Emotions in dreams: Anger

 

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A dream image of anger from one of my own dreams: Bull with lightning emanating from his eyes.

 

Emotions in dreams can be a way for the dreamer to act out the feelings that they normally would not express if they were awake. The dream provides a “safe” outlet for these emotions.

However, if the dreamer feels a mix of emotions in their dream, especially if the emotions are contradictory, then it may mean that the conscious and subconscious are in emotional conflict.

Emotions in dreams are integral to the way the brain works i.e. there seems to be a primitive network that links both dreams and emotions. This is why one must focus on the prevalent emotion(s) of a dream in order to derive broader meaning.

Other than reflecting a current way of being emotions can also signal the need for new ways of being. For example, anger can be about the need to stand up for yourself, fear can be about being more assertive, happiness can be about being more serious, or anxiety could suggest the need to be more cautious.

Probably one of the most prevalent emotions in dreams is some form of anger.

Anger in a dream can represent that you are repressing your anger about something or that your unacknowledged anger is causing health problems.

Sometimes in your waking life, you may have the belief that it is not appropriate or safe to express anger. In dreams, you can allow its expression. This can help make it possible for you to be more assertive in your waking life. Perhaps the anger in the dream is suggesting that one stand their ground and become more confident. It can also provide relief for pent-up feelings.

Anger can also show up in a dream when people are shooting at each other or when people or animals are fighting. Another image might include an angry face or many angry faces as in a mob.

C.G. Jung looked at people as though they had two distinctly different spirits: Spirit of the Times (that which you live in culturally and sub-culturally) and the Spirit of the Depths (the soul, or essence of who you are).

Both the sleeping dream and the waking dream present emotional data that speaks to an imbalance in one’s life. For example, it is often said that anger that has not been transcended and dealt with appropriately in one’s waking life can become turned inward and create a feeling of depression. And sometimes this feeling of depression is a call from the Spirit of the Depths that one is becoming too dependent on the Spirit of the Times.

 

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” –Buddha

One may need to trust more in the quietness of their soul than the sound and fury of the outer world.

 

“Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten.” –Buddha

The first step when you find that anger has reared its ugly head is to not respond to the provocation i.e. do not respond to anger with anger. Try delaying your response for several seconds (this is like the old “count to ten” method). This will train self-control and give some time to engage the brain. Note that your anger may be an appropriate response to some stimulus but having it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to express it by dumping it on the object of your anger.

Another important step in reducing anger is to treat others with kindness and compassion. This includes those who are not like you or don’t believe what you believe. This also includes those from a different ‘tribe’ i.e. family, neighborhood, village, gang, school, team, city, state, or country.

We are all humans who are trying to survive, feel safe, love and be happy. With few exceptions, mostly by those who have psychological, spiritual, brain, or psycho-social damage, we all make mistakes, want to make a difference and want to feel and be seen as being a good person.

We also share another common trait i.e. we don’t always know the right way to go about it. This is probably due to the fact that none of us came with an instruction manual although many have written down a number of rules and laws designed to give us guidance in this area often with limited success. The why of that limited success is also interesting e.g. the Ten Commandments seem to be a rational behavioral system to follow but how often do people actually follow them and what is it that gets in the way of doing so? That I believe is a discussion for another time.

 

Hint:

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Anger and violence in dreams

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Dharma Chakra mandala Hinamayatantra

Anger in dreams usually reflects the emotional state of the dreamer in their waking life. Typically this anger has been suppressed and uncommunicated in the dreamer’s waking life. The dream is a confrontation with the unconscious and suppressed material that one stuffs while awake. In the dream the anger has permission to vent so it’s better than nothing, but the unresolved issues that have triggered the anger have to be dealt with directly and in the light of day.

In our waking lives the way to deal with these negative triggers is to neither seek revenge nor use violence. This is the second of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path1 and is known as Right Intention. I use it here because it speaks directly to the premise of this article– that anger and hate are instinctive reptilian reactions to real or perceived threats, but rarely effective in bringing balance to human interactions and will never lead to happiness or equanimity.

Revenge2 as a means of reducing ones anger is counter productive in that revenge begets revenge. One need only look at the ethnic battles going on in virtually every country or neighborhood in the world to see the truth of this.

Bottom line, revenge does not, will not, cannot restore equity, or balance, to any relationship. Every attempt to use it only escalates a negative cycle. When punishment is used to bring fairness into the equation neither the punished or the punisher is ever able to let go and truly move on.

Violence as a means of righting a wrong doesn’t work either because violence only begets violence. Hate perpetuates hate and hurts/damages both the hater and their target. And the damage is not only psychological, emotional and moral, but physical as well because the body’s health is severely affected by anger and hate.

There is nothing more damaging to the human Psyche (soul, spirit) than doing or sanctioning violence to another human being, regardless of the reason or justification.

Now I’m not suggesting that you reject anger by denying it because you can’t, it’s a natural reaction to threat– to the self or to those one loves. There are ways to deal with it when it comes up however, ways to prevent it from taking you over.

The first step when you find that anger has reared its ugly head is to not respond to the provocation i.e. do not respond to anger with anger. Try delaying your response for several seconds (this is like the old “count to ten” method). This will train self-control and give some time to engage the brain.

Quick to anger is a Lizard Brain (lower brain) reaction and can be overridden by the neo-cortex, the non-reactive higher cognitive part of the brain (that part that separates us from the other animals). Engaging the introspective higher brain will allow one to thoughtfully “respond” rather than instinctively “react”. Delay will give the higher brain a chance to respond in a non-escalating fashion and will result in much less damage to both parties.

Another important step in reducing anger is to treat others with kindness and compassion. This includes those who are not like you or don’t believe what you believe. This also includes those from a different ‘tribe’ i.e. family, neighborhood, village, gang, religion, school, team, city, state, or country.

We are all humans who are trying to survive, feel safe, love, and be happy. With few exceptions, mostly by those who have psychological, spiritual, brain, or psycho-social damage, we all make mistakes, want to make a difference and want to feel and be seen as being a good person. We also share another common trait i.e. we don’t always know the right way to go about it. This is probably due to the fact that none of us came with an instruction manual although many scholars and religious leaders have written down a number of rules and laws designed to give us at least some direction even though they aren’t often read or followed when we’re being threatened.

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1The Noble Eightfold Path right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

2vengeance, retribution, retaliation, reprisal, eye for an eye.