angry! If you are thinking about how bad life is, how bad thing always happen to you, and even like ending it all – these tend to be sad thoughts. You are probably feeling sad.
Then there are the signs in your body. Heart rate increases, palms sweat, body trembles – could be anger, could be fear. Take a time out and ask yourself “am I angry or afraid?” Sit with the feeling long enough and you’ll eventually know which emotion you are experiencing.
Identifying the emotion behind our thoughts and bodily sensations is important and helpful. Often we "do our head in" as angry thoughts circulate and feed off each other for hours. Or we turn to alcohol to drown our sorrows, go on a spending spree to feel better or withdraw from family and friends because we are sad.
Emotions are like children. They hang around, chanting your name and tugging your sleeve until you eventually give them some attention. The quickest way out of the slowly forming holocaust in your head is to acknowledge the anger behind the angry thoughts. The most effective way to bring some hope back into a hopeless world is to acknowledge and express the sadness behind your despairing thoughts.
It’s common to have “mixed emotions” (or “mixed feelings” as we more commonly refer to them). Don't be confused if you find yourself feeling sad, angry and afraid all at once! It just means we've got several emotions to give some close attention to if we want to be restored to peace and harmony again.
Acknowledging your emotion means giving it a name. For simplicity, I like to work with five simple categories of emotion - sad, bad, mad, glad or afraid (discussed below). Naming the emotion you are feeling is a significant step towards releasing it. Just by acknowledging the specific emotion, we lessen our resistance to it and in doing so, reduce the internal pressure.
2. Honour the Emotion
We honour the emotion by making room for it and taking time out to feel and perhaps, explore it. Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself once you have acknowledged a specific emotion.
Sad: What am I sad about? Reflect on that question. Open your heart and mind. Let your sadness tell you what you are sad about. As you make room for your sadness, the answer(s) to this question will slowly bubble to the surface. Sit with those answers, let yourself feel.
Sometimes (very rarely) we can’t determine what we’re sad about. That’s ok. Just allow yourself to feel sad and get on with whatever you are doing. Honouring means allowing ourselves to feel. Feeling sad is not the end of the world, far from it. What you feel today will change tomorrow, maybe even within the next hour. What we ignore today stays with us forever.
Sadness usually arises during times of loss and change, or when we feel uncertain or are in touch with our pain. Sometime sadness arises when we empathise with the circumstances of others – we feel sad with and for them. It can help to ask "What am I hurting over?" or "What am I letting go of?"
Bad: We feel bad when we have behaved in a manner contrary to our values and beliefs. "Bad" describes feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment. Because feeling bad is unpleasant, we will often try to justify our actions or position, digging our heels in to convince ourselves and others that we are right and that we are ok. In truth, we don't fool anybody. Guilt and shame can lead to very stubborn behaviour and inflict significant damage on important relationships when we fail to acknowledge and express it.
Questions to reflect on when you feel bad include: "What do I feel guilty about?" and "What am I ashamed of?" The difference between guilt and shame is guilt usually arises when we have behaved in contradiction with our values and beliefs about what is right and good. Guilt tells us we have “done something bad” or "wrong". Shame arises when we are stuck in negative core-beliefs about ourselves. Shame is quite toxic and tries to tell us “we are bad”.
Shame is usually linked to the core beliefs and values systems of our families and society. It is both generated by and reinforces the core-belief “I’m not good enough” or “I’m worthless”. It’s important for us to challenge the values and core-beliefs we have inherited, as well as the shame we experience. Personally, I chose to reject about 80% of the values and belief systems I was raised with, because as I took the time to really explore them, I found they were generalisations, assumptions, and were mostly negative and controlling. I decided I didn’t want to live that way anymore.
Shame will give us very negative messages. It can be helpful to pause and ask “is that really the truth about me?” Usually we find that the answer is no. This simple admission can release us from the shame cycle – at least for today.
Mad: Now we are in the anger family. All the emotions within the “mad” category are lesser or greater forms of anger. Frustration is a little amount of anger, rage is a huge amount of anger. It’s good to get comfortable using the word “angry” and moving up and down the scale as we get honest about our true feelings. The question to ask ourselves here is "What am I angry about and who am I angry with?"
Anger usually arises when a deep need or expectation in our lives is being blocked. When I’m running late for a job interview and I get stuck in road works – the first emotion I experience is anger. It’s usually linked closely with fear and shame.
When I’m expecting someone else to keep up their end of the bargain and they let me down – the first emotion I experience is anger! I’m enraged!
There is often a big emphasis on anger being a “secondary emotion”. I don’t believe that myself. I think anger can often be a primary emotion (if it even matters). Emotions often cluster together as “mixed feelings”. This appears to be more common with anger than with other emotions. This is partly due to the thought patterns that generate anger. We tend to live believing that the only acceptable emotion is happiness! We live hoping, expecting and needing our lives to be happy.
When we experience any emotion other than happiness, suddenly a deep need or expectation is blocked. Anger is triggered in an attempt to find the energy to “fix” whatever the problem is. Of course the problem is our expectation to always be happy! But usually our anger drives us to rearrange the outer circumstances in our desperate pursuit of happiness. Obviously, this frequently back-fires because you can’t generate happiness through anger! We’ll look more at expectations in a later article.
Glad: The question here is “What am I happy about?” Happiness is great! Celebrate it! Happiness is our natural state of being when our core-beliefs are aligned with the truth about who we really are… but I’m not going to give away the secret to happiness here… you’ll have to attend one of our seminars….!
Afraid: Perhaps for evolutionary reasons, fear appears to permeate an excessive portion of our lives. Fear expresses itself in various forms - anxiety is essentially repressed fear that bubbles over into every apect of our lives. Nervousnes is fear. It makes no sense, that when we stand in front of a group of people to speak, or attend a job interview, we actually believe we are in danger and fear threatens to take over.
Fear is the most frequently accessed and overstated of all the emotions. It is the direct result of negative beliefs about ourselves and the world. It binds us, holds us back and prevents us from reaching our potential. Yet, we experience it daily! Fear is purely about physical survival. When we are afraid, huge amounts of adrenalin are pumped into our system preparing us for the fight of our lives. The “fight, flight or freeze” syndrome is an unconscious response to fear, inflicting so much sufferring and discomfort on our lives.
Once you have determined “who or what you are afraid of…” complete a quick reality check. Are you truly at risk or are you actually safe? What is the likelihood of the events you fear actually happening?
In your life, you will rarely be faced with a genuine threat to your physical survival that fear can actually help you with. I have heard it said “fear keeps me safe”, but it’s not true. Fear keeps you frozen, fighting or running away (avoiding life). It is wisdom that keeps you safe. Wisdom tells you when things are dangerous or life threatening. Fear makes everything appear dangerous and threatening. Thus, we don’t take the risks we need to survive and thrive. Our fear of something bad happening so often prevents anything good from happening!
There is amazing evidence that demonstrates that we actually attract what we fear! When we function from the space of fear, our lives get worse and worse. When we function from a genuine space of confidence, assurance, happiness, trust and wellbeing, our lives expand.
You might say “well that’s ok if you’re that type of person”. I believe it is only fear that prevents you from being that type of person. Of course you can’t fake happiness, confidence and assurance. But you can begin to acknowledge, honour, express and challenge your fear to release it from your life.
3. Finally ... Express Your Emotion
The final step is expression. We need to move that emotional energy out of the body. There are many great ways of doing this. Physical activity, stretching, sport and exercise are great ways to release latent energy that has built up each day. However, if we don’t work with our emotion regularly, it continues to build up in the same way.
Genuine expression starts with naming your emotion. Sadness usually wants to express itself in tears, anger through the release of energy, shame wants you to withdraw, curl up, disappear, and happiness wants you to celebrate. Expressing your emotion through any of these methods will help reduce it, as long as you are consciously focused on feeling the emotional energy rather than acting on the thoughts that are attached to it.
There is no question that the simple act of talking about your emotions to someone else – not the problem, but the actual emotions – will help release them. If you’re more of a private person, journaling can really help. Just find a blank sheet of paper and start by writing on the top “I feel….” and then whatever follows. Once you name specific emotions, use the questions above to reflect on and express those feelings on paper.
Incidentally men, women generally love it when you open up and talk about your emotional life. Speaking generally, women tend to be much more familiar with emotions than men and will feel like they are meeting you on common ground if you can bight the bullet and take the time to talk about your feelings. It will do wonders for you and for your relationship if you can really get connected and express your true feelings.