Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Purpose of Anger

“The angry people are those who are most afraid.” ~ Dr. Robert Anthony

When I spoke with a friend, yesterday, she mentioned that if she could get rid of anger, her world would be perfect. After I hung up the phone, I gave her affirmation some thought. Indeed, anger is a powerful force, able to blind and push even the most leveled person toward the unthinkable. In classic literature, anger was one of the beasts Dante Alighieri met at the entrance of hell, and in modern times many have pictured anger as a dark manifestation of human nature which must be overpowered if one is to rise above earthly chains toward the light.

Superficial anger is easy to manage. All one needs to do is to take a deep breath, choose to remain calm in spite of occurrences, and find the time, sooner rather than later, to deal with the feelings. It is a little more difficult, however, to deal with old anger; not necessarily because we can’t suppress it, but mostly because we can’t identify its source.

Anger is not a disease, but it is a symptom, and it should not be ignored. Our minds let us know, in a powerful way, that some issues we have dealt with are still in need of resolution and closure. If we ignore the request, the wounded self is forced to employ stronger means in the desperate attempt to communicate with the conscious mind. If ignored again, anger turns inward, and it manifests into physical and emotional illness.

In the beginning of a crisis, anger is a powerful reservoir of energy, and it allows us to stay above the waters of self-pity. Once the crisis has passed, however, anger must be allowed to leave. If not released, it gets stored into a subconscious file and forgotten, but just because it is forgotten does not mean that it is deleted; when we least expect it, the file is opened, and what happened yesterday blends with the experiences of today.

Although the reasons that trigger anger can be countless, the root of most of them is fear – fear of being alone, of rejection, of poverty, of not being loved and accepted. When trying to “pull” and “delete” the anger files from the drawer, it helps if we can be honest with ourselves and push aside feelings of guilt. We might be angry because we feel constricted in our lifestyle, or because we feel we deserve more, or even because we feel victimized or not recognized for our talents; since early childhood we are taught that good boys and girls don’t complain and we must be happy with the little we receive, even if it doesn’t feel like enough. Being “greedy” and “ungrateful” triggers guilt; in return, guilt causes us to become angry at ourselves for not being good.

Anger should therefore be honored for its purpose, asked to come to the surface and felt in every cell of our being before we can send it on its way with gratitude. As for most other things, it is helpful if we try to fill the void caused by the removal of each anger file by planting something positive to ensure that the vacancy won’t be filled by more unwanted energy.

Anger is not our enemy, but rather it is a friend screaming to be acknowledged and heard.