The Gift of Anger

Anger is fiery and impulsive. It is as reliable as the sun, and it is powerful and insistent in its readiness to come to the rescue in moments of discord. When used to deflect and blame, it results in aggression. When properly acknowledged and recognized for what it is, it becomes a loyal friend.

A man and a woman stood facing one other in front of a subway turnstile, one exiting, one entering. Neither moved to let the other pass. Finally, the man forced his way through, pushing the woman aside and muttering angrily to her and to himself.

The man had a choice: respond with attack, or breathe and allow his pain to show him the truth. He could have said, “What is this anger trying to tell me?” He could have traversed the path of his emotional experience straight to the parts of himself that he has ignored for so long. He could have healed a little piece of the wound, for the benefit of all. Had he refused to submit to the delusion of blame, he could have extended forgiveness to the woman by proxy, because he would know that she is not responsible for his anger, that it had been present within him all along, waiting to be heard and healed through acceptance, self-love and compassion.

The man didn't make this choice. He didn't even know he had one. He believed that his conditioning, centered on blame and a system of demerits, was the only way.

As children, we are discouraged from expressing any emotion that adults deem to be intolerable. To our innocent minds, this creates the impression that an enormous part of who we are does not matter. We carry this belief into adulthood. We remain limited in our expression and circumspection, and very quick to blame and deflect. We keep lists of offenses and punish those we purport to love; we hold others accountable for our reactions to things; we exile one another for behavior we judge to be unsuitable. We use attack to mask our fear.

This fear is deep, and heavy. It is dense, and it feels impenetrable. It is the fear of piercing our core wound, which contains in our subconscious mind all of our unprocessed pain. It is the fear of the emotional fallout of the lesion left behind. It is the fear that, finally, our worthlessness has been exposed. It is the fear of the vulnerability that exposure portends. It is the fear of others seeing who we really are. It is the fear of being left alone to die.

Because we were taught that certain feelings are taboo, when this fear is triggered we become angry and possessed by the need to deflect; we do so by attacking. We believe that, by attacking, we are proving our worth. This is misguided and untrue. We attack in order to prove our worthlessness before another can prove it for us. We attack in order to diminish one another in the face of our own shame.

If we open our hearts to compassion and non-judgement, we will see that, when, in our anger, we attack, we are actually blaming others for our fear. We will learn to adjust our thinking and dispel our delusional beliefs about ourselves by breathing through our pain rather than throwing it at others and asking them to apologize for it. We will learn to take responsibility for our feelings, and we will become familiar with the beauty they reveal. We will learn to recognize the divine perfection that makes itself known through the healthy processing of emotion. We will heal.

Anger is the alarm system that extinguishes the fire of delusion. It introduces us to who we really are underneath all our fear. It shows us the truth. It teaches us that momentary pain does not have to determine who we love. It teaches us to love ourselves, and everyone else as well.

Until now, we have lived under the illusion that the past dictates the present, and that aggression is the answer to pain. The good news is that we are entering an age of transformation. We are entering an age in which love, not cynicism, is the central tenet of humanity. We are entering an age in which the answer to pain is not aggression, but rather the absolute acceptance of the self in every given moment.