The Purpose of Anger
Let’s talk anger for a minute.
Most of the time, I’m a laid back gal. Nothing bothers me much, and when it does, I stop and take a few breaths while the anger passes. So, traffic? Not a problem.
The problem occurs when I cross over into real anger mode. When I feel the internal heat skyrocket. When I can’t sleep because of the atomic bomb in my gut. This kind of anger doesn’t happen often for me, but when it does, I have trouble moving through it easily.
My Mom used to tell my sisters and me that our anger was good, but we couldn’t run around sharing it with everybody like a bad virus. We had to take care of it first, and the tool that worked for me as a kid was punching pillows or throwing rocks outside, which felt good and then quickly ridiculous.
As I grew up, I found I didn’t need the pillow or rocks anymore. I could move through anger pretty quickly. That is, until now, when election results are setting off the atomic bomb in my gut.
First of all, I agree with my Mom and author Karla McLaren (Language of Emotions) that all emotions are true and necessary. Anger has a purpose. It isn’t something to be ignored nor is it something to spread around. Karla McLaren explains that if you repress anger, you endanger people around you. You create a passive boundary and enmesh with everyone else. Your lack of protection and instability leads to depression or anxiety because you loose your sense of distinction and clarity. If you rage when you feel anger (explode), you create fear around you and degrade the stability of everyone else. Neither choice allows anger to move naturally.
But, healthy, naturally free flowing anger sets your boundaries and protects you, those you love and your environment. Healthy anger protects you like a noble guard. It also swings out whenever you see injustice or cruelty. It doesn’t want others to be hurt.
So, feeling anger, in a way, acknowledges the fact that you’ve come upon something deeply important to you. “Healthy anger is one of the most decisive and self-defining emotions you have. It exists to protect you, your moral structure, and the people around you, “ says Karla. “If your boundaries are broken… anger roars forward to restore your sense of strength and separateness. The questions for anger are: what must be protected? And what must be restored?”
Naturally flowing anger moves quickly to laughter and compassion, like the pillow or rock throwing episodes from my youth. Free flowing anger sets your boundaries from a place of inner strength and honorable self-definition. It awakens you to a clear sense of your boundary so you can honor boundaries and individuality in others. You can focus on yourself. You can speak, act, protect, and restore honorably. And then move on.
If you can’t or don’t express healthy anger, problems occur. From Karla again- “This is a crucial point- when people are allowed to offend against you without consequence (though this may seem to be a compassionate way to deal with improper behavior), they will be just as damaged by the exchange as you are. Certainly, your own boundary and dignity will be injured in the attack, but if you do nothing – if you say nothing – you’ll also ensure your attacker’s descent into abusiveness and isolation by refusing to honor the conflict that has presented itself for healing. If you refuse to engage with people when they behave inappropriately; you dishonor them and the relationship. When you repress your anger, you degrade your own sense of boundaries and honor, certainly, but you also disrespect your opponent and ignore the uncomfortable truth of the situation. This has a devastating effect, because when you refuse to address your genuine emotions, you invite discord and deception into each of your relationships and every area of your life.”
So what is it about this election that has me so mad? What is presenting itself for healing here? What needs to be protected? What needs to be restored?
I see in Trump a bully, a cheat, and a liar. To be sure, old unhealed junk floats around in my head and still pisses me off. Trump’s comments about women remind me of every time I’ve been touched inappropriately. I’ve been overpowered by men. I’ve been tackled playfully and had fingers inserted into my mouth against my will. I’ve shown an acquaintance where my back hurts, only to have him grab my pussy instead. Yes, really. I’ve been rated by my looks. I’ve been called unattractive and old by a man I loved.
Each time, the surprise of the experience and the speed with which the attacker left, allowed me no time to respond with anything other than shock. But now, anger rises to the surface. Something must be protected and restored. Anger is giving me the strength to stand up for myself when I couldn’t before. Anger is giving me the power to uphold a clear boundary that’s been overstepped in the past. Anger is giving me the passion to volunteer with refugees, the compassion to meet with hospice patients, the fight to call someone out on their bad behavior the minute I see it.
Anger is bringing back my sass, as they say in TX. Not only do I feel an intense need to protect myself better, but it extends outward. Vulnerable people and environments need protection, and I aim to do something this time rather than sit in shock. THAT is what anger is for.