Anger is Not the Only Way

In its passion, anger pushes away, condemns, and makes everything wrong except itself.

None of us want to admit that we get irritated, bitchy or lose our temper. We much prefer to think of ourselves as wonderfully tolerant and serene. Yet getting angry can arise out of nowhere and often out-stays its welcome, like an unwanted guest that moves into our house.

Anger may be an effective demand for justice, for basic rightness, and for what is appropriate and humane. But it can also be like a single match that burns down an entire forest, causing tremendous damage and hurt. It can make enemies out of friends or family, can lead to greed and self-deception, or cause wars. The fallout can be huge and we may have no control over the repercussions.

So how do we deal with this intruder, this thief that steals our sanity? How do we let anger know that this is not the way we want to live, that enough is enough?

Soon after Nelson Mandela was released, Bill Clinton asked if he was angry when he walked away from twenty-seven years in jail. “Surely,” Clinton said, “You must have felt some anger?” Mandela agreed that, yes, alongside the joy of being free, he also felt great anger. “But,” he said, “I valued my freedom more. I knew that if I expressed my anger I would still be a prisoner.”

As psychotherapist Deepesh Faucheaux says, “Ducks don’t do anger. Ducks fight over a piece of bread and then they just swim away.” For, although we may have a good reason to be angry, retaliation just gets us into further negativity.

“Rev James Lawson, who was a cohort of Dr. Martin Luther King, shared with me an experience when he and Dr. King were sitting in an auditorium,” says Michael Bernard Beckwith. “A man came up and said to Dr. King, ‘Are you MLK Jr.?’ When he said yes the man spat on him. Dr. King took a handkerchief, took the spittle off of his suit, and handed it back to the man saying, ‘I think this belongs to you.’ He didn’t hit the man, he didn’t cuss the man out, he didn’t say how dare you, he had this ability to just be in the moment.”

There’s no compromise with anger, no chance for dialogue, just ‘I am right and you are wrong.’ This puts our heart out of reach, we lose touch with our feelings and connection with each other. In our longing to reconnect we end up hurling abuse instead. And yet we are the ones who suffer the most, particularly from the affects of anger in ourselves. Only by going beneath anger do we get to see whether there is hurt, grief, or fear trying to make itself heard, for invariably anger is a hidden cry for love.

Trying to eradicate anger is like trying to box with our own shadow: it doesn’t work. Getting rid of it implies either expressing it and creating untold emotional damage, denying its existence, or repressing it until it erupts at a later time. Instead, making friends with anger is like growing roses out of rotting compost, using the passion without the destruction.

By naming and recognizing the many faces of anger, we can stay present with it as it arises, keeping the heart open, breathing, watching emotions come up and pass through. Often anger has little to do with another person but more with our expectations and needs. We can watch as anger fills the mind and makes such a song and dance, and we can just keep breathing and watching as it goes on it’s merry way. We can see it, name it, breathe into it. As you breathe, silently repeat: soft belly, open heart, soft belly.

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Ed & Deb are authors of many books. Deb is the author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, now in 19 languages. They have three meditation CDs. See more at EdandDebShapiro.com

85 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S5 months ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven5 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Nicole H
Nicole H7 months ago

Another thing I learned : when I was with the person in question (mostly my husband when we had discussions about the children), who made me very angry, in stead of continuing yelling that I was right , was to stop the discussion. I then put on my shoes and coat, and said I needed a good walk to reorganize my thoughts. When stepping firmly, each step lowered my anger, and I had to recognize that I had been making a fool of myself, or that although I was right, or at least I thought that I was, I had not expressed it in a good way, and that the opinion of my husband also were worth considering. When coming home after 45 to 60 mins, I was cooled down. We then continued our discussion, but without the anger and hate inside of me. In 95 % of the cases, I came to a reasonable discussion in which each of us could "fight" for their opinion, but no harm was done. Either agreeing or not, but no harm was done to the other, and we just decided that we had a different opinion on this issue. This is far better than continue your personal war. And in a war there are never winners, only losers. We all should know that by now.

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Nicole H
Nicole H7 months ago

It's very true. Anger does not lead you anywhere. I had a bad childhood, and when I left home at 18 (earlier was difficult because then the Court could order me to go back and I was very determined to first finish my school) I had so much anger in me, that I bursted out for the least. I realized that at the end I only got enemies, and no friends. And I was so stubborn that I never excused myself, because this anger made me completely blind. Finally after years, and with the help of a psychotherapist, I learned that getting angry and KEEP and keep being angry, was not the solution. It took me years to free myself. When I think something wrong has been done to me, I reflect on the matter for a couple of days, and when the boiling point has dropped severely I ask the person if we can have a talk on this or that issue. Than I can explain myself in a calm way, and in many cases acknowledge that I had seen it wrong, and apologize for my wrong thinking. Goes a lot better now, and the friends I make, I can keep them, which was not the case before.

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Deborah W
Deborah W8 months ago

Even if we have a good reason to be angry, retaliation just gets us into further negativity, escalates to out-of-control rage, fear and harm. without accomplishing anything more than a momentary break from what is. Truth is, no compromise with anger, no chance for dialogue, just a self-inflicted judgment one on another -- I'm right, you're wrong -- without even a try at working it out. (See results of government using these same tactics. Nothing accomplished.) Only by going beneath anger do we get to see whether there is hurt, grief, or fear trying to make itself heard, a hidden cry for love. Are we really that stupid? Sadly, almost always YES.

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Jerome S
Jerome S8 months ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim Ven8 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Jerome S
Jerome S8 months ago

thanks

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Brett C
Brett Cloud9 months ago

Ty

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Brett C
Brett Cloud9 months ago

Ty

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