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Musings on Anger September 15, 2008

Posted by Beth in Miscellaneous Musings.

This post was inspired by a friend’s post. Ripples in the pond.


Anger intrigues me. I too get uncomfortable around anger, both my own and that of other people.  It makes me anxious and defensive, which all too often puts me into an attack mode.


I have a psychologist friend who once gave a lecture on anger.  She described people as falling into one of three categories (in regards to anger):  anger avoiders, the chronically angry, and the relatively healthy.  I probably fall into the first category. Intellectually, I know anger has an important roll in clueing me in to important value judgments, but it is hard to stay with it long enough to work through what is going on.


I think anger is the emotion we feel when we conclude there is an injustice.   To deny or avoid anger is to deny or avoid the fact that I (or whoever is angry) has made that judgment. Not that we are always aware of having done so…in fact, most of the time it is only implicit. It the heat of the moment, it is hard to stop and reflect, asking, what is the perceived injustice?  Is that a valid conclusion? Why or why not?


We are so emotionally illiterate. That’s not quite the right word, but what I mean is that so few of us are able to “read” emotions and use them as entries to better understanding.  We just take them at face value.  They are what they are and that’s it.


Instead, each emotion arises from a conclusion.  It could be made subconsciously or consciously, correctly of incorrectly, but somewhere in our thinking we have made a judgment. We interpret a set of facts and react to them based on what we hold as values. What we experience is an emotion. It’s how our values take on life and become real for us. Happiness: I have gained a value. Sadness: I have lost one. Anger: there is an injustice done to me. Fear: I am in danger.


Since the conclusions giving rise to the feelings are drawn below our level of awareness, it takes an effort to understand their full meaning.  Do I have the facts right? Are the values I am holding healthy and life-promoting? The more we can make the implicit explicit, and not just take the feelings as “truth,” the better equipped we will be to deal with what is actually happening, the more in tune our feelings will be with reality.


I am thinking as I write, but, I wonder if it is anger itself which is so frightening and intimidating, or if it is primarily when the anger is accompanied by hostility. By hostility, I mean that there is an aggressiveness accompanying the anger, a sense that whoever is angry at us also wants to hurt us.


Anger does mean a negative judgment is being made, but it doesn’t always have to be an attack—or if it is an attack, separating out the anger from the hostility may help diffuse the situation.  If we could just see it as a clue to the fact that the angry person feels as though an injustice has occurred, and then take the time to ask ourselves or whoever is angry at us:  what is the injustice here? Do facts support that conclusion? Yes or no, where do we proceed from here?

The better we are at getting to the real issues at stake, the more effective we will be in our decisions and actions.  We can’t always successfully engage another person in the process, and certainly not when feelings are hot. But, I think this kind of reflection is helpful.  Now if I can only remember to do it!!!


1. A Serious Attempt at Fun - September 18, 2008

I suppose I could help “that person” understand the conclusion behind his anger. But that is scary and some folks don’t want to go there.

I’m not the one who is angry. I’m just freaked.

2. LB - October 6, 2008

There are some important ideas in this post.

As with fear, I like to embrace my anger. It does come from somewhere and if I don’t immediately understand it, I try to get down the bottom of it. This is particularly important to me as the mother of two daughters (and one son) because I don’t want them to cower in the face of blowhard bullies who use their anger to instill fear and manipulate people. I want my children to be able to understand that anger is perfectly acceptable as an emotion, but never as an agent of action.

I’m enjoying your blog and I, too, love Robert Krampf.

3. haynesbe - October 8, 2008


Thank you for your comment. Somehow I didn’t get an email that I needed to manage this comment so it took a few days to approve it. I checked out your site (3 Ring Binder) and plan to get back to it some more. Looks really interesting!! I hope you have also checked out may econ site: Wealth is not the Problem. It’s linked to in my sidebar.
Leave lots of comments. It’s nice to know someone’s out there reading.

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