Perhaps the most common source of anger is our own inability to love ourselves, our self-hate. Most of us have a deep self-hatred that we created in childhood. We use much of our adult energy trying to run from or hide from or cover over these feeling of low self-esteem or low self-worth. The source of this self-hate is easy to find. Sometime in our early childhood we had a need that didn’t get met by our parents. Because we were very young, we believed in the omnipotence and omniscience of our parents, they seemed all-powerful and all-knowing. We took on the idea; If these god-like beings aren’t meeting my need, then I must, in some way, be broken or damaged.
We grow up knowing that we are flawed, unlovable, insupportable. To counteract this we decide to be perfect, that is to say, to be who others want (I just won’t need anything. I’ll do everything right. I shouldn’t be afraid.) We have the experience of feeling terminally unique, thinking we are the only one who feels this bad, and we could die from this feeling. Believing that the only way we will ever have our needs met is to hide this flaw, we become angry whenever anything feels like it may potentially expose us. So the deeper we go into relationship with others, the more angry we are likely to act towards our beloveds. This gives rise to lots of confusion and hurt feelings (as well as some good Country & Western song lyrics).
Obviously, the path out of self-hatred, the path out of anger, is to love yourself. Cheryl Huber, in her book “There is Nothing Wrong With You” describes the journey out of self-hate. First we try using our self-hating behaviors to be a good person. We value others over our self. We deny our self unnecessarily. We use our ideals against our self. We suffer. We try everything to make our self-hate conditioning work, but we can’t. At some point, if we are fortunate, we begin to look within, to challenge the idea that there is something wrong with our self. We find some form or practice of self-awareness or self-love through meditation, church, therapy, anger workshops, life. We find compassion and self acceptance. The child within us is reborn.
As everyone who has ever attended a twelve-step meeting already knows, maybe the best path out of anger, the path out of suffering, is expressed in the Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.