The Benefits of Anger
By Stephanie Miller
I’ve been kind of angry for a while now.
I notice when it I go to the grocery store and I can’t find a parking space. I notice it when my husband puts the dishes in the sink instead of the dishwasher. I notice it when I don’t like what I hear on the news. The past few weeks have seen many expressions of anger all across the political spectrum.
It got me thinking about anger and what to do about it.
Clearing Out Space
Instead of talking about getting rid of anger I want to outline some of the benefits. Anger is often seen as destructive, but sometimes destruction is necessary. Many spiritual traditions have a deity that is both creator and destroyer. I think the reason for this is that sometimes the spaceneeds to be cleared before the new thing can bloom. When we garden we clear out the beds and get rid of all the weeds. When we renovate we demolish the old buildings to make room for the new building. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Rocket Fuel for Action
Moving beyond the destructive power of anger it also provides a tremendous amount of energy. Often, especially in our culture, this anger is applied to aggression. When someone gets mad often the first instinct is to punch someone, but that same energy could be applied to action. When I’m mad that my husband didn’t put the dishes in the dishwasher I can use the burst of adrenaline to load the dishwasher in record time, instead of using it to yell at him.
Cleansing and Clarifying
One of the teachings about anger within my spiritual discipline is that anger provides clarity. I distinctly remember getting very angry at one of my teachers, but because we were on a retreat I couldn’t do anything about it. I just had to sit with the anger. After a few moments of sitting, not taking any action, I had a sudden epiphany about the way our relationship worked and what I needed to change. I’m not sure I ever would have made the leap without this burst of anger. In this way, anger can have a tremendous cleansing effect. Like jumping into a mountain stream you come out feeling clean.
This is not to suggest that you try to generate or nurture anger, but when you find it coming up try noticing its beneficial properties.
I don’t want to finish this without offering some help in addressing your anger so I thought I’d share this article by Pema Chödrön