The current culture of anger is deeply disturbing to me. Granted anger is a natural human emotion, a signal that something is awry. However, it is both seductive and deceptive, creating the illusion of being in control when we are actually out of control. Like wild animals with features that exaggerate their size when threatened, we feel bigger and tougher when we are angry.
Anger is actually a secondary emotion, meaning that another feeling was experienced first, sometimes for only an instant. Feelings that typically precede anger include fear, distress, disappointment, embarrassment, guilt, inadequacy, insecurity, or even fatigue or hunger. The common factor shared by these emotions is the sense of vulnerability they produce. Vulnerability makes us uncomfortable, so we revert to anger because we feel more powerful. Therefore, anger arises from a sense of deficiency, surfacing when we are operating from a real or perceived deficit. The deficit may exist in any number of areas from time, knowledge, ability, or confidence, to appreciation or love. Anger is the mask of certainty we put on in the midst of a crisis of self doubt.
Sometimes anger becomes so automatic, it appears to be instantaneous, seemingly bypassing the original emotion altogether. Like any habit, it becomes an unconscious choice, but a choice nevertheless. As a defense mechanism, anger protects us from feelings we would rather deny. It prevents us from taking responsibility for and dealing with our true feelings, allowing us to direct the energy from those uncomfortable feelings outward, against others. We transfer the responsibility for our anger to the other person or group and justify our actions with the self-serving logic that since it’s their fault we are angry, they deserve whatever we dish out.
As a destructive force, anger erodes relationships and precludes change. Conversation, sabotaged by anger, quickly deteriorates into insults, accusations, and threats, lending to hostility – even violence. Words spoken and measures taken in anger eventually lead to regret, in the presence of a healthy conscience. Wisdom would encourage us to examine the question, “Why are we so angry?,” prior to opening our mouth or taking action. Advice worthy of deliberation considering it only takes a ‘d’ to turn anger into danger.