Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Anger, Grief and Addiction - some string through it all


This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-ND

Road rage is common today in densely populated traffic zones. Humans transport raw emotion onto the street. Imagine getting to work from an argument at home to a critique from a boss or client! Emails may record LOUD words and emphatic adjectives. Not empathetic ones!

Recognize ‘firing from a bravery of being out of range’ or from someone else’s shoulder? Or a direct head-on collision face to face with someone? Rarely do we get an outcome to our liking from our anger, like seeking the attention of someone. At other times, someone shouts back at us, worsening our chance of getting a desired outcome. In the heat of the moment, we do not realise what we miss (including feedback we may not get from others), as we are in the grip of the emotion.  

From arrogance to sheer stupidity, this basic emotion may be perceived in a myriad tone by those who witness our anger. Several means of dealing with it have come through the ages. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.”  said the giant Maya Angelou . Mario Puzo of Godfather fame said “Never get angry. Never make a threat. Reason with people”. Remember Mitch Albom and his Tuesdays with Morrie? Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.  Mitch wrote in his book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

So what is anger? I lean upon the man with the Mind with the Heart, Richard McHugh, to state anger as below.

Anger is an assertion to get what one wants because one feels one does not yet have what one is in need of.

Anger is the mirror image of sadness. Mirror Image of the grief emotion? Yes - In sadness, we resign to the outcome of loss. In anger, we rise in assertion of what we do not yet have! Mirror images in emotional terms. In other words, we can afford to laugh at our folly of wanting to possess something that eventually possesses us! However, it is important to live our emotions fully. Curbing the flow of emotions is not a healthy attitude. Awareness allows us to direct the flow of this energy.

To be in touch with anger is actually being in touch with a real and inseparable part of ourselves. Denying this emotion is a repression of the underlying desire - a distortion of self-awareness. Contrary to popular understanding, anger is not a separator emotion, unless we deem it so. Often, we end up communicating in inept ways. Bias cuts us off from people we are angry with.  E.g.  when jealous, anger is ill managed and instead of strengthening the relationship – we tend to avoid making contact with the one we are jealous of.  Anger connects, if we make the connect in direct forthrightness and diplomacy. Masterful response comes from creative use of our inner resources. Self-directed anger bereft of self-acceptance is a hopeless self-criticism. When we connect with ourselves, we can direct our energy towards others effectively. Consider some important dimensions in the expression of anger, as below.

1.       To be angry in conduct is to be vulnerable. We are willing to be seen for our bare emotions and inner desires as these signals travel unconsciously to others without our knowing.

2.      In anger, we do not give up our readiness to listen, to change or to admit one’s mistakes. We are willing to stay with our emotion and deepen our relationship till our ideas see or realise something different from our start point. Anger has the potential to transform us.

3.      The contact element in anger is to eventually get closer to the person we direct our energy towards. For this to happen we need to be ready to stay with the evolving emotion and the unfolding interaction till we deepen the relationship with the other person. Often the emotional release found is in giving up resentment against someone, in forgiveness. Forgiving oneself is a rarer and clearer instance of self-acceptance. We often mistake guilt of a past decision as a clue to self-criticism. Engulfing ourselves with guilt of the past in the present moment, is to confuse the tense of the stimulus.

4.      Anger is not about being ‘right’ – it is about being honest about ourselves without being disrespectful of others. This is the point of competence in the expression of our anger. Anger expression is a decision moment. The decision is to assert your want without disrespecting the other. Remembering the learning from our past decisions is to remind us of our imperfect nature. Hence recalling the past decision for the mistake made, reduces the emotional impact in the present. Yes, you are inferring pertinently, if you now realise, that as humans it is our nature to choose. We decide actions. Guilt is the product of choosing. Dissociating ourselves from the choosing and associating ourselves in the learning helps improve our upcoming choices. How would you decide on this next?

5.      The goal of anger is not to prove a position, but to serve the inner need in us. Consider the following examples of inner needs and corresponding behavior examples. Tap into your calm unconscious for a dynamic understanding of your needs. If there are associated fears, remember, that these are merely reminders and not your destiny per se.

Getting to an embodied understanding of one’s need is a pre-verbal coding which one can get awareness of within our bodies. Judith Delozier and Robert Dilts often are quoted to state that this is what the body’s somatic mind encodes, most of which is below the neck. They speak to a somatic syntax, or a grammar of the body that stores what in NLP was known as the kinaesthetic energy. Alistair Prentice for example talks about body movements, much in the same tradition. For further in the embodiment arts and sciences, it is useful to visit the Embodiment Conference site.  For those with little patience, a mindful guided meditation on the body is useful. Jon Kabat-Zinn is recognized as a masterful practitioner and scientist in what we now call embodiment.

Inner Need

Common Corresponding Behavior

Potential Fear

Need for recognition

Be the center of attention, take the limelight

Anticipation of being rejected

Need for safety

Fit in with norms of a group or society, seek rule-books, instruction manuals, or step-by-step guides

Fear of losing a body part, or a fear of roaches, reptiles or creepy things like insects

Need to influence others

Be the first to initiate interaction, leave no meeting without stating one’s opinion. Have the last word in a conversation

Fear of Shame, humiliation

Need to be supportive of others

The readiness to align with aspirations of others. Take up a second position to a competent master / boss.

Loss of connectedness, of being a ‘nobody’


Respect your needs. Love yourself. The strength of the unmet need will determine how much of the anger emotion will persist. Do not resist the feeling. Remember, the more you resist, the more it will persist. Our role is not to insist but to persist with the inner search till we get what we want. Meaning is built in conscious engagement with inner needs. Imagine the unconscious neglect of these needs. Quick-fix solutions assume that human experience is limited in dimensions or inner resources. Acceptance of self in awareness is a great start to accepting anger as a part of ourselves.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND


Not trying to express is repressing our energy and allowing our bodies to take the hit – in vein, artery, unprocessed fat or spasm. Eating an extra cookie or gulping beverage does not serve our inner emotional needs.  Anger is like flowing water; there's nothing wrong with it as long as you let it flow. Hate is like stagnant water; anger that you denied yourself the freedom to feel, the freedom to flow; water that you gathered in one place and left to forget. Stagnant water becomes dirty, stinky, disease-ridden, poisonous, deadly; that is your hate. On flowing water travels little paper boats; paper boats of forgiveness. Allow yourself to feel anger, allow your waters to flow, along with all the paper boats of forgiveness. Be human.” By C. JoyBell C.

When we hear the sentence “Mr Pinto lived a short distance from his body” what do we get in touch with inside of ourselves? Indeed, we are alerted to parts of our body as in a quick head to toe scan, of where we may be least attentive to. That’s when we unconsciously take to default or automatic behaviours without exercising our own discretion.

Addictions like emotional eating could be a marker for unresolved anger or misdirected assertions. We can be addicted to substances like chocolate, tobacco, alcohol or even relationships with people and pets. Obsessing over either form of addiction is a sign that we have turned our power over outwards – outside of us.

Try a simple exercise to get in touch with what really needs attention. Imagine that part of you that struggles with the conflict inside that cognitively acknowledges the excess chocolate and sugar adds to belly or visceral fat. Emotionally though you eat regardless of the registered warning in your head. Take a chair and place it facing your own a short distance from your own seat. So you are seated feet feeling the floor temperature and you are looking at an empty chair opposite you. That’s your conflicted weight gaining, addictive self – out there. Here on your chair as on the left side of the table below you are in touch with your more embodied self – aware of your resources and creativity – to set aside impulses. Check the table below when you get to the other side and get talking to your embodied self, from the less conscious and sugar consuming chair.

Fully Resourced Embodied Self

Conflicted and Addictive Self

I see you struggle with your habit for sweet. How can I help you?

Thanks for noticing. I don’t know how, but I end up lowering my resistance. I gobble sweet. I like it.

So, what may I do to help you know how you end up gobbling, before you actually gobble?

Never thought that way. You’re making me pause here. It is not something I am used to. Please wait…

I am waiting. Let me know when you get a picture of yourself as just before you are tempted.

Yes, that was helpful. I see myself saying, “What the hell? Nobody’s watching. I can eat this one”.

So, when you say “Nobody is watching”, who exactly is nobody?

I mean my wife, my brother, my doctor, my colleagues, nobody.

So, you have regards for your wife, brother, doctor colleagues et al. That’s nice. What makes them nobody in front of sweet?

That’s a powerful question. I am thinking. … pause…. I guess, I am reducing their hold on me, and reducing them to nobody. This is not a comforting feeling. I need help.

So, what becomes of their relationship to you when you see sweet such as chocolate? You like these people otherwise, don’t you?

Yes, they have a lot to be liked about. But, they seem to control me, when it comes to sweet. So I eat the chocolate as an escape from their hold on me.

What about you may be likeable, if you tell them you have eaten chocolate without them seeing?

They would see me. They accept me for who I am. They will see me telling the truth.

So, what may make it more natural disclosing your truth to them?

Telling my innermost desires, rather than burying my truth inside me in their presence

That’s interesting. Would you still gobble chocolates after being able to tell them your inner most desires?

No gobbling, but only occasionally eating them. I may not crave for sweet then.

What may you like about yourself when you tell the truth to your near ones?


I get closer to your inner core, by being authentic and spontaneous. Like a new raw courage, without upsetting them.


The above is a sample illustration of the inner dialogue between the conflicted self and the Ideal self. You may use the Empty Chair technique to speak and embody your addictive nature till you get to a deeper structure of the issue. Even relationships can be addictive. Respect yourself, and confront your undesired self on the Empty Chair.