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The Angry Ego

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Anger can be one of the biggest obstacles to our experience of ourselves as spiritual beings. Often when we resist anger as unspiritual this resistance creates a further obstacle.

I received a new insight into anger when a special education teacher sent me the following note:

I have really enjoyed your site and the stones that I have ordered from you. My students have really enjoyed the stones as well. I think that the hematite and the quartz crystal have been the most popular. Makes sense, these kids just listen to their intuition much better than adults. One of my boys always asks for a stone when he is getting angry. He has commented that it helps him not be mad so long. I have noticed that he usually chooses a citrine. Interesting, huh?

Citrine is a stone for self-esteem and personal empowerment, and I was fascinated by a connection between anger and lack of self-esteem which I'd never explored before. I saved the email in my "Ideas for Articles to Write" folder, and there it rested for a month or so, until I had an illuminating experience with anger.

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Anger and Identity

I was taking a seminar with weekly homework, principally consisting of questions designed to direct one's mind to roads less travelled. One week the homework provided more than the usual bafflement; it made no sense at all. The more I thought about it and tried to figure it out the angrier I got.

Initially, my anger was directed at the originators of the seminar, whom I envisioned sitting around and dreaming up new and innovative ways to drive people crazy. They were clearly master sadists who enjoyed the torment they were causing innocent individuals. Or maybe, I thought, they were just stupid. Someone had to be, and it certainly wasn't me.

The vehemence with which I asserted that I wasn't stupid should have been a clue to me, but it wasn't until later on in the week that I got its importance. I was having a Reiki treatment and started thinking about my reactions to the homework. I asked myself what upset me about it, and a wave of sorrow flooded me. I let myself go with it, and found myself shouting (silently), "I'm not stupid!"

I realized how important it was for me to be "smart," and how threatened I felt by the possibility that I wasn't. As I explored my feelings further it felt as if being smart was all that I had. Without it who was I?

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Self-Esteem and Identity

I have often written about unconditional self-love, that state in which our love for ourselves comes from within and without reason -- meaning that we don't need to tell ourselves why we love ourselves, and we don't require the love of others to convince ourselves that we are lovable.

There is a related state of being called unconditional self-esteem. It is based on the idea that we are worthy and valuable simply because we ARE. Like self-love, it is not a common experience among human beings.

For most of us, self-esteem is based on characteristics, skills, and gifts of which we are proud, and these feelings of self-worth are usually enhanced by the approval of others. In fact, many require the approval of others in order to feel self-esteem. A word of praise can make someone feel wonderful; a word of disapproval (or, perhaps worse, no words at all) may leave them feeling worthless.

It will also create a feeling of powerlessness, for we tend to experience our talents as a source of personal power. For example, people who base their self-esteem on personal appearance feel that they have the power to attract others, and, often, the ability to get what they feel they want/need on the basis of that attraction. For others the gift might be the ability to communicate, to solve technical problems, or to be good parents.

While it is a very good idea to take pride in one's talents and abilities, there is a difference between this state of appreciation and that of being so completely identified with our particular gifts that when they are questioned it feels like a threat to one's survival. That was the condition I experienced when my homework challenged my belief that I was intelligent. My response to this threat was to activate my self-defense system through anger. To protect against the possibility that I was stupid (and wrong) I assigned stupidity and wrongness to the creators of the homework and the organization which spawned them.

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Leading Questions

To make these ideas more useful to you, I've come up with the following questions:

  1. Right now, in your life, what situations are you angry about? With what people are you angry?
  2. Take each situation/person, one by one, and discover what is making you angry.

Sometimes the answer will be clear. If you are angry that an idea/project you proposed was rejected probably your intelligence has been challenged. If your child is misbehaving your parenting skills are at stake. If you have an upsetting misunderstanding with someone your communication skills may be in question.

At other times a situation isn't so obvious. Anger over various forms of injustice may fortify your pride that you are a good person who cares. A case of personal injustice (as in battles with the phone company, etc.) help you to feel that you are someone who sticks up for your rights.

3. In the past, especially in your childhood, how have you been rewarded for your particular talents or characteristics? Did your grade-school compositions or art get special attention from parents and other relatives? Were you praised for being fair or a good listener? Did you defend classmates against bullies? If you were a loner (or lonely) did you find ways to convince yourself that you were special and better than your rejecting peers?

Negative attention can count, too. If you were a rebel who added gray hairs to your suffering parents' heads you may take pride in your ability to resist all attempts to make you conform to someone else's standards.

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The Next Step

I believe that by engaging in the process of being curious about your anger you will find that a great deal of it disappears. You will also have a deeper understanding of your areas of greatest vulnerability, which will help to prevent anger taking you by surprise and making you its victim.

You will also be able to identify what you value about yourself, which will give you the opportunity to consciously appreciate yourself and be grateful for your gifts. This kind of ongoing self-appreciation can have the effect of reducing the need to experience self-esteem through the good opinion of others, and thus also reduces the feelings of betrayal and anger when such opinions are not forthcoming (and when negative opinions are).

The habit of self-appreciation will also make it clear that, as with self-love, you are the source of your self-esteem. Those characteristics upon which you may have relied to give yourself value will probably take on less importance as you begin to appreciate previously neglected aspects of your being. With time and practice you may come to see that everything about you makes you the unique and irreplacable individual you are.

This is unconditional self-esteem. In its presence you may still find that you have moments of anger (me, too); however, they are likely to be fleeting, and you may find that your anger, rather than an adversary, becomes an invaluable friend and companion on your spiritual journey.

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Other Helpful Companions

Crystals

When you feel that your anger is out of control and likely to cause you (and perhaps others) damage, reach for a green stone. Red is the color commonly associated with anger, and green, its opposite, can also be its antidote.

Of these, my favorite is the cooling green calcite. This stone can be particularly helpful if you decide to meditate in order to understand your anger. It can be placed on the heart to quiet the turmoil within.

Sugilite is another valuable stone for releasing anger. It also works well on resentment, which many regard as anger which is internalized, and guilt. It is usually placed on the third eye.

Citrine is the classic crystal for enhancing self-esteem. In meditation it is generally placed on the navel area.

For deeper insights into anger azurite and obsidian are helpful stones.

Azurite helps us to unravel the threads of our belief systems. If, for example, without knowing it consciously, we think that certain situations are supposed to make us angry, azurite can surface this belief. It is usually placed on the third eye.

Obsidian is the truth teller. It is available in a milder form as snowflake obsidian. Its impact can also be softened by combining it with rose quartz, aventurine, or amethyst. It is traditionally a root chakra stone, but you may want to experiment with placement.

Flower and Other Essences

Holly (Bach) is the most commonly used essence for anger. Dr. Edward Bach said of it that it dissolves everything which isn't universal love. More specifically, it can help to treat envy (very helpful if your self-esteem is challenged by the idea that someone is better than or has more than you).

Larch (Bach) is the traditional remedy for self-esteem. I have found in my counseling experience that there are few people who cannot benefit from taking it.

Those who find it difficult to express anger may find that Scarlet Monkeyflower (FES) will help them to communicate what they feel in an emotionally honest and direct way.

Spider (Wild Earth Animal Essences) can help us to connect to the source of anger. In general, this essence is excellent for helping to re-connect aspects of ourselves which may seem disconnected.

Beyond the Rainbow
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