Hands up if you’re one of many people who feel like we’re all surrounded by angry people too often? Many will even concede to being angry people too often lately. It’s a prickly world these days. It feels like it’s time to pause and breathe.
This is not to say that people don’t have very real reasons to be angry. Pain leads to anger, and that comes in many forms, so the legitimacy of everyone’s anger is not the point of this piece. The point of this piece is that anger has its place.
It’s primary job is in motivating human beings out of a state of inertia, which is important. As anyone who’s had to get off the sofa to do weekend yard work knows, inertia can be a major obstacle between ourselves and useful action. Anger is like an explosive force that allows our soul to get moving. Throughout history anger has both taken and saved a lot of lives.
Anger is valid, but it should not be viewed as a final result, or an outcome, or a destiny to simply accept. That pot will eventually boil itself dry.
Anger is a motivator and indicator. Unless it’s being employed to physically fight for our lives, the experience of it is a signal to us that we are in an unacceptable position. Our first and most natural reaction is to respond to that by waking up all of the energy inside ourselves with a roar. Hence the anger.
But to stop at anger is to be corrosive to our own lives. Anger should not exist for its own sake. Once we’re awake we need to calm down, use wisdom, and make a plan to succeed at improving our situation. If we just get angry we’re trapped in a cycle because only we can get ourselves out of our own thought loop habits. The point is for these things to serve us.
Once we realize that we’re angry we can take action to calm down. The anger has done its job. We should thank it, then calm and assess. What is making us angry? Anger comes from fear, so look for forms of threats to things like our income, status, relationships and health. Once we’ve defined the issue, we can focus on that in a strategic way.
If we’re going to allow strong emotions room to swell as we share love or compassion that’s fine. But anger isn’t a place to live. It’s like a stop light. Ignoring it can place us in real danger. Likewise, letting it lead our lives is just as dangerous. We’ll never get anywhere.
If there is action to take we should take that action with confidence. If acceptance is required, we should know that doing so makes us stronger. There is no point in thinking about things if nothing can be done, our thoughts would be better focused on the moment we’re in.
Finally, we also must remember there will also be situations where patience is the best answer but we’re too tired or hungry to deliver it. This is not a failure, this is life. Everyone’s anger will eventually get the best of them. Sometimes we’re the student, and sometimes we’re the teacher. To learn tolerance, we all need examples of people that don’t appear to deserve it, and sometimes we are those people. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Use anger as a signal, do what’s possible. The rest is acceptance. That’s a healthy place to be.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.