I’ve never really understood anger, it’s not something I experience often. I’ll get aggressive or competitive, but it’s more like a kid playing dress up, it’s experimental rather than earnest. Most of the time when I’m feeling anger or I’m dealing with people who are angry it feels like a joke to me. Feigning or hyperbolizing anger is a way I make myself laugh when I have a headache or I’m in a stressful situation, but it’s not real. It seems silly to get so upset about something when getting upset is so counterproductive to whatever it is that will get you un-upset.
My biggest problem with anger is that it gets in the way of discussing political and cultural issues, or solving relationship problems. There are so many topics that are intellectually interesting and worthy of conversation but you can’t talk about them because people’s instantaneous backlash is “of course we know what the answer to this is, how dare you even ask?” But, it’s always good to question accepted norms, and simply entertaining a thought says nothing about whether or not you even accept it.
There’s a Thomas Merton quote I love, and think about whenever I find myself getting upset about something:“The arguments of religious men are so often insecure, and their insecurity is proportionate to their anger. Why do we get angry about what we believe? Because we do not really believe it. Or else we pretend to be defending as the “truth” is really our own self-esteem. A man of sincerity is less interested in defending the truth than in stating it clearly, for he thinks that if the truth be clearly seen it can very well take care of itself.” People like to isolate religious people for this, but it applies to every person who gets angry in an argument. Your anger is masking an insecurity that you might not know for certain you’re right. No one gets angry about gravity, because it’s a fact, not something to attach insecurity to.
Unlike other emotions, anger doesn’t accomplish anything in an of itself. Sadness is an emotion that you can feel a catharsis through, but embracing anger only makes you more angry. Being angry at another person is like drinking poison for your mental health, but it doesn’t hurt the person you’d like it to hurt at all. You are the only victim of your anger.
I think human reactions are all valuable, because we aren’t just thinking creatures, we are also made up of bodies and emotions and experiences. But I think the value in feeling angry is that it alerts us to something we feel insecure about. It’s a call to stop and question, not to allow yourself to be propelled further away from conversation.