Anger as a Pointer – Jan Frazier

Anger — whether outwardly expressed or concealed — is a response to something underlying it, something felt before. Often that prior feeling was hurt, damage, fear. To focus on the anger, as if it’s the “problem,” is to stay on the surface of things. Trying to deal with anger itself might help a person function better. However, it is unlikely to bring about a lasting change.

Sometimes anger turns in on itself, transforming into depression, putting the “real” problem even further out of reach.

Anger is a symptom. It points toward some deeper vulnerability. It is meant to be protective. Therefore we need to look at the thing it means to protect. When fear is the underlying thing, if we are willing to see what’s really there, there will likely be something about the lack of control, the inability to predict the future.

The way to deal with anger is not to cultivate a mask of politeness, avoid it or rationalise it. It’s necessary to move toward the anger, the defensiveness, the righteous indignation — to see what’s beneath it — and then to feel that profoundly vulnerable sensation, in the body. Without making reference to what the mind has to say about any of it. The story must go. Or if it persists in telling itself, we must recognize that this is happening, and see the purpose of the story: to protect us from the pain that gave rise to it in the first place.

We develop a story about how we’d been wronged, neglected, abandoned. We begin to identify with it. It is important that we see anger as an indication of an underlying wound, and that we see the story we’ve made out of it, and what refuge we take in that story.

Jan Frazier encourages us to sit in the embodied sensation of the terrible sorrow, the gripping fear, the absence of what we wish we had, or the pain of the thing we wish had never happened. Sit in the feeling of the hurt itself, to rest there. Without ideas about it. Just the physical sensation of it. It’s been there all along. We might as well make our peace with it. It doesn’t have to define us forever.


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