When was the last time you were angry? Even asking that question I'm aware that for many of us, anger sits on a spectrum starting somewhere at low level, minor irritation, fleeting annoyances which pass in moments , all the way through to burning, uncontrollable rage, a fury that is so potent and even dangerous it fizzes and cackles until eventually it explodes.

So when was the last time you were angry?  Never? Often? Too scary, too messy, too complicated?

Anger is a complex feeling; all of us experience it, most of us have been on the receiving end of it, we have at least bore witness to somebody else's anger and yet it is one of the more "uncomfortable" feelings. We avoid it if we can, we find ways to diffuse and distract from it, strategies and techniques, breathing exercises and visualisations, all to prevent it from overcoming us and when none of this works and it makes an appearance anyway, we fear the rupture it creates, we smooth it over, we minimise it, we ignore it....

But why are we so uncomfortable with a feeling we are all so familiar with? What are we so afraid of? 

Like all feelings, it helps to think of our anger as a messenger with something very important that it wants to share with you...don't ignore it, it's not going anywhere until you pay attention to what it's trying to tell you. 

My take on it is that anger serves two incredibly important functions: 

1) Boundary setting - Anger says "Stop", "No", "Don't come any closer". It tells the recipient that we (or they) have reached our limit of what is acceptable to us. We don't mess around with an angry person, we give them distance, space, we adjust our behaviour. We know that a line has been crossed and we do what we can to find that line, leap back over it and run the other way. So whilst anger can be surprising and dangerous and scary, it also tells us that what's happening now isn't ok and that we're not ok with how we're being treated. Anger is powerful  and can remind us of our self worth if we listen to the message it's trying to communicate to us with compassion and understanding instead of fear. 


2) Catalyst for Change - Anger, whilst an essential feeling to have access to in our emotional tool kit is not a place we want to inhabit for an indefinite period of time. It place our sympathetic nervous system into a "fight or flight" survival response, which in turn has both physical and emotional outcomes. In the short term these  can be helpful, but to remain in this state for too long leaves us at risk of hyper-vigilance, increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, increase risk of diseases such as cancer (the body seeks to ward off the danger in the "here and now", it is not concerned with preventing conditions which may kill us in the long term when in survival mode), as well as the emotional toll it takes on us.....anger is exhausting....

In addition, who wants to be around an angry person?  Who wants to be constantly argued with, shouted at, humiliated, belittled.....nobody wants to be around an angry person....angry people are often lonely people. 

So, anger as a permanent state is not healthy or helpful, Therefore, we must see it as a catalyst for change. It is here, it has arrived, listen to the message, establish your boundaries, find out what is acceptable, take action, be angry......and then thank your anger for a job well done and let it be on it's way.

If we imagine our feelings as colours on the rainbow, what colour would your anger be and why?