The Upside of Anger

the-upside-of-anger-angry-birdI used to think that anger was always bad. Growing up, I got the message that it was an unacceptable emotion. And as a young adult, I thought that it was somehow “unspiritual.” More recently, however, my perspective has changed.

I still don’t think that anger is a fun emotion to feel or a fun “place” to hang out (and I’m extremely wary of those who make it their home), but I’ve come to see that there is an upside of anger.

As I now see it, here are three of anger’s biggest benefits:

1. It allows you to practice self-acceptance and self-awareness. You don’t have to judge yourself for feeling angry, any more than you would judge yourself for feeling hungry or thirsty, hot or cold, or happy or sad. The feeling is simply an indication of where you are in that moment. No, you wouldn’t want to spend most of your time feeling angry (any more than you’d want to spend most of your time feeling hungry, thirsty, or tired). But the anger does provide valuable feedback — much like a car’s low-gas warning or your hand’s pain if you touch a hot stove — which can help you shift to a more positive place. (For instance, acknowledging a negative sensation, such as thirst, can inspire you to take positive action, such as drinking more water — thus helping you feel better in the short term and, in the long term, improving your health and avoiding dehydration.)

2. It might be a step in the right direction! As I’ve learned from Abraham’s “Emotional Scale,” anger is sometimes a step toward love, freedom, and joy! For instance, if you’re feeling depressed, afraid, or powerless, anger can motivate you to get up and do something to empower yourself. Again, you don’t want to spend your whole life in this place, but if you’re “just passing through” from depression to a more hopeful place, anger may be an important way station on your journey!

3. It launches “rockets of desire” toward a better-feeling place. Perhaps the greatest benefit of anger (and another great Abraham-Hicks lesson) is that knowing what you don’t want (whatever’s making you angry) helps you clarify what you do want (something that’s the opposite of, or at least very different from, whatever’s making you angry). And the strong emotional charge that generally accompanies anger can help you manifest a more desirable state…IF (and here’s the key caveat) you shift your focus away from the undesirable cause of the anger and toward something that feels better to focus on!

Let’s consider an extreme example:

Although we all have different triggers that make us angry, let’s look at one near-universal source of anger: Imagine that you’ve just read a history book or watched a film about Hitler and the Nazis. There’s a good chance that you’d be pretty angry! And, in my mind, there’s nothing bad or unspiritual about this anger. (To me, it’s just the opposite — evidence that you have a heart, a brain, and a pulse!)

Perhaps you’re angry at a man whose xenophobic conspiracy theories and racially motivated ideology (based on a twisted notion of national “purity”) resulted in  the attempt to eliminate members of one of the world’s largest religions from his nation, the persecution of homosexuals, and the bullying of his opponents. Perhaps you’re angry at those who put this man into power through a free election — giving him control of the nation and its military (thus allowing him to become a ruthless tyrant rather than remaining a schoolyard bully or a street-corner crackpot). Or perhaps you’re angry at the millions of people with misgivings who, nonetheless, appeased him or normalized his bizarre behavior and blatant lies, docilely allowing them to spread and grow into the deadliest conflict in human history.

Your anger here would be perfectly understandable, natural, and perhaps even healthy.

But, again, this anger is not a place where you want to spend a significant amount of time. Life is too precious to spend most of it feeling angry (or any other negative emotion).

So what do you DO with that anger?

Let’s run this example through the three “upsides of anger” mentioned above. (While I don’t want to dwell on something negative, it might be helpful to see these principles in action — and, hey, if we can do it for something this extreme, we can do it for anything!)

First of all, acknowledge and accept your anger. Don’t judge it as bad, wrong, or unspiritual. Just notice it and take in the message it’s giving you (in this case, that Nazis, xenophobes, homophobes, and anti-Semites don’t make you feel good).

Secondly, if you’d previously been feeling depressed or powerless, realize that your anger may be a sign that you’re heading in a positive direction. Or, if you had been feeling better, noticing the dip into anger can help you avoid slipping into even more negative states (such as despair — which could easily happen when contemplating something as extreme as our current example). The anger might be the trigger that makes you say, “Enough! NEVER AGAIN!”…and then do something about that thought!

And thirdly, you can follow the “rockets of desire” launched by the anger — in other words, shift your focus toward desirable states or conditions in the opposite direction from the anger. In this example, thinking of a violent, xenophobic bully might make you think how nice it would be if the world were filled with (or at least led by) those who embraced other nationalities, races, and religions with open-minded intelligence, peace, and love…and then take inspired action to move toward manifesting this highly preferable reality!

Above all, be gentle with yourself.

If you’re feeling angry (today or any other day, for any reason) don’t beat yourself up for feeling what you’re feeling (any more than you’d beat yourself up for feeling thirsty or tired). And don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to shift instantly from anger to peace, love, and joy! It might take some time for the anger to run its course; and even when it does begin to ease up, you might initially only have access to slightly-less-negative emotions, such as worry or frustration.

But know that you won’t stay in a negative place forever. And know that allowing yourself to feel what you’re feeling can have tremendous benefits in the long run. You can use your emotions as “rocket fuel” — leading you to take inspired action. And when you’re ready, you can ride those rockets toward a life where peace, joy, and love are the norm, and a world where goodness abounds.

Hold the Light

For most people, this is one of the most festive times of the year. And, for most of my life, the same has been true for me.

I generally love the holiday season, and last year I had one of the best Christmases of my life, as Jodi and I made our first trip to the beach in our new hometown.

But this year, if I’m being honest, I’m not really feeling the holiday spirit. Between the election, recent world events, and the general tone of public discourse, I’ve often found my recent moods swinging between blah and yuck.

Fortunately, though, I know […] Continue Reading…

Be the Change

During this time of deep personal (and, to a large extent, national and international) grief, I find myself looking for rays of light and glimmers of hope.

As I mentioned in my two previous posts, I often draw inspiration from spiritual quotes and the Abraham-Hicks teachings; so now I’m combining these by taking an Abe approach to one of my favorite quotes:
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”*
– Mahatma Gandhi
I’ve been thinking about these words in relation to the Abraham teaching of contrast — namely, that when something clearly shows you what you don’t want, it helps you […] Continue Reading…

My Top 7 (Non-Abe) Inspirational Quotes

What’s your favorite inspirational quote? Do you have one (or several) that you find yourself thinking about again and again?

Although I’ve been inspired by countless quotes, there are about a dozen that I regularly reflect on — words that I find myself coming back to again and again for guidance, solace, and inspiration. In my previous post, I shared my seven favorites from the Abraham-Hicks teachings. Now, I’d like to share my seven “non-Abe” favorites, along with some thoughts about them.

You may have already seen some of these (perhaps numerous times) making the rounds on Facebook or elsewhere, while others might be new to you; but, in either case, I […] Continue Reading…

My Top 7 Abraham-Hicks Teachings

I love surrounding myself with inspiring words. I’ve spent countless hours reading everything from ancient scriptures to blogs and Facebook posts intended to uplift and enlighten.

While I’m glad to have been exposed to a wide range of teachings, I’ve realized that I could probably live a fairly happy, fulfilling life with just a handful of basic premises, teachings, and quotes.

With this in mind, I recently created a personal “best-of” list of about a dozen such teachings, about half of which came from Abraham-Hicks (who coined the phrase Law of Attraction and teach this concept, which has since been popularized in the movie The Secret […] Continue Reading…

The Mundane Side of Karma

What comes to mind when you hear the word karma?

Do you think of mystical forces such as vibration, energy, or cosmic retribution? Do you think of karma in terms of reincarnation and rebirth? Or maybe (if you share my internal jukebox) you hear an inner medley of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma,” Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon,” and Ratt’s “Round and Round” (featuring the head-banging chorus of “What comes around goes around”).

Whatever words you use (or songs you hear) when describing karma, it’s generally considered a profound, esoteric principle. And yes, I have no doubt that mysterious forces beyond my comprehension are involved in this […] Continue Reading…

Cancel Your Insurance (Mentality)

Insurance is built on an interesting premise: the more you suffer, the more you gain.

If someone leaves a tiny scratch on your car while parallel parking, insurance might cover enough for a paint touch-up…but not a brand-new car. If a doctor accidentally scratches your finger, you probably won’t be able to sue them for as much as if they had transplanted the wrong organ.

In this way, insurance seems very fair. The compensation is (in theory) commensurate with the amount of suffering, loss, or hardship endured. Insurance also provides peace of mind that, if worse comes to worst, you can still hope to […] Continue Reading…

365 Moments of Grace

I’m so excited to announce the launch of 365 Moments of Grace!

This is volume 2 of the 365 Book Series, which my wife and I created in 2015 with the intention to inspire, uplift, and remind you of just how magical our world is and how connected we truly are.

This latest book contains true-life stories of grace, miracles, and transformations from beautiful souls all around the world. There’s one grace-filled story for each day of the year from over 250 authors, including Jodi Chapman, Kristine Carlson, Arielle Ford…and me! 🙂

You can learn all about the book, pick up your own copy, and […] Continue Reading…

99 Pounds of Bricks

I was recently talking with a friend who was weighed down by some pretty serious challenges with her family, her business, and her health. “I feel like I’m carrying around 100 pounds of bricks,” she told me.

My first inclination was to try to fix it — to make her feel all better. I wanted her to feel free and weightless — as if she were walking on air, bursting with joy!

So I started suggesting that she focus on joy — thinking about all the things she loved, felt grateful for, and filled her with vitality and zest for life. Approximately three […] Continue Reading…

I’ve Got Your Back

If you’ve already read my previous post, you know how much I’m enjoying my new house and town near the beach. It’s been an incredibly positive, life-changing move, for which I’m immensely grateful.

What I didn’t mention in that post, however, was how this dream-come-true move was almost a nightmare — and how avoiding it strengthened my faith and taught me a lesson I’ll never forget.

The dodging of the proverbial bullet came exactly one year before we actually moved: December 23, 2014. After months of fruitlessly searching for our dream house on the Oregon coast, my wife and I found one that […] Continue Reading…