The Power of the Heart to Harness the Power of Anger
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I had been on and off airplanes for more than twelve hours. I had one night at home after three weeks away, before having to hop in my car and be gone for another week. Enough time for a quick shower, a snuggle with my cat in my own bed, a little laundry. By the time my keys turned in the lock, it was past midnight in the time zone I had just come from. I was so ready for a nice warm bath, and a bed. And then it hit as I walked in the door. The odor of raw sewage. What the --- ?
The plumbing had backed up into my bathtub. No warm shower. The odor was everywhere. The house sitter had called the building manager, who had called a router, who was supposed to have gotten in touch with me. “He should be on his way.” The clock ticked on. My jet lag took its toll. Finally, the manager paged him. He called me to say it was too late- he had needed me to call him back while I was mid flight to come. What? He knew I was on an airplane- she had told him! I called the building manager, who gave me a long song and dance about how difficult it would be to get someone there to fix it tonight…I offered to call my own plumber and she said no.
I broke. Someone was telling me I did not have the power to get my needs met. The floodgates of my red hair let loose and my anger went after its goose. I yelled. I screamed. I threatened to call the rent control board. And she lost it too. She yelled back. She started swearing, and calling me names. And then she hung up on me. My anger got a router to my house that night. But at what cost? My building manager has cut off communication with me since.
Anger is one of the biggest catch 22’s we face as evolving human beings. Have you ever been told that you have an “Anger problem”? Anger itself poses a problem for the majority of people. We don’t know what to make of it or do with it. In some circles, anger is considered taboo, and so people stuff it until it comes out the corners of their eyes or their ears, unconsciously moving in destructive and careless ways. In other circles, anger is glorified as the shrine of personal freedom. “I finally got in touch with my anger, and don’t you dare take it away!” People feel powerful when they are angry, and indulge their anger with the full on force of addiction.
For those who think that anger is an expression of their greater power, science has proven them wrong. The following graph illustrates that anger and relaxation have nearly the exact same power spectrum in the heart! Where as emotions like appreciation, compassion, forgiveness, have a power output from the heart that is almost six times more powerful than anger!
Science has also shown us that anger is hard on our health. It compromises the immune system dramatically (in one HeartMath study, just five minutes of remembering an angry event after the fact caused the immune system to plummet for more than six hours afterwards!).
Anger increases stress hormone levels making us vulnerable to degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis. People who are quick to anger and get angry often have more heart disease, more sudden death, earlier deaths. My father fit that category. He was absolutely addicted to his anger. He loved to yell at politicians on TV, drivers 100 feet away, and into the air at the injustices of the world. The very last time I saw my father, I asked him why he did not work to temper his anger. It saddened me to see my own anger (I got my red hair and its accompanying temperament from him) alienate people around me, push people away, cut me off from my heart. “I like my anger,” he said. “It’s just me. It’s part of who I am.” One month to the day after we had that conversation, still in his 60’s, he died of sudden cardiac death. He broke his own heart with his anger.
Because anger has either a bad wrap in spiritual and personal growth circles, or is glamorized as a holy grail to access and express, it has been suppressed and dramatized in a violent oscillating pendulum that robs us of energy, power, clear perception, healthy personal and international relations, and well being. All of that spells stress. Fyera! is that great feeling you get when you are living in alignment with your heart, when your arms fly up over your head and a yes to life flies out of your mouth. Is it possible that anger can help us to experience more Fyera!? Absolutely. Anger is a true resource, when we are able to harness its power through the power of the heart.
Seen through the eyes of the heart, anger was “designed” along with the “invention” of all original emotions, as a survival adaptation in the mammalian or mid brain. The cortisol rush and fight or flight nervous system reactions that anger signals the body to engage are all elegantly designed to keep us alive in an immediate physical threat. Anger was designed to protect our survival. As part of that, it shuts down our higher brain function and our ability to reason, communicate, see things clearly, and problem solve well. This, ironically, is part of our survival intelligence. The saying, “I was so angry I could not see straight,” is literal. You do not want to think about how many teeth the alligator has to bite you with if your child is in its jaws. You just want to dive in and save your child at all costs. The shutting down of our brain is a brilliant survival tool: except when the bulk of our threats are psychological rather than physical. In an ironic twist of fate, as we live in times in which our biology has not had the chance to catch up to our technology, our anger is now trip switching on a regular basis in the face of things that are unrelated to our immediate physical survival- things like the inconvenience of a bathtub filled with sewage. In a prey-predator jungle, anger is an effective way to get our needs met. In the modern world, anger is an old software program running us, and those around us, ragged.
It is a misnomer that anger makes us more powerful and more effective when we indulge it. We can frighten people to obey our commands, like I did with my building manager, for a certain amount of time, but we quickly burn them and ourselves out. There is a more efficient and more powerful way to get things done. The question is: how do we access that? And the answer in my own life, as a die hard redhead, has been through the power of my heart.
It is a delicate dance, because the only way you can harness the power of your anger is first to admit that you have it, without feeling “unspiritual” for it, or without glamorizing and indulging it “I found my power! I am angry!” None of that will do. It requires a simple, neutral, honest self assessment. “Yup. I can feel my jaw tightening ready to bite someone. Here comes the anger software program again.” As soon as you see the program running, it is no longer running you. It is then that you have the power to bring the chaotic pattern of survival imperative that anger triggers in your heart and physiology, into a coherent rhythm of self compassion through the heart. You can ask your heart in that moment that you catch your anger, “What need is it that I am trying to get met here? Is there a more efficient or heartfelt way to go about getting this need met besides flooding my body with stress hormones, and creating chaos around me?” Just asking yourself the question can open you to new possibilities. Like any addiction, the key to harnessing the power of anger so you are free from its compulsive grip, is not to judge yourself if and when you slip.
As I caught myself yelling at my building manager I stopped. I went to neutral, a tool that we teach in the Beginner HeartMath webinar. Then I started sending compassion to both of us, and using the communication tool which we also teach in the beginner webinar. The silence on my end of the phone disturbed her. I had stopped fighting with her, but most importantly I had started making peace inside myself. While she still held her anger at me, I was able to send compassion to myself without blaming myself for getting mad. This saved me a ton of energy that night, and allowed me to get the much needed rest I required to travel again the next day. From that vantage point, my anger became a source of self care, rather than self harm.
Behind every anger is a care that has been carried so far that it distorts our physiology and our well being. In the HeartBlueprints class we teach people a tool that is specific for getting back to your true care at the root of anger. But you can do a simple version of that right now. Ponder something that has triggered anger for you recently. Can you see how your anger is a sign post pointing you to something you are passionate about? Something you really care about? Threaded through the eye of the needle of the heart, anger becomes clarity, true care, passion, compassion.
Tune into to tonight’s HeartStart call to find out more specifics on how the power of the heart can help you turn the compost heap of indulged or suppressed anger into a garden of clarity, power, passion, and vitality.
To listen to previous Heart Start calls go to www.fyera.com/heartstart.html
For more information about our four evening HeartMath class series e-mail [email protected]
Forgiveness often has the power to free us from anger. A quick way to forgiveness is to realize that you do not need to (and sometimes cannot) forgive someone for WHAT they do, but you can always forgive someone for WHY they do it. Put yourself in the shoes of a person who has made you angry. Look at life from their perspective, and see if you can forgive their reasons for being the way that they are, even if you cannot forgive how they are being or behaving. If you imagine that this person is a hurt child, it can help you find forgiveness for their actions. You would not blame a baby for hitting you while it was waking up- understanding our anger comes as an old survival reaction as we as a species are “waking up” can help us not only to have more patience for ourselves, but more readily forgive others.
Compassion can help harness the power of our anger to fuel rather than burn us and others. Harry Palmer, of Avatar (www.avatarepc.com) has developed a wonderful exercise to bring us more compassion:
Objective: To increase the amount of compassion in the world.
Expected Results: A personal sense of peace.
Instructions: Do all five steps with the same person. With attention on the person, repeat to yourself the following phrases:
Step 1: “Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness for his or her life.”
Step 2: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”
Step 3: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness, and despair.”
Step 4: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill his/her life.” Step 5: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”
3) Exercise for the Positive Release of Anger
Many of us are afraid of our anger because of its destructive potential, and so we squash it down into the unconscious where it pops out more destructive than it would if we allowed the awareness of our hearts to harness its energy. This exercise allows you to access the power behind anger without harming yourself or others. The process happens over three days, and it is important that you follow the instructions precisely.
Day 1: Write a hate letter to the person you are angry with (it can be yourself). You can write up to three in one day. Then hide them (since this is what you have been doing with your anger).
Day 2: In a private context, read the letters out loud to yourself, and edit them to make them harsher, more cruel, more mean. Then hide them again.
Day 3: Read the letters out loud to yourself, and then burn them in a way that is safe and causes harm to none.e
4) Recommended Reading:
“Transforming Anger” by Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman www.heartmathstore.com species are “waking up” can help us not only to have more patience for ourse
5) Chinese Medicine
In Chinese Medicine, anger congests the liver and comes from a congested liver. Eating greens can help, as can doing exercises to move energy through the liver like self healing qi gong for the liver taught in this video: www.taoofwellness.com
6) Fyera! Webinar
Fyera’s Beginner HeartMath webinar! Click here to watch the first class for free!
January HeartMath Workshop Dates
All Day Beginner Workshop - Saturday Jan 19th
All Day Intermediate Workshop - Sunday Jan 20th
Fyera is now offering a year long HeartMastery Program.
A great deal only $6/hour of class time. Click here to learn more.