Sometimes anger feels empowering—better certainly than fear or anxiety. But fear and anxiety often fill in for an anger that has been long suppressed.
I’m pretty certain that most of us are carrying around a lot of squelched/repressed anger, in fact, hidden away during childhood. At that time our needs and wants were of primary importance—to us, but not always to our parents or a caregiver. We would become angry, furious, enraged when our needs (or our whims) weren’t acceded to. And then our anger was countered by intense disapproval.
As little people, we were at the mercy of giants, perhaps well-meaning giants, but certainly ones handing out rules and restrictions that often went against our needs and wants. After all, the giants were trying to socialize us, not to mention that they had needs and wants of their own. We were thwarted.
We bottled up a lot of anger, some of which has resolved itself over the years through various means. Life mellows one out; therapy may help; and simple understanding of a situation or of the “other” may drain away old inner explosions.
But not all anger is simply from our early experiences. Current injustices can cause us to steam up with a rage—sometimes triggered by sensitivities developed in the past, sometimes simply from an innate sense of what is really fair.
Consider Jesus and the moneychangers he threw out of the temple. Do we think Jesus was just an angry guy? That pretty much doesn’t fit the picture we have of the healer and most compassionate of men. He drove the “commercial interests” out because he was angry, angry at the outrage of what these people were doing in a sacred space, a house of prayer, the temple supposedly dedicated to God.
So maybe anger isn’t always wrong—even for the spiritually minded.
That’s right; it’s not.
The problem comes in determining if anger stems from old and other issues or if anger arises in meting out a righteous judgment.
Often we become angry, lose our tempers, and then an hour later feel regret. We feel bad, that we made a socially unacceptable misstep. (Or at least women often feel this way.)
Does that mean we were wrong in letting loose our anger? No, not necessarily.
So how do we decide what should be expressed and what felt/experienced and not acted on?
I’m sorry to say that in reality no rule of thumb exists. The source of anger over a situation is very individual, and moreover, we generally won’t know what the anger arises from. My energetic rejuvenation guy, Anton Baraschi, said one day, “You might be hungry or tired, or…”
Indeed, that day I’d been cold inside my apartment and snapped at someone on the phone over a trifle.
We simply have to work with anger, as we do with all our other difficult and volatile emotions. We have to do our best, and while trying to be authentic, hope to be guided by a higher power.
I only wanted to say one thing: Don’t stop or step on your anger or force it underground because you’re a “good” person. Good people can get angry, too. Getting angry isn’t a sin. (But don’t hurt anyone in the process. Really, that’s not the right way to behave.)
If you perceive the other person is doing something wrong, you can let that person know—or not, if the situation doesn’t really invite such a response. (We might not want to tell off our bosses.) Later, when the anger feels less hot, we might be able to better dissect its probable source.
Lost your temper? Forgive yourself. Sometimes that happens and it’s not the end of the world or even, generally speaking, the end of the other person’s love for you.
As spiritual master Andrew Cohen said one time, “I’m not trying to be a saint.” We don’t have to be unnatural.
The more you deny that you’re angry in attempts to be holy, the more inhuman you will become, and the more inhuman you become, the harder you’ll find it to forgive.—Unknown
Want to take a fiction writing class with me? I’m the author of two writing instructionals and have won a couple of writing awards. Sign up for a Writer’s Digest University class: http://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/ . I give a lot of structural and ground-level writing feedback.