The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Anger and Hurt

Understanding emotions and our reactions to them can take a long time.

A reason for this might be that emotions will often be seen as something to either push back or suppress. The background of this idea most certainly is that being emotional is seen as a problem, especially for leaders. They are expected to remain composed and able to put emotions aside to lead confidently. It’s part of the storyline describing leaders as heroes. It also is an element of the interpretation of what is visible to others, when leaders succeed in being role models.

Reading the article “It’s Easier To Be Angry Than Hurt” in the daily stoic newsletter I was reminded of how much work Marcus Aurelius undertook. Writing his journal, he worked to understand how to deal with emotions and how to regulate himself amid difficult moments.

Anger is an emotion that is most often directed outward. When being confronted with something disagreeable, a first reaction most often is to become angry at whatever or whoever is experienced as disagreeable. It can be as simple as a telling mimic or a few words to push the other back into their space leading to a dispute. But it can also be as destructive as aggressing another country and stepping into a war. That’s how anger can become destructive.

However, anger is necessary to stay aware of one’s limitations and preferred boundaries. It’s also there to enable people to become proactive and name existing boundaries. In this anger is supportive of a community. It enables people to experience themselves as autonomous within their community as well as to help others by being respectful of their boundaries. It’s how anger can be constructive and protective.

The sense of being hurt is often connected with anger and thus the inability to use anger effectively. It brings the challenge to acknowledge that one has not been able to protect oneself or others from feeling pain. Nobody wants to feel pain. The message pain tells often is one that makes us question ourselves if we can be vulnerable enough to listen to it. This ability to listen and hear the message hurt tells is what leads to acceptance of self.

When the vulnerability asked goes beyond our vulnerability in that moment, anger in one of its many forms is what people will retreat to. It’s how acceptance can be avoided, whenever such acceptance feels too big of an ask. It’s simply that something is still missing to be able to avoid falling back to destructive anger.

It takes time to understand emotions and our reactions to them. Understanding in this context has nothing to do with an academic exercise or knowledge of emotions. What takes time, is the ability to recognize how one’s own experience of these emotions impacts one’s behavior. What also takes time is to use that experience to see how the story one tells oneself and perceives as an unchangeable reality can be transformed.

It’s part of the work to become a leader.



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