“Anger is bad.” No.

8 Apr

Life is short, live it. …okay.

Love is rare, grab it. …eh, sure.

Anger is bad, dump it. No.

Absolutely, definitively no.

Anger is an emotion. A typically unpleasant emotion, but that does not make it a bad one. Pain is also unpleasant. Pain telling me that my hand is on something hot and will burn beyond repair unless I move it is pretty damn useful. I wouldn’t call that bad.

I also wouldn’t call the roaring, screaming indignation that rises to your throat in anger because you are being raped or mugged bad, either. That anger makes you fight back. That anger tells you that something is wrong, and you should fight for your life in response. I would not call the sick, hot refusal that makes people jump into a fray and push back the monster attacking a child or kicking a dog or berating their wife in public or tearing your friend to verbal shreds a bad thing, either. Dump the anger, and you dump the potential for action.

I would know. I too was taught that anger was bad. So when I was molested, my anger turned to shame. Stuck in a shitty, degrading home life, my anger turned inwards and I defended my sanity with sharp knives on my skin instead of sharp words at my parents about maybe finally fucking owning up and dealing with themselves. Because hey, anger was bad, right? But these slashes here, they weren’t anger. They were despair. Guilt. Repentance. Better to be sad than to be angry, right?

Better silent martyr than screaming monster. Forget that there might ever be a middle ground. There could be no middle ground. Speaking up meant talking about my anger and anger was bad. I needed to dump it. So I did. Straight into some scars.

Perhaps it would have been better if I’d just kept on being mad and went ahead and yelled. It’s usually easier for people to hear you that way.

Anger is what leads to court cases and criminal convictions. Anger is what makes people go on in the face of someone telling them they can’t. Anger knocks down, and anger gets back up.

Anger is an emotion. It is neither good nor bad. What you do with the anger, that’s where the value judgment lies. Action can be good. Action can be bad.

When there is nothing to change or salvage or address or fix, letting go of anger can be the correct call. Siphon it out as energy for something productive. Breathe and let it fade. But don’t just dump it into a rubbish bin and pretend that you’ve actually dealt with it at all. Anger exists for a reason. And dumping anger isn’t the same as getting rid of that reason.

Don’t put your anger in a dumpster if you still need it for something else.

Anger is not a bad thing. It what’s you do with it – or don’t do – that’s the issue.

Just ask my scars.

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One Response to ““Anger is bad.” No.”

  1. Morgan April 8, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

    As a person that is disturbingly good at silencing their negative emotions, I strongly agree with this sentiment. Trust me, I can make myself numb, I’ve done it before and its terrible. 5 years later you wake up realizing you’re in the wrong direction in life, no one knows you or trusts you, there’s no one to confide in because no one knows you as a person, you’ve learned nothing new, felt no powerful compelling positive emotions either, lost your creative spark and your drive to make change in the world. Maybe some people are ok with that sort of banal existence and accept it as a cost of becoming old and wise. FUCK. THAT. NOISE.

    I don’t want my Soma. Pain and anger and all sorts of uncomfortable emotions are fucking necessary to be a thinking, feeling, loving human being with drive and agency. The writer of the quote was probably just trying to be pithy, but I feel like it is an invocation for numb, comfortable polite … surrender.

    I love the exchange between John the Savage and the Controller at the end of Brave New World. I re-read it regularly as an exercise along with Marcus Aurelius, You Can’t Take it With You and the passages on self pity in “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates’.

    “But I like the inconveniences.”

    We don’t,” said the Controller. “We prefer to do things comfortably.”

    “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

    “In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

    “All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

    “Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.” There was a long silence.

    “I claim them all,” said the Savage at last.

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