There are two sides to every coin and four sides to anger. Wait… what? That’s right; we challenge you to look within to embrace the other sides of anger.
As much as we fear anger, channeled well, it can be a catalyst for change. Both personally and societally.
Anger is an energy. A heat. And like any energy source—nuclear fission, volcano, fire—you can direct it into constructive ends or cause tragic destruction.
Most pop psychology tells you to overcome your anger as quickly as possible. But it seems to me that anger, like every aspect of ourselves, has important and unique lessons to teach us. And I share this intuition with a diverse group of thinkers and artists…
Here are some thoughtful quotes about anger than have shaped my thinking…
“If you try to get rid of fear and anger without knowing their meaning, they will grow stronger and return.” —Deepak Chopra
This is an update of Jung’s famous dictum, “that which you repress, will express” (I wonder if it rhymes as niftily in the original German). In short, if you tamp down your anger and don’t reveal what is bugging you, that anger will express as addiction, emotional abuse, depression, sleeplessness etc.
Therefore, think of anger as a messenger of what Chopra calls “meaning.”
Now this is where it gets interesting. The meanings you discover will likely say something about the object of your anger, but when you go deep enough, and expand your vision and heart enough, you will learn far more valuable lessons about your expectations, your constrictions, your fears, your insecurities, your childhood hopes and your adult sadness. In my company, we use simple processes that help you track the path back to these primal fears and hurts.
Listen patiently to the messages anger gives you, especially as the feeling of anger begins to dissipate, and you can come from a more peaceful and vulnerable heart.
“Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” —Malcolm X
Righteous anger is as old as the Hebrew prophets. Injustice and iniquity drove them to powerful tirades and warnings—as well as promises of blessings should justice be done.
Anger over slavery led to its abolition. Anger boiled over at Stonewall in the 70s leading to greater civil rights and respect for gay and lesbian people.
And while anger can lead to social change, a Harvard Decision Science Lab study found that people who are experiencing anger have a pronounced sense of control over their future and are more motivated to bypass blocks, move out of their comfort zones, and take action on the personal level as well.
Again, it’s simply a choice of how you want to channel that anger. You could just punch someone you disagree with, or you could create the social change to make their odious opinion toothless.
Anger Burns From Within
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.“ —Mark Twain
Sigmund Freud was one of the first to say that unprocessed anger turned inward was a root cause of depression. And it’s easy to understand.
We’ve all been treated unfairly or unkindly at one time or another, but if we carry around that grumbling, pit-of-the-stomach tightness, if we are the ones running revenge fantasies or triumphant tirades of wrath to pour upon those who have offended us, who is really suffering?
There is the famous story of the former prisoner of war who returns to the country where he had been jailed so cruelly in order to help rebuild. When challenged on why he wasn’t full of hate and anger at the people of that land, he said, “if I was, I would still be imprisoned.”
Anger is a prison whose walls and bars we build every moment we sustain our fury.
Those who make the decision to be in control of every aspect of their lives in which they have control tend to be the most positive, happy people.
Those who choose (consciously or not) to retain the position of victim of life’s circumstances tend to spiral down into depression, cynicism and a persistent low-boil of anger, from which they never learn anything
Anger Masks Your True Self
“In my experience, anger and frustration are the result of you not being authentic somewhere in your life or with someone in your life. Being fake about anything creates a block inside of you. Life can’t work for you if you don’t show up as you.” —Jason Mraz
We usually think we grow angry because of what someone else has done to us, but our internal water also boils when we don’t express our true feelings, our true desires, our true selves.
We allow our social masks and our fears of speaking up to control what comes out of our mouths. And what happens? Well, what happens when you put a cork in the spout of a boiling teapot?
One mark of a healthy adult who is in healthy relationships is the ability to express your needs and desires cleanly and clearly. And it’s not always “the other guy’s” fault.
A common mistake in intimate relationships, for example, is expecting your lover to know what you are feeling (“because if you truly loved me, you would know what I am feeling). And because your partner is not a mind-reader, you then make up a story that he or she doesn’t care about you, doesn’t actually love you, is hostile to you, or is a sociopath.
And so, because YOU didn’t express your needs cleanly and clearly, you grow angry.
If you ever wanted to figure out a way to drive away people in your life, being this kind of inauthentic, closed-mouthed victim-in-waiting is a surefire tactic.
In this case, anger caused by another person’s “sin of omission” may be a signal to you that your courage needs some fuel. And, as often happens, once the anger is released, new understanding and clarity is born.
Anger. Bottle it up or shotgun it out carelessly, and you’ll destroy yourself and your relationships. But engage with it, listen to it, and you’ll discover new horizons, new understandings, new capabilities and new love—for yourself and others.
About the Author
Best Selling Author, Emmy-Nominated Producer, Screenwriter and Entrepreneur, Adam Gilad leads a community of over 80,000 men and women on their quest to create love and a bold, inspired life. Having served as a Stanford Humanities Center Graduate Research Fellow and host of National Lampoon Radio, Adam blends a bracing mix of research, humor and global wisdom traditions to help men and women break through the habits blocking their ability to open into love and freedom. He’s a regular contributor to Vixen Daily in the Personal Development and Inspiration section.