The Root of Anger

Have you ever experienced a situation in which you were extremely angry, and you weren’t sure exactly WHY you were as angry as you were? For example, you spilled your drink and you experienced this raging anger…and you KNOW this is not a situation that merits this level of anger, so what the heck is going on?

Recently, I had a situation like this. I remember that on this particular day, I felt rather off. I started the day really tired, and I noticed I wasn’t thinking super clearly (brain fog), which made working at my full-time job quite challenging. At the end of my work day, as I was leaving to go pick up my dog from doggie daycare, I noticed that our mailbox had been completely knocked off its post, and our mail was strewn all over the yard and street. I don’t know why, but I was immediately and completely infuriated. I was literally seeing red, and I could feel my blood pressure rising…I was so ANGRY! I told myself I was mad because someone blatantly damaged the mailbox and left the scene — with the level of damage done, there was NO way they didn’t know they’d hit something and no way their car wasn’t damaged — so, a hit and run. I posted a furious message on my neighborhood’s Facebook group about it, and I just couldn’t seem to let it go.

And in the midst of all this anger, I kept thinking to myself, “Why? Why can I not seem to let this go? I mean, it’s only a mailbox, right? What’s wrong with me?!” I kept telling myself I was mad on principle. After all, it’s only common courtesy to let someone know if you’ve damaged their property. It’s the right thing to do. Right?

This anger stuck with me for the REST of the day. I feel like it came along with me to the yoga class I taught that evening. I don’t know that my students noticed anything, but I sure did. I didn’t feel like I was calm or relaxed or anything except angry.

It wasn’t until the next day when I had the thought that the anger is PROBABLY stemming from something completely outside of what happened to my mailbox.

According to the American Psychological Association, “anger is an emotion that is characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.” When you allow anger to motivate you towards finding a solution to the problem, or to help you express negative feelings in a healthy way, then it can be a good thing. But when it becomes excessive, it can begin to harm your physical and mental health.

But here’s the thing: We don’t feel angry for “no reason”. The tricky thing is that we don’t always understand the underlying causes.

Ever since I had the realization that this anger I felt about the mailbox was stemming from something else, I started addressing it. Over this past month, I have done several things to help me in identifying the root cause(s) for the anger I sometimes feel over seemingly small and insignificant events. I have:

  1. Worked with my therapist, and have discovered that I have past trauma that has not been treated, processed or resolved. Unresolved trauma can make people feel at risk, unsafe or extremely vulnerable…and this can contribute to feelings of anger, as the brain is still responding to the genuine threat that the person has lived through.
  2. High amounts of stress and anxiety. I’ve written a lot of posts over the years about my struggle with these things, and it’s an ongoing battle, to be honest. Stress is unavoidable, of course, but there are ways to manage it that have been helping me get through it more easily when it stacks up to the point of overwhelm.

    Things like yoga, meditation, and walking outside in nature have all helped me immensely. Recently, I’ve also added in more breath work (I love the Bhastrika breath, also called the Bellows breath. This video is a great one that explains it very simply.). Also, I’ve been working towards a regular journaling practice.
  3. Issues with speaking my “truth”. Honestly, this one may be the hardest one of the them all for me, as I believe this ties back to the unresolved trauma I need to work through. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been the peace keeper anytime I’m in a situation where there are disagreements. Either I am trying to bring everyone else to a place of calm, or I am saying/doing whatever I need to in order to diffuse the situation. Many times, this results in me not being able to express what I truly feel and want. I realize that I do this, but can’t seem to find the courage (I don’t even know if courage is the right word for what I’m trying to convey) to speak up for myself and communicate MY needs…and this ends up making me angry with myself.

    What I now realize is that I’m worried that if I speak up about what’s in my heart, then it will cause those I love to abandon me (this has to do with the trauma I experienced). And worrying about the future is not doing me any good because I don’t have control over that. I only have control over this moment. I’ve decided to flip things around and instead of worrying about what could go WRONG if I speak my truth, I will think about the positives that could result by me speaking my truth.

Sorry if this post feels like a therapy session, dear readers. However, I know that there are many others who, like me, experience anger for what feels like “no reason”. There is always a reason, but it can take time to figure out what that is sometimes. Be willing to do the work if you’re in this situation because I promise you that it’s worth it.

If you’re a yogi…

For those of you who are yogis, try using your practice to help you dig a little deeper into where your anger might be coming from. Here are a few ideas:

  • When you’re in a particular posture and you notice a twinge or tension, hang out for a bit in that uncomfortable space, breathe deeply and think about where that might be coming from. Many times, anger will be stored in the body when we are unable to express it in a healthy way.
  • Incorporate twisting postures and core work, which are said to help in releasing anger and frustration. Have you ever noticed how, when you’re angry, you can feel it in the abdomen? The abdomen is where the 3rd Chakra (the Solar Plexus or Manipura chakra) resides, and it is said that this is where unresolved anger and frustration reside.
  • Try a more primal practice. What do I mean by this? Well, anger needs to felt, moved and released. Perhaps allowing your yoga practice to help you do this could be just the thing you need. Think about incorporating invigorating and energizing breath exercises, like the Bhastrika Breath I mentioned above. And the Breath of Fire is another great one. One of my favorite practices to do when I am short on time but in need of emotional release is this short and energizing practice by Brett Larkin.
  • When in Savasana (Corpse Pose), give yourself at least 5 rounds of cooling breath to simmer things down. While breathing, visualize any remaining anger, frustration or agitation leaving your body with every exhale.
  • Try incorporating Yoga Nidra, or “yogic sleep”, to your day. This restorative and meditative practice helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect on the body. I recorded a short yoga nidra on my YouTube channel, which you can view here.

To sum it all up…

Remember that you can’t eliminate anger because, despite all your efforts, things are going to happen that make you mad. Life is filled with things that will frustrate you, and that’s not something you can change. However, you CAN change how these events affect you. When you can learn to control your responses to anger in healthier ways, you will be able to mitigate the potential damage to your physical and mental health.

Namaste and Have a Sparkling Day!


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