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
You don’t need your family, Dr. Phil, or even an expensive three-day anger management retreat out in the woods to inform you that violent outbursts of anger are generally frowned upon in society and are far from constructive. While we, as Americans, are probably angrier than we have ever been, being actively angry is still seen as an apparent lack of control, lack of good judgment, and a general lack of cool. Anger as an emotion is more or less considered useless, in its most benign form, and potentially harmful and destructive when allowed to run riot over our emotional landscape.
Grrrr! So, what the #@*≈ are we supposed to do with all of this anger? Just reason it away? Sublimate it with lots of TV, chocolate, reflexology or pop psych?
Well, as unpopular as anger may be as an outward emotion, we need not abandon it completely as a catalyst toward constructive change. As the less than exemplary Johnny Lydon defiantly chanted in the PiL song “Rise”, “Anger is an energy” and we owe it to ourselves to harness its power.
In the “Nicomachean Ethics,” Aristotle wrote, “The man who is angry at the right things and with the right people, and further, as he ought, when he ought, and as long as he ought, is praised.” Extending this logic into the present day, we would be well suited to cultivate our anger into rational tangible change, at both the micro and macro levels. Instead of railing lambasting our friends and loved ones with fire-tongued invectives, we could approach the anger as propulsion toward change, positive change. This will give us the incentive, not to criticize and belittle, but to put into motion significant advancement in the inter-personal realm. This is anger at work on the micro level, and on the macro level would be something like the Equal Rights movement, the Civil Rights movement, and the Environmental movement, all of which had their roots in outrage as much as concern. Possibly, if we channel our anger appropriately and constructively, we might even be able to fix our ailing economy?
And lastly, as parents, we are no doubt privy to all sorts of feral displays of anger emanating from our children. This is undoubtedly energy that could probably power a small fleet of tanker trailers if harnessed appropriately. We owe it to our children, not to tamp down or stifle their anger, but to allow it to find a suitable expression and a worthy exploit.
How do you contend with your anger? Has anger ever served you, or is it something best rigidly controlled and mitigated?