Anger is one of the most common human emotions that every person is likely to feel at one point or another. People come to me looking for help with anger when it has become a significant obstacle in their lives. Many feel that anger is a negative emotion that results in people with anger issues being labeled as bad. So when potential clients reach out to me, all they want is to suppress anger. But that is not the approach I take.
In and of themselves, emotions are neither bad nor good; they just are, and anger is no exception. We can probably all agree that some expressions of anger are very appropriate. For example, if we saw someone bullying a child, torturing an animal, stealing from a homeless person, or hurting an elderly, we would likely react with anger. In fact, if someone reacted to such images positively or even neutrally, we might think that there was something wrong with that person. So anger has its place in human existence. It is possible that in some distant future, humanity as a species will no longer need to express anger, but at our current level of evolution, anger can be a reasonable emotional response, especially when it is directed toward injustice and cruelty.
So when does anger become a problem? It becomes a burden when it turns into a default response to much more than injustice and when it begins to rule the person within whom it resides. It might seem obvious, then, that to fix the problem, a person should simply suppress the emotion. After all, if you don’t get angry, then everything will be fine, but that’s where things get a little more complicated, or rather, that’s where the complication is revealed – anger itself is not the problem.
Two things are important to understand about anger. The first one is that it is not the cause of the problems; it is the mask that is put on the underlying issues. In other words, a person who responds with anger is not just an angry person. It is a person that may be dealing with a whole host of issues – the pain of abandonment, the fear of rejection, low self-esteem, a sense of disempowerment, and many others. None of these issues are about anger. However, when left unacknowledged and unhealed, they can erupt in anger like boils bursting on unhealthy skin.
Another thing to know about anger is that it is contagious and even intoxicating, like joy and laughter. It can be transmitted energetically and be absorbed even by people who may not have much internal impetus for anger on their own. Simply living near people that are often angry can increase one’s predisposition to anger. Anger also serves as fuel for those that “feed” on negative energy, and a person may find him or herself being unknowingly pumped for anger for the benefit of somebody else.
For these reasons, it is important to heal the underlying conditions and to learn to dissipate anger instead of suppressing it. All emotions are an invaluable part of human experience, and being skilled at navigating them is more satisfying than not experiencing them at all.