Higher Living Reflections

Saying hi to your anger

For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s easy to acknowledge and accept the truth of Emerson’s statement. Sages and avatars over the millennia have encouraged us to detach from anger. But, as we have experienced, it is sometimes easier said than done. So, why?

I picture anger as a dark cloud hanging over and following a person. That visualization, as well as the psychiatrist booth and charging Charlie Brown five cents for advice, comes, of course, from Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip. How wise and insightful was Charles Schulz, eh?

Anger can be likened to an anvil too, a heavy weight one straps to his waste. The more intense the anger, the heavier the weight and the more weighted down he feels.

It’s hard to believe that anyone relishes being angry, somehow finding joy and satisfaction in it, popping up from bed in the morning and exclaiming, “What a lovely day to be in a crappy mood and froth at the bit.” So, let’s dispense with that notion.

While maxims such as Emerson’s are helpful timely reminders, they often aren’t of much use when one is caught up in anger. Imagine when you’re having a real fit and someone—other than your mother, perhaps—blithely says to you, “You know, for every minute you stay angry, you’re wasting a minute of peace of mind.” You know what comes next: KAPOW!

A better practice or habit to get into would be to notice the anger and then ask yourself why it is happening. What is triggering it? Am I tired? After all, when one is mentally exhausted, she is more likely to flip out, melt down. What are the trigger points or buttons that when pushed your Yellowstone Cauldron tremors hit seven on the Richter Scale?

It’s helpful to consider whether one’s anger is an immediate response to a situation or a long-term, perhaps life-long condition. Is it a habitual state of mind? What lies at its root? An incident or condition not dealt with and resolved and, consequently has worn him down? Frustration setting in and his emotional fuse easily lit to the point at which he erupts, “I’ve had enough!!!”

Anger is not only a personal experience; it is a societal expression as well. Our social and political commentary is filled with accounts about how we are an angry nation, how we’ve become divided as a people. Trust broken. A common forward vision nonexistent.

On the other hand, an angry expression of displeasure can be healthy. In the Christian tradition, it is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but even Jesus flipped out. Recall the scene in the Temple with the money-changers (Matt 21:12, KJV). Oh, baby! He was one pissed-off dude.

Personifying anger is helpful for me. Humanizing it rather than demonizing it. Not to be afraid of him but let him know his place. Allow him to be a respectable part my psyche. Not identifying with the dark cloud or anvil but understanding it’s a weight I am choosing to carry for whatever reason(s). To be able to say, “I am feeling anger” rather than “I am angry.”

By personifying one’s anger, one’s able to then ask: Who’s in control here? You or me? Then begin the task of uncovering the roots of it.

It provides the opportunity to get in touch with it, both acknowledged and unacknowledged. Sit with him or her and have a healthy conversation. Because, in the end, denying or ignoring it will only lead to the depths, making it tougher to bound out of bed and say, “What a lovely day to…”

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  • Melanie Mulhall
    April 26, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Well said. There is wisdom in your approach.

  • Steven craig
    April 26, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    This piece really spoke to me this morning. Charlie Brown, Emerson, and the Bible? Well done and namaste, my friend!

  • Laurel McHargue
    April 26, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Yes! I remember being told that if you’re angry at someone, you’re giving them power over you. Take back your power. Don’t let others control your energy.

  • Mary Pat Young
    April 26, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    Anger is a secondary emotion which stems from fear or sadness. Of course, when I find myself feeling angry and try to understand where the anger is coming from, rarely do I say “ is it fear or sadness that is triggering this?” It’s easy to get caught up in the anger rather than the cause. And hey, sometimes it just feels good.

  • Mardy Wilson
    April 26, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    It was difficult to “be angry” after laughing out loud at the thought of “what a lovely day to be in a crappy mood…..”
    Thank you Jerry, for the humor in anger & crappy days 🙂 BTW The sun is bright, happy, illuminating in Northern Co.

  • Allynn Riggs
    April 26, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Having grown up in a family that told us from very young ages that we were to show only the ‘good’ or ‘positive’ emotions I got into the habit of burying all the negatives – perhaps to the detriment of my personal well-being, especially when young. As I got older, I often envisioned my angry emotions as a plate glass window and would mentally throw a variety of items at the window. It felt wonderful to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ the window shatter into a million pieces which could be swept up and away – thus I would not have to face or handle the ‘bad’ emotions, I could just throw them away deep down inside where the shards of glass piled up to the point where I would ‘break’, like the window. While that did not happen often it truly took a toll on me and I lacked the skills to understand how to say hello to my anger. By the time I was in college, though, it was difficult to ignore and not embrace the fact that I was occasionally very angry. With the help of several friends, especially the man who became my husband, I discovered it was okay to get angry or upset but I needed to recognize it, face it, figure it out, deal with it, and talk about the cause and not the emotion – not be afraid of the emotion as I had been taught. Only then did the pile of broken glass reduce in size and, now, I am less likely to bury the emotion. Now, when the anger appears I can respectfully acknowledge its presence, say hello, and have a conversation with myself or with others about the reasons for it. I have found that this defuses the anger faster than throwing a brick through the plate glass window and there is not a pile of shards growing deep inside me. I understand that we are all of our emotions, not just the ‘good’ ones.