The Importance of Being Angry
Jan 13, 2015
Source: Robert J. Burrowes, Guest Post
Unfortunately, in many circles, anger has a bad reputation. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that we are scared when people are angry at us, so we try to scare people, especially children, out of being angry. By doing this, we hope to escape responsibility for our dysfunctional behaviour.
Another reason that anger has a bad reputation is because it enables people to defend themselves against violence and other forms of abuse. But if we want obedient and hardworking students, reliable and pliant employees/soldiers and submissive law-abiding citizens, then we must terrorize people out of being angry. Social control is not easy with people who are powerful and you need your anger to be powerful.
A third reason that anger has a bad reputation is that anger is often confused with violence. But anger and violence are not the same thing. People who are violent are not angry; they are scared or, more accurately, terrified, and they use violence in a dysfunctional attempt to get what they need. See ‘Why Violence?’ http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’ http://anitamckone.wordpress.com/articles-2/fearless-and-fearful-psychology/
Anger is a vitally important evolutionary gift and without it we are perpetual victims. Anger has two primary evolutionary functions: to let us know when we are being threatened or attacked (whether by a more ‘subtle’ abuse or in an explicitly violent manner) while also giving us the power to respond effectively to this threat/attack.
The individual who is not afraid to be angry, will respond immediately, powerfully and, in virtually all cases, nonviolently to any threat or attack, warding off the attacking individual, for example, simply by clearly showing their anger (which is, of course, a clear defence in itself, and watching a snarling dog or wolf will readily convince you of the effectiveness of this form of defence).
In contrast, the individual who is afraid to be angry will either retreat inappropriately, use violence to ‘counter-attack’ (including in situations in which the ‘threat’ or ‘attack’ to which they are responding is actually an outcome of their own projection) or engage in vicarious and powerless acts of rebellion or interference.
What is a powerless act of rebellion? It is an act that is harmful to themselves, others and/or the Earth that is done in a way that allows the individual to either avoid responsibility (as would occur, for example, by dropping an item of rubbish, carrying out an act of vandalism or starting a wildfire where no one will see them) or to delude themselves that they will not be held accountable (as occurs, for example, when someone pretends that there is no connection between their unhealthy diet and their ill-health).
Similarly, an individual might engage in a powerless act of interference in the life of another as an unconscious manifestation of their suppressed anger. For example, if someone is angry because they feel that they are being forced to clean up after someone else, but this anger is fearfully suppressed and cannot be acted upon by raising and dealing with the conflict openly, then the person might half clean up but then leave all of the cleaning equipment in the way of the other person in an attempt to powerlessly ‘force’ that person to clean up after them.
More interestingly perhaps, an individual might engage in a powerless act of interference in their own life as an unconscious manifestation of their suppressed anger. How might they do this? And why? A person might get in their own way, for example, by being untidy, disorganised or by persisting in using dysfunctional equipment (rather than having it repaired). And they do this as an unconscious projection of one or both of their parents ‘getting in my way’ when they were a child. This ‘getting in my way’ usually occurs when the child is ‘held to account’ for making mistakes (that is, being inappropriately and unfairly treated as dysfunctional) but is not allowed to get angry about this unjust response to its ‘mistakes’. So, not allowed to get angry, the child (and later the adult) wants to ‘insist’ on doing what they want (dysfunctional or otherwise) because this represents them trying to learn to do things for themselves (and ‘getting away with’ making mistakes in doing so). Unfortunately, they are now trapped in this behaviour pattern because they cannot have the feelings, which are fearfully suppressed, that would allow them to restore more functional behaviour.
Finally, the individual whose anger is warped by both their own fear and pain, will probably act in a vindictive manner, trying to inflict unnecessary or excessive violence on the person who is threatening or attacking them (again, including in situations in which this threat/attack might simply be a projection from their own past).