The Value of Controlling and Using Anger

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

(Emoticon courtesy of Link3Kokiri on DeviantArt)

Anger is an emotion that I have lived with forever, and many times I have felt consumed by it. When I fail to complete a small task or end up late at a meeting, I feel the anger reflected inward towards myself. When I view injustice towards women, Muslims, and other groups, I feel a sort of unfocused anger outwards to the world.

The first type of anger, I have worked to control for many years and in the process have stifled the second type of anger, the outward kind. Recently, however, I’ve heard a new perspective on outward-directed anger: that it can be utilized for social change and need not be stifled, just directed.

I resisted that message at first – isn’t that just a way to play on peoples’ emotions in order to get them to do something? But I thought about it again. I thought about how anger and emotions drive our decisions already, and how blunting those emotions can often lead to harm towards ourselves and others. Somehow, using anger as a method of social change seemed like a better outlet than keeping it to oneself and finding a negative perspective on the world at large.

I thought about that message in another way too. How does it affect the anger that we have towards ourselves? In yoga, I have learned that the center of all negative emotions is fear. We hate because we fear, we have anger because we fear. Sitting with that fear is a vulnerable position and we often dislike that space. Inward anger allows us to ignore the fears we have and enmesh it in other complex emotions. Outward anger, however, generates blame or negativity towards an external place. In some ways, it can be considered the same: we create negative emotions because of an unacknowledged fear. But outward anger is also a way of projecting our inward anger onto something/someone else.

While I do not suggest that we should spread more hate into the world through blaming other people for all of our problems, I do believe that identifying and reacting to the cause of those problems is justified. Namely, I feel it is justified when you argue for change in an institution, rather than from a specific person. Rallying against the beauty industry for presenting you an unrealistic ideal or contradicting the status quo on gender because you don’t fit either box is a perfectly understandable reaction to systems that bind us.

We can use anger to heal. If we simultaneously acknowledge what we fear and use our outward anger to change them, then greater value is created.

Want to read more of my opinions? Check out my pieces on discrimination and feminism.