There’s this debate about whether or not anger is a primary or secondary emotion.
I am not sure why it matters. Whether it stems from other emotions or is its very own emotion, it never helps us solve our human problems. Anger is dangerous precisely because of how we experience it. It makes us feel powerful, it makes us feel like we are in control. It makes us feel right.
The thing is, anger is rarely as justified as we like to think it is.
A vast majority of the time, when I am talking to someone about anger, we are really talking about fear and sadness and rejection and insecurity. We are often talking about a sense of entitlement born of selfishness. Many times we are talking about an encapsulated worldview that leaves no room for change or discussion, so anything that pushes against that is an automatic threat. It’s a difficult way to go through life.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that our anger is righteous and pure.
Let’s say we are Jesus in the temple, correcting an affront against God and the cosmic order. We are perfect and our rage is meant to purify the world. Sounds awesome, right?
The problem here is that these things do not make anger useful. I cannot think of a situation in which anger is more effective than a rational approach, or of a situation that cannot be solved without anger.
In fact, I cannot think of a situation that can be solved with anger.
I do not understand why I cannot stand against injustice without being angry at those perpetrating it.
I do not understand why I am not allowed to address something someone is doing to me without feeling rage toward them.
Of course, anger will arise, but why should I be expected to feed it with my thoughts?
Why should I pour gasoline on a fire in my living room?
For many of us, we wait until we are angry about something before addressing it because it makes us feel more powerful and capable, and then we wonder why it went poorly. We wait until our faculties of rationality, compassion and seeing where the other person is coming from are burned out, and then try to deal with things. How often does this work?
So, primary or secondary or tertiary or dead last, it doesn’t matter. Anger is rarely productive. Very, very rarely.
In what situation is anger better than a rational compassion?
What keeps us from addressing and confronting things with the best of our nature?
What has anger ever really solved for you?
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