Your Anger is a Guide: Embrace It and Set Yourself Free

“Where there is anger there is always pain underneath.” ~Eckhart Tolle

In the sixth year of marriage, my husband shocked me by telling me that he had decided on an open marriage. This would give him permission to do what he was already doing, having an affair.

In one of my rare times of anger I argued and struggled with him. I can still see myself hitting him in the chest as he tried to put his arms around me to reassure me of his love.

As he defended his position, he reminded me that I wasn’t being rational. I stopped protesting because that charge impacted me immediately. Logic and rationality were my guides.

This surge of anger was new in my life. I had learned to bury my feelings, especially anger, growing up in my Japanese-American family where we hid most emotions.

Adding to pushing down my feelings, I relied on intellect, my head, and dismissed my heart.

When he attacked a vulnerable spot—to be rational—I became silent. It was the first of three betrayals I lived quietly through over the years.

I swallowed two other screams of “No!” when, over the years, I learned about two other women, who intruded not only into my life, but also into my home.

Why would any woman stand for this?

Besides suppressing my emotions, I also learned from a young age to make the needs of the group, the others, more important than my own.

Throughout my life, I let other people’s needs define my life.

I disregarded my anger and I disregarded my needs.

Why Burying Anger is a Recipe for Unhappiness

When you bury anger, more than your anger is involved—you dampen all emotions, including joy.

In my case, I was the model of a well-adjusted successful professional and, after I divorced my husband, a single mom.

Inside a deep discontent lived undetected in my heart. It wasn’t until I slowed down in early retirement that I became aware of it.

When you don’t have anger, you may think that there’s nothing wrong with your life.

Why We Often Choose to Bury Our Anger

You learn in childhood that adults don’t like you being angry. When you throw a temper tantrum, large or small, you get punished for it.

This teaches you that being angry is bad and you should keep it to yourself.

As an adult, when anger gets the best of you and you show it, people around you don’t respond well to it either.

Some get frightened by anger. Others get defensive or angry in return. Exchanges full of anger often lead to regret and shame. They can even end a close friendship–a price you don’t want to pay.

Embracing Your Anger Does Not Mean Throwing Tantrums

When you express your anger, you think that you’re right and that the other person or situation needs to change. Or you say regretful, stupid things fueled by anger.

In any case, you believe that someone or something outside you is the cause of your anger. This stance makes it easy to miss the early signal to go inside and investigate. 

Embracing anger is turning inward to know your heart. It means spending time with your anger to learn what is under it—what’s really going on.

Treat Every Inner Disturbance as a Clue

Nothing changed in my life until I started to pay attention to all disturbances in peace I experienced, the little irritations, annoyances that were signs of anger. I began to appreciate whatever anger bubbled up because I saw it as a guide.

Here’s an instance of a little annoyance I would have disregarded earlier in my life. I was talking with my partner on a walk through downtown about some insights I had about an important relationship. He interrupted me to point out how a new hotel construction was being completed, with details that could be barely seen at night.

I felt disturbed, but instead of just burying that feeling like I normally would, I asked myself why I felt that way. I realized the annoyance pointed to anger about attention taken away from me. Needing attention from people who matter is a need I have. If I don’t get the attention, I feel like I don’t matter.

I also recognized that my typical strategy would be to remain silent and let my partner go on. But instead of being silent, I stepped out of the pattern to speak up and stand with a new belief that I am important and deserving of attention.

In this instance, once noticing the disturbance and realizing what it meant, I said, “What I’m saying is more important to me than what you’re pointing out that I can see another time.”

My message was accepted with a small apology.

Attuned to the energy of anger, I found it hidden in jealousy, envy, blame, frustration, disappointment, regret, withdrawal, stubbornness, and shame.

I even found it in my lack of kindness in talking to my partner, my banging cupboard doors, my prolonged silence, and my criticism and judgment of others.

When you follow each sign of anger you will find what is buried in your heart. You will discover what you need to resolve lifelong patterns that limited your growth.

Through Your Anger You Discover Your Needs, Beliefs, and Strategies

I began to know and honor the needs underlying my anger, such as my needs for acknowledgement and attention as I describe above.

I also realized I had many limiting beliefs that stemmed back to my childhood, when my needs weren’t met. This is where my feeling of not mattering came from, but now I could recognize it and deal with it.

Related to these beliefs I also saw the variety of limiting strategies I adopted trying to get these needs met. Some of these were being an over-achiever, a perfectionist, and overly self-reliant.

To illustrate, I recently felt angry when I didn’t make the cut in auditioning for a voice ensemble. When I stayed with my anger, I found the pain of a wounded young-child who believed she wasn’t worthy, and saw clearly her strategies of people-pleasing and over-achieving that failed to get her what she wanted.

Not only does your anger guide you to your needs but it helps you recognize the limiting beliefs and strategies that run your life. These were created and adopted early in childhood by a very young child and their limitations deserve examination.

Deeply Exploring Your Anger Involves a Commitment

Taking full advantage of honoring your anger involves taking the time to begin a process of discovery.

This means remembering to remain the adult compassionate witness to what is there, and not identifying with or be taken over by the anger, and finally remaining with the anger long enough until you drop into what is beneath it.

You may discover child-like vulnerability, fears, helplessness, and pain.

When you integrate with lost parts of you, you deconstruct the patterns that run your life and free your original innocent heart to shine through.

You are Richly Rewarded for Embracing Anger

When you are one with your heart, you know not only your needs for safety, love, and community but your deep longings for meaning and purpose.

You consciously make choices true to your heart.

Then your heart opens—to love more and deeply; to reveal its wisdom; to see the world as an innocent child; to be present and accepting for all that shows up; and much more.

Embracing anger may be counter-intuitive, but in doing so you become aware of old, unconscious reactive patterns. In becoming aware of these patterns you free yourself to choose from a place of power.

Fully in your power you allow yourself to be fully present to experience life from the only moment you ever have—this present moment.

About Anne Uemura

Anne K Uemura, PhD is an innovative life-coach-psychologist-healer who shares enlightening keys to stop the maddening struggles in your life. She'll help you navigate the path of your heart. Download her guide on how to move to joy and freedom.

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  • I love this article, Anne. Its something that really came to my attention after reading a book titled Let your Spirit Guides speak. Both the book and this article helped me realize the importance of accepting my natural tendencies and transforming my thoughts into a more positive perspective. By listening and paying close attention to what they are actually telling me, i am more in control of my emotions in the present moment. It is this mindfulness that has been a game changer.

    Your story to me is a perfect example. Embracing who we are as people and finding ways to create positive energy in everything we do should always be a goal. Also, i think we should all ask ourselves, Are we not a little angry too? Thank you for the great read.

  • Anne Uemura

    Thank you, Kyle, for taking the time to read this. We seem to be on the same path, what I call the path of the heart. Yes, emotions provide excellent guidance, and many need to know the liberating journey one can choose when we pay attention to what we’re feeling. I’m going to check out your website. The best to you. Namaste.

  • Nigel

    When your friend pointed out the hotel under construction i was a bit surprised by your reaction. You can feel your anger but sometimes you can be more concerned about your own feelings and your reaction can be interpreted as a bit rude. We may appear a bit narcissistic thinking its all about us and people must listen to us.

  • Barbara

    I love the duality you presented. It is just as valuable to learn from anger as it is to learn from love. Two sides of one coin & you chose the intention of the propose of the fuel of emotion.
    I am excite to read your book!!
    Barbara Ahern

  • Rooboo2015

    you may not have experienced this but i do almost daily and it brings on a feeling of being unimportant to the people around us. Yes, sometimes, we should explain that what we are talking about is more important – today – than pointing something out. I’ve had people interrupt me mid sentence to point out i have a piece of fuzz in my hair or a loose hair on my shoulder. Those trivial things do need to wait, if indeed we are listening to each other. If we do not mention sometimes that this behavior should wait, it will never change.

    maybe you never will feel this in your life, but her story truly touched me and i will feel OK when i need to let someone know to listen when it is something i really need to share.

  • Patricia Neild

    As a young woman I was always very in touch with my anger and to suppress it would make me physically sick. It wasnt until my early 40’s I seriously began looking within and took several courses, one of which gave me two sentences which helped me tremendously and your article Anne reminded me of them both so I will share now.
    ” am never angry for the reason I think”
    “For things to change first I must change”
    This set me on the path to looking at how to express my anger in constructive ways.
    At almost 71 I am coming to a stage where many people are leving my life simply because I realise they are not interested in my life (on a regular basis as your husband not listening to you) and show very little input or feign interest when I want to share something aboutmy life with them. I tend to be very interested in the lives of those around me but have realised how much of my time they take when they need to talk about a problem they are having. I’m finding I have more time to do the creative things I have put off to accommodate others needs. Thank you for this article.

  • Massinissa Irmeche

    I never thought about anger this way. I will try to apply this in my everyday life. Thank you very much!

  • Catherine Pleasants

    Yes, Anne, your essay is one I need to read multiple times. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. It makes so much sense, yet is so difficult, for me to embrace my anger in order to understand its foundation and work toward better self-expression. I wish you well as you continue to write about your experiences and what they reveal below the surface.

  • Timetobefearless

    This is a wonderful essay. Thank you for sharing!

  • badhombrebigdo

    I agree. Embrace anger. Learn to use it like a hot blade that a surgeon carves with. Eventually you’ll evolve. You come to see that pain isn’t underneath anger, but that it’s the same thing. Sadness, anger, exuberance, joy, etc.. all at a micro level the same. The nuances, as you point out are the things that trigger them. Emotion is no ocean. It’s a pond. Easily disturbed in most, but also easy to completely destroy.

  • badhombrebigdo

    Tee tottling new age bullshit

  • Wendy J

    Thank you.

  • Anne Uemura

    You are welcome. I appreciate your commenting. The best to you!

  • Anne Uemura

    Catherine: Thank you for reading multiple times, and for the good wishes. I do intend to continue writing and sharing; even now working on my next piece. Blessings to you.

  • Anne Uemura

    Good for you, Massinissa! May you be richly rewarded. Blessings

  • Anne Uemura

    You got it, Surinder. Thank you for your comment. Namaste

  • Anne Uemura

    Hey, Barbara. Thanks so much for taking the time in your busy life to read this, and your commitment to read my book! Much love to you.

  • Anne Uemura

    Yes, we are also taught “not to be selfish” to the point that many of us spend much of our life forgetting ourselves. Depending on the people involved and where we each are with our anger, we may be heard or be rejected. The important matter to me is beginning of value myself more and more. Blessings to you.

  • Anne Uemura

    Thank you, Rooboo. Blessings to you.

  • Anne Uemura

    Yesterday in an Embracing Anger workshop we have various reactions to anger: I like your expression “a hot blade that a surgeon carves with.” Each of have a pool of hidden emotions that anger can guide us to…joy, resilience, etc. are definitely there.

  • Anne Uemura

    You are very welcome, Wendy

  • Patricia Neild

    these are some lines about anger, which struck a cord with me, from a novel by JoanGrant “Winged Pharaoh”
    “Trained anger like a trained lion’s a faithful protector and a powerful weapon. With controlled anger a man can smite a wrong doer as though he lashed him with a flail and the fear of such anger is a protection for the weak against those who would hurt them if they did I not fear it.
    But he whose temper Iis unmastetrd is like a child th st is chained to a maddened she goat,.he must follow where it leads.
    Anger beneath your will is a flail in your hand but uncontrolled anger is a lash upon your shoulders.”
    All too often I have women in particular suppress their anger which can then errupt in the wrongway t the wrong time, rendering it totally ineffective.

  • Leia Nalu

    Aloha! I know that anger is my guide and I sometimes feel that my anger is justified because I tend to be rational now, (maybe not when I was younger) but there are times when I feel as if I am in a loop. I realize I am an angry and I search for the core reason and when I find it, I do accept it and depict it and try to deconstruct it as well but it still gets me and it is that feeling of not being good enough and not being accepted etc… I would really like to move on and not be a prisoner of my fears, anger, disappointment and I find when I am physically active, that helps me immensely. It just seems that I can’t move past the pain even though I try.

  • Anne Uemura

    Good for you for your intention and persistence. In my book, I outline and describe a method that I and others have used to dissolve the pain. Google me, and you’ll find it. Please be in touch through my website if you can so I can be helpful, Aloha nui loa,

  • Anne Uemura

    Yes, anger suppressed and then exploding out doesn’t serve anyone. Thank you for sharing this, Patricia. Blessings to you

  • Leia Nalu

    Aloha Anne, Thank you very much! I will check out your book and website. I also did go to the library last night and found a book, “The woman that changed her brain.” It is about neuroplasticity and how people with learning disabilities were able to overcome obstacles that caused some sort of delay in learning which in turn caused depression, anxiety etc.. I was diagnosed with a mild form of Asperger’s about a year ago and I thought that with knowledge of the diagnoses I could move forward but I find myself getting angry but also relieved because so many things make sense now. I definitely have more compassion for myself then I did before. I appreciate you writing to me and I will let you know when I research your information closer! Mahalo!

  • Anne Uemura

    More compassion is always a good thing. It sounds as though you are a seeker. Blessings on your journey, and yes, please keep in touch. Mahalo and aloha

  • This is an article that I wish I read when I was in my early teens. I saw myself all over this article. Being someone who regularly has, ‘anger’ moments (in my head, obviously) has allowed me to explore my beliefs, and they are inevitably that, ‘I’m not listened to’ and ‘I’m not worthy of attention’. (even reading this, I had yet another negative fantasy, where I was ‘rollicking’ someone big time…)

    These days, I use mindfulness to help calm me down, but as you say, it is only when you embrace your anger do you become more natually present. And anger, in my opinion, is usually due to a boundary being crossed several times.

    What are your feelings towards setting boundaries at an early age, as most anger (I would imagine) would begn to form in teen years.

    Thanks for posting

  • Anne Uemura

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, Julian. Blessings to you.

  • raise_your_word

    I really enjoyed reading your post Anne – I agree that we can give ourselves so much power and integrity back when we allow ourselves to feel negative emotions such as anger, alongside curiosity for our experience i.e. not just reacting to the emotion. Thankyou 🙂

  • Anne Uemura

    Thank you for reading, and expressing your agreement with my approach to negative feelings. Bless you. Anne

  • Shanker

    My anger is usually repressed ans so is passive, which is due to fear of survival. In childhood, I was afraid of elders, especially my father, teachers, relatives, in short any authority figure, or one with a bigger body! Even at the age of 60+, it is there though in a reduced size. How to embrace it.

    Thanks Anne!

  • Jumping Jellyfish

    Hi, I have to confess, reading this article made me angry. Obviously I was here because I was already angry and I accept that, but hearing about your husband treating you like that and cheating on you made me think of how I would feel in that situation. I hope, for your sake, that you leave him. He doesn’t respect you. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh but i think you deserve better.

  • VickyRagDoll

    All my emotions are passionate. The happier I become, the more weird and excitable I get. My bad temper is one of my defining personality traits (tho I can usually be talked down from the ledge.) Anger can be justifiable. And it can be good. Anger at the world’s injustices, for example, can change the world.
    Also, if my husband told me he wanted an open marriage, then I’d be preparing my monologue for my piece in the Cell Block Tango.