Recently, I witnessed an encounter of anger. For reasons of contemplative analysis, I won’t mention the context at all; let us only focus on the idea of anger itself. Anger, for me, is an innate emotion but it is avoidable or at least extremely controllable. Anger is a raw material that over time is molded by each person’s own hand and then the castings are manufactured in an assembly line fashion.
When we feel angry, we tend to feel anger in the same manner but not by any means at the same level. When we feel angry, we repeat certain behaviors unique to us, acting as a signal that we are indeed angry; that is what I mean by the same manner. We do not always feel anger at the same level; some things in life we feel deserve only a portion of our intolerance, while others we feel deserve enormous concentration.
I have contemplated the idea of anger and its use for what seems to be years. Even during the genesis of this contemplation, I had thought that anger was not truly necessary even though I could not avoid my own when I felt it. Now, I simply don’t believe that anger should even be used. I have many reasons for this line of thinking but the biggest reasons are as follows:
- Anger is often used as a weapon
- Anger usually subsides once we partially understand the context of our situation
- Anger has never benefited anyone in the long run
Although these reasons can seem simple, vague, and subjective, I don’t believe that they are. If one truly examines these reasons, one may find at least some bit of truth in them.
I’d like to start by pointing out the use of anger as a weapon. Stop for a minute. Think. When last you were angry, and were you angry at someone or at yourself? In either situation, did you feel disappointed with the person in mind and did you want to express your dissatisfaction to them sternly? If so, then you’ve used anger as a weapon.
Once we become upset about something, we have a tendency to want to retaliate against our source of dissatisfaction, as a means of relieving ourselves of the negative feelings. If our retaliation is directed towards another person however, the likelihood of that person not being offended or in some way hurt by your retaliation is extremely low. Yes, some people are immune it seems to the spouts of anger that the universe directs at them and I have met such an individual before but the number of them is also minute.
We use anger as a means to convey how we feel toward another at a particular moment in time and we do so in a negative fashion. Usually our goal is to make the individual understand how they made us feel by making them feel the exact same way. While this is effective, it does not change the fact that we used our emotion of anger as a weapon to hurt another individual; this makes sense logically because if we were hurt by them and our goal is to make them feel what we felt, that is the same as hurting them. In honesty, has hurting someone ever caused something positive to happen? Has using a weapon ever produced results without any negative consequences?
On the other hand, anger can be used as a weapon against oneself. When I’ve gotten angry with myself for something I did or didn’t do, often I’ve bashed myself and negatively impacted my psyche. I have used anger as a weapon on myself. And just as the goal in expressing our anger to another is to make them feel how we felt, our goal in expressing anger within ourselves is to actively recognize the disappointment we have caused within ourselves.
Switching perspectives from ourselves to our situations, let us delve into the need for understanding our contexts in order to subdue anger. Speaking stereotypically, there have been many cases where once examined from an outside perspective, the situation does not seem to require the insertion of anger. While anger is expected from many individuals (because we are all human at the end of the day), many times we as humans are quick to get angry about things but do not stop to think about if we truly need to be angry with another person.
Before I continue, I’d like to give clarification to the spectrum that anger often is based upon. I am referring specifically to the levels at which one can be wronged by another because there are many levels at which this can be interpreted; however, at the end of the day, we tend to become angry when we believe somebody has done something to us that we feel they should not have.
Now, to explain the spectrum; it stretches from “barely acknowledgeable” all the way to “obviously intolerable” with “annoying bearable” being in the middle. This spectrum holds but based on the individual, many situations and actions can fall into different places on the spectrum deviating from general placements.
Just to give you some application of this makeshift model, I’ll put the three designated positions into real-world perspective. Let’s start with “barely acknowledgeable.” It’s the type of anger where you understand that you could become angry but you feel that it’s not worth the effort. We have all seen this version of wronging too often and we often barely acknowledge it.
Take for example midday on Times Square in New York. If one was walking in Times Square attempting to get to a destination it’s highly likely they could be bumped into while walking. More than likely, we’d simply continue to try and get to where we’re going. Now why would we choose to not address the fact that we had been bumped into? Speaking ethically, we would have been inconvenienced (and often a mere “excuse me” or “I’m sorry” will suffice) which justifies the ability to feel angry.
The reason, I believe, is because we take the time to notice that the inconvenience has occurred but we weigh that inconvenience against the factors of time and probable intent; we ask ourselves, “do I have the time to address this?” and “did they mean to do what they just did?” If the answer is “no” to both, we barely acknowledge that the event even occurred and we do this subconsciously and quickly.
Now let’s take this one step further; you have reached your destination. You are opening the door to walk in when another person bolts in front of you almost running into you and cutting you off. Now the situation has dwindled to a smaller more immediate setting. You have again been wronged because by all standards it was your turn to walk through the door.
You can choose to address this, follow the individual and sort it out or you can choose to ignore it. Most people would choose to ignore this simply because again, they weigh the factors. While in this scenario you might have more time to address what happened, you still might ask yourself if the action was on purpose. It might seem like it was but we also take in context clues to answer our own questions.
This person was walking rather fast and seemed hurried; is it probable to assume that they could have been late for something and in doing so, lost some sense of their surroundings? Yes, this scenario is quite probable. In both of the explained cases, we understand that if we were to get angry it should generally be “barely acknowledgeable.” We retain the right to be upset but we must ask ourselves if it’s worth it, and often that’s enough for our anger to simply vanish.
Next, let’s focus on the opposite end of the spectrum: “obviously intolerable.” This is the kind of anger where most people can acknowledge that this situation is almost unforgivable and retaliation is expected. This version of wrongdoing is rare to occur but when it happens it becomes obvious that it cannot be tolerated.
Take for example the awful act of murder. Most people will generally agree that murder is an awful thing and that it should be avoided at all costs if it can be helped. Now let’s say that one of your closest loved ones was murdered. It is an understatement that you would be enormously upset. We would expect you to want to seek justice against and/or revenge on the individual who killed your loved one. The anger would be almost uncontrollable, almost.
The fact that you still would have personal accountability for you anger, means that you can also reduce it in this situation. While it would take incredible self-control, you can allow the initial anger to subside as well as the anger post-resolution. Initially, you should compose yourself and understand that the act has happened and cannot be undone. You must cope with the reality of the situation. The anger will start to subside here as well and be overtaken by grief most likely; that would be a factor taken into account, along with time and probable intent.
Again, we start to ask ourselves if we have time to address the situation and if it was on purpose. We will more than likely make time to address this and we will assume the murder was on purpose and not by accident (typically because we want to be given a justified reason to keep feeling angry.)
After beginning to cope with the reality of the situation, we seek justice and/or vengeance and once we come face-to-face with the murderer we bring other context clues into account. We begin to understand if the murder was an accident or not as proven by forensic evidence and modus operandi; we understand if our loved one was entirely innocent or not; we understand the complexity of the situation. Then the verdict is given and regardless of the verdict, we can control how angry we want to feel about the situation afterward.
Let’s say the verdict is guilty; you will more than likely feel a heavy loss of anger because you feel redeemed for what has happened. The murderer got what they deserved and now you must continue forward. The goal would be to slowly forgive the murderer for what they did (but in no way would you ever forget what they’ve done.) This way, you reduce the anger even further.
Now let’s say the verdict were not guilty; you would probably feel an increase in anger because you still want justice for what has happened and for you emotional distress. However, you must also understand that once the court system picks up the murder case, the concern of final judgement is no longer in your hands. You must unfortunately accept the unfavorable verdict.
What you can do at this point is forgive the courts for disappointing you which will help the anger subside and/or (even more impressive) forgive the murderer anyway. There are levels to this as well; the situation could have become that someone was framed for something they didn’t do; it could have also become that the murderer got away with it. In either case, choosing to not be angry or at least letting some of the anger go, is healthy for yourself.
Lastly, let’s direct our attention to “annoying bearable” on the anger spectrum. This is the type of anger where the situation must be addressed as it is not easy to simply overlook yet we do not wish to get too overworked trying to handle it; i.e. “I need to fix this but I don’t want to make it any worse than it has to be.” This type of anger is encountered moderately to somewhat moderately and often times the situations that provoke this type of anger are ones that we try to be the most civil about.
Let’s use the example of a car accident. Assuming no one was injured, there are portions of accountability that must be handled by both parties. Each party must address the other, retrieve the insurance information and document the events of the accident. Still, the hardest part is trying not to bring up the fact that someone wasn’t paying attention or that someone made a silly mistake. That’s where we try to be civil about the situation.
We would repress our possible want to make it known that we are dissatisfied with the situation but, as it stands, it is a situation which must be handled; so we try not to make it any more annoying or painful than necessary. However, because this type of anger sits in the middle of the spectrum, it is at risk to lean towards one end or the other more often than balancing perfectly in the middle.
With delicate situations that qualify as “annoying bearable,” it’s important to realize that understanding the context of the situation can deeply affect how the situation will progress. If we decide to ignore the context clues, as well as the ones we ourselves are factually aware of, then it’s likely the situation will lean towards escalating. If we decide to account for our contexts, it’s more likely that the initial want to become angry will subside.
Finally, let’s focus on the third bullet point: Anger has never benefited anyone in the long run. If we honestly ask ourselves this question, most of us will say no. I say that all of us should say no in reaction. Think about it. When we have been angry, regardless of whether we erupted or simply simmered, it has not been healthy for us as individuals. When we become angry, we often lose some sense of civility and logic; such losses can lead to poor decisions.
In context where the anger source is another person, we may have chosen to be angry with them but if we did hurt them in the process then most often we regret it later. Even when we don’t hurt them and we control our anger, we often then wonder why we got so upset in the first place and become disappointed with ourselves (even if only for a brief moment.) In my experiences, I have never (when all was said and done) thought that I was assuredly glad to have been angry at some point in time. Never.
In life, we take moments to look back and meditate on our past; we also take time to meditate on the future. When looking at the past, we often think about moments in which we were at low points and realize how we have grown and become better human beings. We learn how to handle particular situations as well as learning how we act as individuals. We become more self-aware and spatially aware.
When looking at the future, we often ask questions of how things will be and if we shall fulfill our goals. We also sometimes acknowledge avoiding being a certain way too. With regards to anger, in the past we realize how minute everything really was; in the future, we try to prevent these situations from happening and act more civil when they do.
At the end of the day, anger is a naturally negative emotion. It is often used as a weapon against our adversaries but we sometimes regret getting angry, and in the grand scheme of things we realize that there’s no need to become as angry as we often do. At the end of the day, we are human and I don’t believe we will ever rid ourselves of our innate emotions, including anger. I don’t think that we should.
Emotions are a wonderful thing and so is anger. Although anger has a long history of negativity, it can be controlled. While I stated that it should never be used, I will say this: if we are to use anger, let us use it as an indicator that something is wrong and needs to be civilly addressed. It might not always be clear as to what is wrong but if we get angry then there probably is something wrong somewhere. That’s when it’s most important to set anger aside, and pick instead to be forgiving. A realization such as this is ground-breaking but an execution of this line of thinking is earth-shattering.
What are your thoughts on anger? Do you agree or disagree with my reasons? Leave your comments below. For although anger is an innate emotion, it will be quickly forgiven if spread among the comments.