• Jess

The Uses of Anger

In North American society, anger has a bad reputation. It’s seen as low-vibration, dangerous, toxic, unenlightened and a sign that you’re not evolved or healed. I think those assertions are lazy, harmful, myopic and out of sync with who we are when we’re healthy, integrated beings, connected to compassion, a sense of justice and reciprocity.

How we work with our anger and the action we take stemming from awareness of our anger is an entirely different thing.

Our action or inaction can harm others (intentionally or unintentionally) and we have personal, relational and social boundaries around how we can behave— some of these boundaries are punitive and shame-based, while others flow naturally from an ethic of care. If you make the decision to hit someone, you are not free from the results of your actions and the other person can act to protect themselves from you.

I’ve heard it said that as an emotion, anger is always hiding something else. I don’t agree. I think anger can reveal other complicated emotions, but I interpret it as an emotional “Check Engine” light. It lets me know that I’m not in an emergency, but something needs my prompt attention so that I can be safe and healthy.

For me, anger often arises out of a sense of boundary violation or injustice. To understand when I’m feeling anger versus resentment, abandonment, frustration or disappointment, I need to be well acquainted with my inner landscape, able to self-reflect.

To ignore my anger, to sublimate my needs is the path to damaging relationships, giving up my personal power and my voice. Truly, it is no measure of health to be well-adjusted in a sick society.

To pretend that we are comfortable with boundary violations and disregard for our needs is not enlightened or spiritual. That sort of self-abnegation breeds resentment, sickness and distrust of our wants and needs. It divorces us from our voice.

With practice, when we notice anger arising, we can ask questions.

What am I angry about?

Is this how I usually respond to similar situations?

Is there anything under my anger?

Is there action I need to take now or is the best course of action to take space and wait until I feel clearer and less activated?

Sometimes, now is the moment to take action. The time is always right to act in service of the preservation of our safety and body sovereignty.

An added layer of attentiveness to anger is the ability to distinguish if we are uncomfortable or truly in pain, if we are in danger or simply feel challenged and without the resources to meet that skilfully?

There is so much more to be said about this important and complex subject. What else would you like to learn?

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