Have you ever been mad-sad? Then you are a typical human being as the alien character “Oh” discovers when he makes friends with the human girl, Tip, in the animated movie “Home”.
What is mad-sad? Mad-sad is when you get angry but deep underneath you are sad. Tip is sad that her mother was relocated and separated from her by the aliens when they invaded the planet earth. She is ready to fight the world. Her angry part has stepped forward to protect her vulnerability. When Oh discovers what is underneath her anger, he says with surprise, “You are mad-sad”. What appears to be anger is really sadness and grief for her loss.
Sometimes we are mad-sad, other times we are mad-scared. A parent might be mad-scared because their child is failing in school and they are worried about their future, or because their teenager has made a decision which has put them in danger. We might get mad scared when we are in the passenger’s seat of a vehicle and the driver has a different driving style which makes us feel unsafe. How much more successful would our communication be if we could express our fear rather than our anger? Yet, anger is an automatic response triggered by fear. It takes practice to communicate differently.
When we feel overwhelmed, we also sometimes snap faster and respond with anger. Have you ever felt really bogged down by everything you had to do and as you were busy focussing on getting some work done, another person needed something and you replied with impatience or even anger? That could be called mad-stressed.
In all these cases of mad-sad, mad-scared or mad-stressed, the anger serves the purpose to protect the vulnerable part of us deep inside. Anger is a driving force. In Tip’s case, it drives her to search for her mom. Anger also feels better than helplessness and is an intuitive response when we feel unsafe or afraid for somebody else.
The evil character of the movie from another alien race, called the Gorg, turns out to be mad-sad, mad-scared and most likely also mad-stressed. Without being aware, Oh’s alien race has stolen his babies, the entire next generation, which means extinction for the Gorg. When Oh is brave enough to face the Gorg, he realizes that this intimidating monster is really deeply vulnerable and just trying to save and protect himself and his family.
Have you heard of people who get “hangry”? When they are hungry they become grouchy or angry. To stay with our pattern, that would be called mad-hungry. There also is mad-tired. Have you ever been so tired and found that your protective defences were coming up when others are interacting with you in this state. My daughter, who works mainly overnight shifts, is not a happy camper when approached in a tired state. She gets mad-tired. Everybody in our family knows she has just reached her limit and her irritation is a feedback for us.
Next time you or somebody else shows up as angry, remember that there is usually some other emotion underneath the anger. That deeper emotion or need has to be addressed. Just as we know we need to feed ourselves when we are hangry, we also need to feed the other emotions or needs.
When we feel angry the question usually is, what exactly is underneath the anger? It might be Sadness? Loneliness? Fear or insecurity? Frustration? Overwhelm?
- Sadness gives us the feedback that we perceive the loss of a person, an experience or a feeling. What needs to be done to make up for that loss, to replace the experience we have lost?
- Loneliness gives us the message that we have a healthy longing for companionship and love. How can we enjoy our own company more, love ourselves more and also draw in other people as companions?
- Fear or insecurity means that our subconscious is convinced something is not safe, and/or that we are not good enough in some way. What beliefs can be changed to alter how we see ourselves and the world?
- Frustration gives us the feedback that something that we have been doing is not working. What do we need to do differently, so that the frustration does not tip over into depression?
- Overwhelm is a signal to do a reality check, to limit, to organize, to prioritize, to say “no” and to delegate.
Anger also sometimes gives us the feedback that we perceive something as unfair. The first question is: Is or was it really unfair? If not, change your perspective. If the answer is yes, find a way to make fair if the event is in the present, or let go and forgive if you are angry at something which lies in the past.
All feelings are good! Our emotions are our guidance system. All feelings and emotions give us feedback on what is going on. They are a call to action. Anger is good. It is like an indicator light that something needs to be looked at, but it also serves as a driving force to make changes.
Belief Change Coaching, Forgiveness Work, Shadow Work
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