Fire good or bad? It really depends on how it’s used. It can purify or cause irreparable destruction. Likewise, anger good or bad? Again, it depends on how it’s used. It can signal a change in perception or procedure is needed. Or, it can cause irreparable damages. I have struggled with anger since I can remember.
I can relate to John Bradshaw’s words, “Over the years my anger festered in the mildew of my soul. Like a hungry dog in the basement, it became ravenous and turned into rage. Most of the time I guarded it vigilantly. I was a nice guy. I was the nicest daddy you’ve every seen–until I couldn’t take it anymore. Then I became Ivan the Terrible.
What I came to understand was that these vacation behaviors were spontaneous age regressions. When I was raging and punishing my family with withdrawal, I was regressing to my childhood, where I swallowed my anger and expressed it the only way a child could–in punishing withdrawal. Now, as an adult, when I was finished with an emotional or physical withdrawal bout, I felt like the lonesome and shame-based little boy that I had been.”
Yes most of what Bradshaw says resonates with me. I have definitely had my bouts of rage over the years and I am very capable of punishing others with withdrawal. I’ve looked for answers in countless places to answer the question, “Why do I feel so angry inside?” and yes often times it does feel like a fire inside and not the kind that is normally associated with passion either.
Some of my best answers came from studying the Enneagram, Craig Hill, and Tony Robbins as to why I felt angry. However, Tony Robbins answer address what I would consider the healthy normal reasons for anger. I have reluctantly come to the realization mine is not healthy by any stretch of the imagination. But, it’s okay and I’m making peace with it. Between the information I have gleaned from the Enneagram and Craig Hill, I believe I am starting to understand better this fire inside of me.
Today I want to share what I’ve learned from Craig Hill about folks like me who tend to live at the point of anger. He along with many other authors contend we choose one of the following reactions when dealing with feelings of anger:
- Suppress – we know we’re angry but we choose to suppress it. I personally believe this one leads to acting it out and is at the root of folks who engage in passive aggressive behavior.
- Repress- we don’t even have a clue we’re angry because we stuffed it down so far. I personally believe this one leads to projecting and is also at the root of passive aggressive behavior. However, these folks, I believe, are masters at agitating others and getting them to express the anger.
- Express – we know we’re angry and we express it. Everyone knows within listening range that we are angry. These folks are aggressive and they way they handle anger damage relationship and leave casualties.
- Confess – we know we are angry and we process it in a healthy manner by either adjusting our procedure or perception. I personally believe people who don’t live at the point of anger choose this more often than not.
Craig Hill and Tony Robbins both agree that anger is an indicator of a problem. I like the way Craig Hill explains it. He says it’s like the red indicator in our cars that come on to let us know our car has a problem and requires mechanical attention. We don’t look at the red indicator and say it is the problem. Instead we ask why is it on? And proceed with root cause analysis to find a solution so that the light won’t come on.
Living with unhealthy anger destroys us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I’m sure those like me don’t need a rocket scientist to understand this one. However, I discovered something while listening to Craig Hill’s video that came as rather a HUGE shock to me and that was when he said the force and the root cause of most anger is….shame.
Words cannot express the resistance I felt when I heard this statement. I immediately rejected and said to myself “Pffffft! I don’t feel shame what is this guy talking about?!?” However, I felt compelled to continue to listen. Next he defined the difference between shame and guilt.
He said that guilt says I did something wrong and I feel remorseful about it. And, it’s healthy to feel guilt when appropriate. But, shame he said is the result of feeling a wrongness of being. He goes on to say that it says “I am something wrong.” And, there is a deep, deep wound on the inside.
Some of manifestations of shame include, but are not limited to the following:
- incessant need to perform better than anyone else to feel worthy
- over top in their performance
- have to be better than everyone else or I’m worthless
- only valuable if I’m perfect
- self value is tied to performance
- use negative self talk
- can’t admit mistakes
- unaware of their needs
- believe it is positive or virtuous to go without needs
- over responsible
- have incredible radars
- unaware of feelings or dishonest with them
- lot of stress-related illnesses
- feel like they don’t belong
- addiction prone
The manifestations captured my attention. I could see myself in many of the manifestations. But, what’s the connection between this toxic anger and shame? According to Hill, this anger/shame dynamic gets set up when one of the following is present in our childhood homes:
- not allowed boundaries – boundaries are violated either physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually. A disruption of experience.
- held accountable for things beyond your control
Hill goes on to say that shame is at the root of adultery, abuse, abandonment, etc in families. This was a lot for me to take on board but when I carefully considered what he was saying it made sense to me. When I reflect on the times, when I have became Ivan the Terrible it is when someone had behaved in a way that some deep wounds within me were triggered. When I look at one and two above, I believe number one is what I relate to most.
I call them boundary crashers. When I perceive my boundaries have been crashed, the fire inside me is unleashed. And, I totally relate to disruption of experience. The latter has played out more for me in romantic relationships than any other area of my life. I understand why the Bible says my people perish because of lack of knowledge. I owe a lot of folks some sincere apologies.
This information has been liberating for me because I’m really starting to experience a break through and have a better fundamental understanding of my relationship with anger. My interest has really been peaked and I plan to do extensive research in this area so I have no doubts in the near future there will be another post entitled The Fire Inside, Part II.