How does anger help us exit sick systems?
Anger helps us exit sick systems. How? Anger allows information processing, because it is a part of the learning curve. So, let’s look at how anger facilitates timely exit when we need it. First, sick systems tend to have these features. Think workplace, family, church, political group, neighborhood association, mental health clinic (yes, my therapist friends, mental health systems are the worst) . . .
- Superiors ignore individuals’ unique contributions and overfocus on the bottom line.
- People get pressured to homogenize and conform: difference threatens.
- Those in more power squelch disagreement, have trouble taking feedback.
- Bullies at all levels get rewarded with more power.
- The Peter Principle prevails: The higher the post, the less competent the person.
- Creative thinking scares the more powerful, who punish it.
- Members compete against each other for voice, resources, power.
- People perceive a lack of available rewards.
- Sloppy work gets rewarded and promoted.
- Distance between those at the top (with more power) and the underlings (with less power) widens.
What happens to an individual in a sick system?
It depends. Some people in sick systems become more like their superiors, becoming more rigid and product-oriented, as a way to adjust. But many others experience this instead:
- Health problems
- Weight gain
- The feeling of something’s wrong with me.
- Loneliness and emotional isolation
- Increased substance use
- Difficulties in close relationships
- A sense of hopelessness or lack of meaning
- Diminished satisfaction and passion in life’s work
If this sounds familiar, you could be embedded in a system that makes people sick.
I say this because people come into therapy with health problems that mystify them. If they work or live in a sick system, they have A LOT of anger, under the surface. They have anger that isn’t getting voiced or resolved. Week after week, year after year, people tolerate the insulting environment because they see no good way out. As a result, the anger builds; and as anger builds inside with no release, the body responds by trying to protect. Again, I refer to Gabor Mate’ for medical backing on this.
Anger helps you find the door.
You get to choose what to do with the door once you see it. Because when you acknowledge anger, relief and empowerment surge, the body experiences release. This means that when you write anger or speak anger with someone who hears you and doesn’t judge, energetic change happens in the body.
This energetic change also leads to healthy differentiation. Differentiation means becoming emotionally separate, an individual. It gets us unstuck from the sticky mass of the system, so we can see things more clearly. We suddenly get to drive in our own lane, which means:
- Maybe leaving the organization
- Seeing things differently
- Maybe staying in the group but using my voice to create change
- Living differently in relation to others; not so affected by them
- Letting go of fear/anxiety
- Being more in tune with what my body needs
Homework: Write about who you’re most angry with in your current system. How has this affected your body?