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…”