Waking up to Wisdom
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Processing Anger With An Open Heart

--by John Robbins and Ann Mortifee (Feb 18, 2013)

Anger is an intense and primal expression of the life force, a burning flame that cannot be ignored. It is the psyche’s alarm system, demanding that attention be given to a limit or boundary of ours that is being invaded, to an injury or pain that is being denied, or to an area of our being that has become unhealthy. The function of anger is similar to the function of a fever. It helps to burn out unwanted, inharmonious elements. Its purpose is to restore balance and well-being.

If the symptoms of a fever are suppressed and ignored, then the illness will remain unchecked. So it is with anger. It is useful to listen for the message it brings and then to use it for growth and wellness.
We need to remember that the anger we feel toward someone else is not an accurate evaluation or judgment of who that person actually is. It is merely our own feelings communicating with us, telling us more about ourselves than about the other person. It is the beginning of greater clarity and discrimination, so that we can live our passion with integrity, develop our inner power, and become capable of acting assertively, rather than aggressively, on behalf of what we cherish.

There should really be two different words-one for "anger-with-the heart-closed" and one for "anger with-the-heart-open." Most anger in our society is "anger-with-the heart-closed." Many of us are in the habit of automatically using our anger vindictively to protect ourselves or to impose our will upon others. We may believe ourselves totally justified in demeaning others’ self-esteem. We may believe that we do this for "their own good." We may even believe that the will we are trying to impose is God’s will. From such unconsciousness have come generations of abuse. From such self-righteousness have come millennia of "holy" wars.

"Anger-with-the-heart-closed" is destructive. But there are times when our anger can be a gift to the other person, when it is not simply our own ego twisting in a knot, and trying to use the other person to undo the strain. Though we may feel great heat and urgency, there need be nothing mean in the way we express ourselves. For when there is no desire to wound or punish or blame, we become able to speak with great clarity and power. We may roar like a lion, but it is a healing roar. We may be challenging, but we are infinitely fair. We may be outraged, but we are respectful. This is "anger-with-the-heart-open" and it has a beauty, a passion, and a clarity that is unmistakable.

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On Feb 14, 2013 Some one wrote:
Anger has been my issue from beginning. I am not sure why unfair attitude or my perceiving of another as wrong caused anger in me several times since childhood. It has lessened now, but still exists sometimes.
Probably, I feel vulnerable in such situations when the other person would not follow values and get angry , want to set things right and end up leaving a bad impression with nothing changing in that moment atleast.
I felt it was being weak to bear with such situations without revolting head-on against them, to let people know, this is not accepted.
Not been very successful with the whole thing though, still not sure what's good way to handle such situations. Trying to be more peaceful within by practicing meditation and silence.
Thanks a lot for bringing this up and providing valuable suggestions.

On Feb 15, 2013 Anonymous wrote:
 Many saints even admit to having anger, it does decrease with practice of meditation but we all get angry whether passive or aggressive.  So releasing the blame, judgment and guilt we store about getting angry needs to be released first.  Giving our self Loving energy heals the anger inside. Anger is like looking for the person who set the house on fire rather than dealing with the house on fire first.  It's also not something we experience b/c of that one trigger.  It's already inside of us about many other things.  We need to look deeply to find each of the things which we have stored inside and realize that getting angry at one particular issue or person is just a mere trigger, but anger stored inside needs to be looked at with tenderness and healed.

On Feb 15, 2013 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:
 Thanks for the opportunity to respond.  As usual, my knowing is very limited yet I hope this email response is a healing roar.  What came to me as I was reading was that I frequently get angry in a closed manner.  I hope my anger now is open as I notice white racism still so predominant in our society.   White society has been encouraged by the likes of Hume and Kant  to disrespect people of color.  Whites often grow up not knowing why they think they are better than people of color, but from my experience, that seems to be the case with many white people.  It is not that whites think white people are better, but rather, whites have semi-consciously been taught that people of color are not quite as good as whites. As a result, I find myself, at times, being ashamed of being white. 
I now notice that it is easier for me to speak of anger  about injustices such as racism, than it is for me to speak about the frequent closed anger I have for many little things I do and don't do.
  I hope more white people talk to white people about racism.  I find it is rarely done, at least in Midwest America.  Whites need to talk to other whites about the injustices whites have done to people of color, particularly African-Americans, so that white awareness of racism becomes more widespread. as whites have inherited many assets over the years, we must now realize that we also inherited liabilities.
  Being openly angry about racial injustice (and  other injustice) sounds fine to me. We may even begin to think of reimbursement for the racial injustice.   I also notice that we have never given 40 acres and a mule – – with interest – – to offspring of slaves. Let us practice this type of open anger with loving kindness.  Warm and kind regards to everyone.  Conrad ,.a recovering racist.

On Feb 15, 2013 Edit Lak wrote:
 I read this story – once, twice, three time, I got it the first time, but  It’s just when we  think of anger or have to take the mind back to an anger moment  that it triggers ‘thought’ on how I have conducted myself, or how I could have conducted myself in anger situations. The brain doesn’t actually like to go back to self anger moments  :-) Anger is the brother to hate and It is so true the anger emotion is within us all, the anger virus is not only conscious level its subconscious level, where anger manifests into physical and irreversible physical diseases.. I remember growing up with anger, of course my father was an angry person who taught my mother how to be angry and of course we inherited ‘anger’ in our lives. In early childhood I thought it was the normal to get angry at everything and by not being taught the differences, only because my father didn’t know, I went off into the world with small expectations, well it didn’t take long to fall on my face and fail friendships, partners, jobs, expectations, me and a little bit of life, yep, good old anger infiltrated everything. I hadn’t quite hit rock bottom, but when I was cheated on by someone who I thought I was going out with, I stopped and though I am angry and I hate him, only to realise I was angry at my self and had been for many many  years, so I disassociated – naturally and went on a different path, Thank you Mr cheating boyfriend, for giving me the moment to stop and think how wonderful I really was. So time passed and I learned to look at myself when angry and see what the go was. What the ego was playing at, at why I’m allowing myself to be distracted from what’s actually going on, because anger does that. Of course I get angry still, but at a different level’ with some politics, the state of the poor world, the 10% of wealthy compared to 90% of poor, but this anger is with an open mind and I think first of what is going on around me and not anger first.  So years later I got a text from that lousy ex boyfriend and we spoke and spoke and I realised I wasn’t angry at him I was sorry and was always sorry, I let my anger go a long time ago, I held no expectations on him as he is having to learn his way in life, with emotions, with being present  – the hard way – sadly, he has become an text friend you chat with every so often to wish merry christmas to. So for me, anger has taken me to many different emotions, manifestations of disease and  some wonderful understandings of anger and its anger fuel – that being ‘ones own self’. So no matter what we learn , how we grow, what we think we are capable of, even if we stub our toe – we are going to get some form of anger :-)  we all share being a bit angry at things. will we grow to outgrow it - I don't think so, as its a part of the 'life learning' will we understand it better the more we stop and think of our anger actions and open up to them - Yes I do believe we will and can, some/many have and some will learn to enjoy the new freedom it brings .. Thanks for the reflection – It was really a reflection xox

On Feb 15, 2013 david doane wrote:
 Anger is not a necessary emotion.  Anger is an option, and living in a culture filled with anger, we learn to be angry and learn that it's okay and/or justified.  But that doesn't make it okay or necessary.  We can strongly not like something that is happening without becoming angry.  We can object, assert, disagree, disapprove, oppose, be steadfast, be strong, feel urgency, take action, and speak with clarity and power without being angry.  Having an open heart certainly helps.  I don't think we can be angry and open hearted at the same time.  As I anger, my heart closes.  We develop the ability to keep an open heart by realizing that it isn't necessary to get angry, and by practicing objecting, asserting, disagreeing, etc without becoming angry or indulging in anger and by remaining open to the other person.  It's difficult, and I'm no great example, but it is possible and important to do.

On Feb 18, 2013 Jan Daddona wrote:
 Thanks for making the distinction.  I agree that anger is an indicator of something and needs to be observed and reckoned with.  We are responsible for it, and it teaches us a lot about ourselves.

On Feb 18, 2013 ashish wrote:
 Ran into this detailed visual on 'paths of anger' (middle of the page):

which provides a framework for understanding anger and the richness with which it can manifest/exist. I resonate with what J. Krisnhanmurthi says, in order to be free from anger, one must first accept it, so one can understand it and it's patterns. The passage reinforced the value of progressing through our emotion/anger: awareness -> acceptance -> understanding -> freedom

On Feb 19, 2013 Viren Shah wrote:
Some comments and observation:

1. Anger is kind of mental suffering, which is optional and one's choice.

2. To become angry on someone, we have to produce anger in ourselves.

3. When one is angry for whatever reason, the burst of negative energy can be chandelled into positive path.

4. Anger gets reduced to the extent, one reconciles with situation, people etc..

5.  The fire of anger not only burns oneself but also others. This fire continues even the situation or person has left the scene.

6.When one is angry on oneself, then it is one of worst kind of suffering.

7. Anger starts igniting, depending upon what is the meaning of his life. The greater the meaning of life, there will be lesser or no anger.

Viren Shan - Mumbai

On Feb 19, 2013 Rev. Nagi Mato wrote:
 I used to be a much more angry person until finding and reading books by Ram Dass. Since then I have been much more open.
A couple of months ago while at work, my boss said something that really "got" me. I said nothing, but was seething. Later, I told him, "Thank you, you showed me what I have to work on in myself. I appreciate that." 
You should've seen the look on his face. It was classic!

On Feb 19, 2013 Nancy, a Swan wrote:
 We are all actors on each others stage. Anger is a motivator to actualization: More Self Knowing. Anger is an emotion is produced by feelings and thoughts about an experience we assume an injustice has occurred. To manage the gift of anger productively we must look at the WHY of it objectively as the Neutral Witness. 

Anger often signals suppressed feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. It is road rage personified.  Not excusing in someone the same offense we have been "guilty of".  Making the other person wrong w/o asking them their motives,  we protect deeper feelings we do not want to own:  we have cast our Shadow onto them. Our ego loves our self-righteous indignation. 

EQUALLY: The person who is the recipient of the anger is repressing anger of their own no matter how innocent the remark may have been. So it is a major opportunity to release the martyr hood belief of "when I speak my truth I get burned." Major theme of many Light Workers.

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. Carl Jung

On Feb 19, 2013 Nancy, a Swan wrote:
 Something to consider about is in the race consciousness when hearing a truth for the first time: 

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Arthur Schopenhauer

As an example think back to the introduction of Stress Management 30+ years ago. went through all those stages. Now and for at least the past ten years, most major Insurance Companies will reimburse for stress management programs that include diet and meditation.

The point is not to mange stress or even anger it is about getting to the root of the cause to bring understanding, wisdom and empathy to Light. All is love or love in disguise.


On Feb 19, 2013 Pankaj Shah wrote:
 Nicely articulated article and the responses to-date.  Special thanks to Ashish for posting the link to the emotinalcompetency site.  I found that article very useful in improving my understanding.

On Feb 19, 2013 Marsha wrote:
 I have an employee who recklessly disregarded my instructions and one of my dogs was killed. Her responsibility was to care and protect them. I couldn't talk to her at first and the only thing that kept me from screaming at her was all the good and valuable work she had done over the past 12 years. So I sought advice from friends and solace from them at this devastating loss and when I felt I could speak of it all with her which was 2 weeks later, I did and asked her for her feelings and thoughts about it all first. Then I expressed mine, clearly and righteously. I was able to have my feelings and also came away with a clearer understanding of who she is. We are forging a new and different relationship now and I came away with a lighter feeling having expressed my hurt, anger, and thoughts in a clear way.

On Feb 19, 2013 Purandar wrote:
My own experience: (1) The state of soul is peaceful existence. As you come closer and closer to experience soul, your anger diminishes, then reduced to irritations and finally peaceful state. (2) Anger is not other party's problem. It is our problem. (3) When we suppress the energy of anger, it remains with us. Over times it accumulates and then bursts with explosion on a slightest provocation.  It is better to be aware of our anger and feel it through our body and senses and release it. In awareness, ego diminishes and anger is subsided. (4) Many times anger is the result of our frustrations, failures of our expectations and unrelated causes. surrender expectations.    Purandar Amin

On Feb 20, 2013 swara wrote:
Rekhadidi, Thank you very much for sending us the Hindi translations. We get a big non-english speak group. The Hindi translations just works so well for us. 

On Feb 20, 2013 Pauline wrote:
 Hi. I work in Public Service where the work  and duties is determined by the choice of your profession and the administrator of that scheme of service for that profession that you chose on entry. At one time during a change over in government after a general election, I was removed from my professional work and moved to do support services. My immediate supervisor was retiring and wanted to be considered for a contract if there were no other officer qualifying to take over. Since I was qualified...with academic and experience, the only way the officer could get the contract was to make sure that I was moved to a new  station and this was done after I was put through direct humiliations and tribulations.My job there entailed a lot of local and international travel. So there was a lot of equity coming my way in liquid cash, that I saved for education purposes.The office yielded power and high level interactions.Now all that was removed with a stroke of a pen in a few minutes through  a transfer letter that was pushed under my door.
I took only seven minutes to hand over a computer that I had borrowed from another department, picked my documents bag and my handbag and walked to my new station, that was  only about 200 meters away. I never accumulated anything that I felt I should get attached to. So while I was on my way, I made a mobile telephone call to my supervisor and told the officer that I had left the department to my new station. I could sense relieve and joy in the voice of my supervisor as we spoke.I felt no anger at all.

That was five years ago. I struggled to put my children through university because all my savings from local and international travel were no more. I have learnt a lot in my life experiences. One of them is that I can only hold dearly on to what God has given me each day. I believe that everything in my life belongs to parents, my children, my job, ... everything and God chooses what I should have and experience each day.That He gives and He takes.So I hold no anger, grudge or bitterness towards anyone involved in that situation because I believe that God works through people.I also viewed the transfer as an opportunity to learn new skills and grow in new  enriching ways.

In God I trust and Believe.

On Feb 20, 2013 Tharanath G wrote:
     First of all Being in the state of Anger it self is an issue!! As the old saying goes Prevention is better than cure.. One need to learn not to be angry.. How do we do that?

    one can be more happy {(Less angry or No angry)I would like to use the word Happy more than anger..}

    Just by being Fully AWARE with complete ACCEPTANCE of self and also others, all the while practicing GRATITUDE, COMPASSION, RESPECT and LET GO.

    All the above bold words are key words..If needs to be explained, becomes big subject by itself.
Now lets say i get angry with some body or/for some situation. Then resulting action can be either i can do some thing about it or I wont be able to do anything about it. Either way my options are very limited.. If you can do some thing about the situation Then do it and forget it. If you cant do anything, then there is nothing that you could do. so why you do you let your emotions spoil your happiness and peace of mind. Simply accept the fact that there is nothing you can do about and you choose to let it go and in turn be in peace.

    Lets assume scenario where anger has taken over, Not being able to do anything (react) has turned in to anger and it has become a fire and burning  us inside out.. resulting in outburst of anger, Finally I am left out with Irritation, loss of peace of mind and sleep. is this what we wanted. is the our peace controlled by external stimuli..
    Happiness is deep within us!! No body can give it or take it away from us!! Our mind is a super computer. only if we know how to programme it!!

As I said rather than thinking in the lines of Being in Anger with open heart, We might look at being in a state of bliss where no amount of provocation can induce state of anger. In that state, even if we get angry, it will be momentary, we will also be able to get out of angry state in no time..

    All we need is AWARENESS, to be aware that Neither i am not perfect, Nor the world, Every thing and every one has their own perceptions, What is right for me may not be right for somebody else. each perceptions are backed by strong beleifs based on their backgrounds. So how can be anybody right or anybody wrong..Accept this fact and LET YOUR ANGER GO...

Thanks for reading!!

On Feb 27, 2013 PATRICIA wrote:
THANK YOU for this powerful writing. Being married can induce lots of anger, especially when you feel you are not being heard or worse ignored. Today your writing blessed me. NO more blaming, shaming or shouting. ANGER with the heart open is my way now. Namaste.

On Mar 9, 2013 John wrote:
 I would like to recommend the book Nonviolent Communication:A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg. It has helped me work through unpleasant emotions including anger, guilt and shame in such a way that has helped me to respond with integrity as well as compassion. This book is well worth t read.


On Jul 13, 2013 Marsha wrote:

 As simplistic as it sounds,  following the road of the Golden Rule has helped me to know the difference between a closed heart and an open one. In one particular instance I had to deal with my anger when an employee who was responsible for taking care of my dogs, didn't follow my instructions and one of my dog's was killed. I wanted to fire her immediately and say really rough comments. I thought about the Rule. I waited to respond until I was sure I could speak with an open heart and a calm voice. It took some time but I finally sat down and expressed myself the way I would want someone to speak to me; with respect and honesty for both of us.

On Dec 22, 2013 Isaac wrote:

 This is a great assessment of our emotional reaction to Anger. It is a must read for everyone.

On Dec 22, 2013 John wrote:

 I really appreciate your recognition of the value of anger ( and I'd like to include all of our emotions), to often emotions are seen as negative, as a huge fallacy of the evolutionary process. Our feelings act as a guide as to how we are doing in the face of the surrounding circumstances and urge us to take action to enrich life, our own or that of others. Often we are educated to blame others for how we feel instead of taking responsibility for our feelings. we then to often seek to punish the other for making us feel unpleasant feelings by seeking revenge or retribution. Our minds can become very confused as a result of our dysfunctional conditioning. I suggest that our mind's first and foremost priority in times of emotional upheaval is to refer us to the heart. Once we have connected with the love and compassion of the heart we can then go to the mind to explore possible responses to the situation that stimulated our emotions.   

On Dec 28, 2013 Anne wrote:

 I like the or closed heart.....the scripture also says 'in your anger do not sin' ....I think that's like the open heart anger....can be a righteous anger ........thanks 

On Aug 27, 2014 Ammi wrote:

 Righteousness is wrong ! That is a hard one to remember when I need it the most. Specially as a single parent.

On Jan 10, 2018 Bruce Costa wrote:

 This is a brilliant transmission, so beautifully written. Thank you!

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