“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” -Buddha
Anger is an interesting emotion, because it’s actually what’s referred to as a “derivative emotion,” meaning it is a response that’s derived from another emotion. For example, if we get angry that someone stood us up for dinner, the anger is our response to some other feeling, perhaps sadness, inadequacy, anxiety or frustration, and it is there to protect us from whatever that more vulnerable deeper emotion is. Dealing with anger is rarely as simple as many make it out to be.
In order to address anger, it is essential to peek beneath its tough exterior to the more fragile, underlying emotions. There is a wonderful saying “you cannot heal what you cannot feel.” It often takes work and a lot of kindness to ourselves, but over time we can get to these deeper emotions, and accept that these emotions are totally acceptable to have. While being careful not to generalize, we recognize that men often have an image thrust upon them that showing sadness or hurt isn’t “manly” and may express anger as a way to cover up, and transmute, their sadness into anger.
Moreover, for everyone, the part of us that gets angry is not a part we should shame. Self-talk like “I hate myself for getting so angry” or “I’m not a good person because I get angry” is not helpful, and often can block real healing and lasting change. As much as it may not seem like it at times, the part of us that gets angry is a part that we should accept and love just as much as any other part of us – after all, anger is just a response we have developed that is looking out for us and trying to protect us from those deeper feelings. That said, an important distinction is that while accepting and loving this part of us is healthy, we absolutely do not need to act upon what those feelings of anger compel us to do. Just like other strong feelings and impulses, we should not only accept them and feel them fully (as opposed to ignoring or shoving them down), but also recognize that experiencing feelings and acting upon feelings are very different.
Learning to accept our anger, yet not act upon it, is a wonderful tool for living a better life.