Archive for December 27th, 2010

The Positive Purpose in Anger

Emotion is energy in motion. Every emotion arises with a specific purpose; when that purpose is fulfilled the feeling subsides. Even what we might call “negative emotions” convey important information and energy to carry out a specific action that is appropriate to what is happening in your life at the moment.

Unfortunately, because as a society we have not learned to understand and value emotional energy and information, we tend to deal with our feelings unskillfully. With an emotion like anger, we will either express it explosively or we shove it under the surface because we do not want to act that way. Either we become consumed by our feelings or we cease feeling.

In her phenomenal book, “The Language of Emotions,” Karla McLaren describes a healthy third alternative. She tells us that we can facilitate the healthy flow of our emotions by consciously “channeling” the information and energy that our emotions provide.

In order to do that well, we need to create a safe personal space in which to explore our emotional energies. A couple weeks ago, we talked about defining your personal space as a sphere an arm’s length around our entire body in all directions. Inside this personal space we can discern what our feelings are trying to tell us and use their energy appropriately. Anger is the emotion designed to create and preserve our personal boundaries and safeguard our personal space.

Here’s a practice adapted from McLaren to gather the information and use the energy in your anger:

1. When you feel anger rising, focus inside your body and become more in-touch with the felt sensation. Approach the feeling with curiosity to learn more about it.

2. Take a deep in-breath. As you exhale, imagine and feel as if the energy in your anger travels out into the sphere of your personal boundary strengthening it with a brilliant color. Do this until you feel a shift in your energy, so that you
are witnessing, feeling, and working with the energy in your anger without being consumed by it.

3. Then, ask your anger this question: “What needs to be protected or restored?” Anger arises when your personal boundary or the boundary of someone or something you care for is disrupted or violated. This question helps you identify that disruption in the moment and take appropriate action. When you have been able to identify the source of your anger and used the energy in it to strengthen your personal space and take any appropriate action, your anger will recede. it will have accomplished its purpose.

Try this with anger as it arises and see what happens for you,


Kevin Schoeninger

P.S. For a more in-depth study of “channeling” emotions, check out “The Language of Emotions” by Karla McLaren.

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