vegetative world does not experience anger. It is strictly
passive, subject to the whims of nature, and appetites and
manipulations of all higher orders of species -- in particular
the ever growing society of the incurably disillusioned (generation
Zen) for whom being at one with the universe is the end of
human striving, who consider anger a learned, i.e., culturally
transmitted emotion that must be unlearned in order to reach
a higher state of being, anger is in fact a vital evolutionary
mechanism without which Homo sapiens would be Homo sapiens
we deal with anger varies from culture to culture, but given
the suddenness of its appearance and its immediate numbing
effect on rational thinking and discourse, the customs and
laws of every land make provisions on how to deal with it
especially when it impinges on the rights of others.
emotion of anger, in and of itself, is a summons to act, to
intervene, to assert, to correct. As such, it is servant to
both good and bad ends.
emotion is pure DNA, and draws its first breath not long after
the newborn exits the womb and begins to cry as its sole means
of drawing attention to its immediate needs and appetites.
Child is the Father of the Man," are Wordsworth repeating.
Certain aspect of human nature can be tamed -- caged, if you
will -- but anger is its own command center and servant. Anger
management experts maintain that the average adult gets angry
fifteen times per day. (About which some wag has quipped:
Happily married couples 20 times per day)
that the emotion is innate, we ask: What is its evolutionary
purpose? How does it serve the species? What kind of species
would we be without it?
almost without exception, erupts when an expectation or outcome
doesn't materialize: a friend doesn’t show up for a
planned get-together, I drop and smash a valuable crystal
flower vase, an expected salary increase doesn't come through.
Since we cannot be content or happy while experiencing anger,
the emotion begs to be diffused, and we are richly rewarded
upon success: neural transmitters release either one or a
combination of serotonin, endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin
(the love hormone) into the brain. When anger takes over the
mind, the transmission is disrupted.
nature intends, our unmediated response to anger, that incubus-like
invades both mind and body, is to get rid of it; and that
is mostly done though precise and deliberate action or inaction.
I happily snuff out the life of the mosquito whose proboscis
has pierced a blood vessel; I arrange for a faster Internet
connection; overcome with self-loathing, I decide to learn
a trade to better provide for my family.
a musician frustrated over a sequence of notes or a writer
struggling to get a sentence right, as a measure of the time
-- human capital -- we devote to working through and processing
our anger, what we value in life is made more explicit, and
that includes the many angers we rightfully refuse to incorporate
into our vital labours.
are two general categories of anger: directed at ourselves
or at the persons or situations that trigger it.
philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche writes in Thus Spake Zarathustra:
"The Superman despises himself the most." Without
self-directed anger there can be no self-improvement. Self-directed
anger, like the poorly understood emotion of envy, invites
us to recognize a superiority or advantage we wish to make
our own. Nietzsche understood that if we like ourselves as
we are, we will remain as we are. If I'm content with my poor
understanding of a second language I am trying to learn, my
language skills won't improve. After feeling marginalized
in a discussion on a subject about which my understanding
is limited, my anger, self-directed, creates the conditions
that encourage me to become better informed, and at the same
time better integrated into the group discussion, thereby
fulfilling an important social need.
we all can be better than what we are, nature encourages us
to exploit the readily available emotion of anger -- our dissatisfaction
with ourselves and/or the world as it turns -- to get us there.
at the world, at the way things are, motivates us to change
the world, where the change often results in a collective
diffusing of anger. I am angry that the lights on a major
thoroughfare are not synchronized such that during rush hour
500 cars are forced to stop at every light, causing unnecessary
vehicular wear and further polluting the air. Recognizing
that it is in everyone's interest that I defuse the anger,
I decide to enter my upset into the public domain through
social networking, while gathering a sufficient number signatures
that will, in theory, eventually grant me -- or the collective
-- an audience with the persons responsible for municipal
transport, who, after reviewing the content of the protest,
decide that it is indeed in the best interest of the electorate
and public perception of the political party effecting the
change that the lights be synchronized. So a citizenry, angered
at the way things are, and having acted upon its anger, is
rewarded. Anger, properly understood and channeled, results
in betterment, improvement and advancement over the way things
as we all know there are many situations in life that are
out of our control, but over which we nonetheless get angry.
To mention one of global reach: rush hour traffic that advances
slower than glue oozing out of tube. Without a control mechanism,
anger tends to inwardly seethe (implode) or morph into resentment
or irrational behaviour that can turn violent. If allowed
to smoulder indefinitely, it can take hold of both body and
mind like a set of clenched jaws that won't let go.
does a mother manage her anger towards the drunk driver who
has killed her child, or the laws of the land that reward
the driver with a suspended sentence? What is to be done about
the anger caused by a weather-ruined vacation, or the anger-envy
we hold against those who are more successful or talented
than ourselves? The only pragmatic response to anger that
cannot be defused is to submit the emotion to our faculties
of reason, whose mandate will be to convince to us to let
it go and move on. As someone once said, the three most important
words in a relationship are not "I love you," but
"let it go." Part of the maturation process that
occurs during the course of a lifetime is training the mind
to overrule our raw emotions when reason demonstrates the
futility of surrendering to them.
to those who insist that anger is not innate but a cultural
acquisition, and who claim they no longer experience anger,
they have, by choice, taken on the likeness of the invertebrate
vegetative world. They have convinced themselves that abject
passivity is the end goal of personal development, and accept
things the way they are, however unjust or self-demeaning.
They conveniently confuse emotional paralysis for higher being
and usually end up being the fodder for someone else's cause
or ambition or disposition to abuse. Wholly lacking in volition,
in ego, they aspire to non-being, and en masse they resemble
a procession of the walking-dead. Cults and evil thrive on
their kind. They are the raw material the powerful prey upon:
the pawns, the foot-soldiers in ready service of another's
grand design. In pursuit of a sham serenity, they void themselves
of their values, their dignity and self-respect. And after
having disburdened themselves of all responsibility towards
themselves, they are the last to suspect they have become
the poster people of a nihilism whose endgame is the devaluation
of all value. When they look into the mirror they see the
back of their heads and instead of getting angry at what they
see they reach for their combs.
is first and foremost the species-specific refusal to accept
things the way they are. Anger is the opening gambit in the
quest for transcendence. Every civilizational advancement
is predicated on anger, a critique of the world as it is.
When we lose someone in their prime due to incurable illness,
our anger becomes the catalyst to finding a cure.
is the 'ways and means' by which we address all that is wrong
with the way things are with you and me and the world we have