Should We Never Get Angry?
Part 2: Misconceived Misconceptions About New Ageism
2) Never Get Angry
Many people have adopted the notion that anger is something to overcome or shut out completely. They categorize anger into the “negative” basket, and instead promote replacing it with feelings of peace, love and light. The danger in this is it creates apathy and passivity to the injustices happening in our world today.
CORRECTION: We have a moral guidance system for a reason. For example, watching an innocent person be tortured, or seeing animals being abused will naturally evoke anger in a morally sound individual. This anger is not to be mistaken for something that needs to be shut out, but something that should be channeled productively. Righteous indignation, a form of anger when one senses injustice— can be a major motivation to create positive change in the world and should not be condemned or suppressed.
Once again, the author takes an outside in approach to her personal philosophy and her view on spirituality rather than an inside-out approach. What I mean by that is, attempting to fix the outside world before you’ve addressed your internal world, or making the assumption that fixing the outside world will someone alleviate internal turmoil for yourself and others.
The problem with this is that it does not take into account the fact that all external conflict arises from internal conflict. This sort of stance generally results from a need to attempt to control the world around you because you can’t control the emotions within you.
As with all negative emotions, anger serves a purpose. It alerts you to the fact that there is something within you that requires your attention. This is why negative emotions shouldn’t be suppressed or ignored. You’ll never be able to alleviate anger entirely, but you can learn to handle it productively and let it go.
“The danger in this is it creates apathy and passivity to the injustices happening in our world today.”
I read another article the other day about the duality within the conscious community, and this statement in particular came up under one of those two stereotypical sides. It’s also a common one that I hear people throw back at me often in discussions about letting go of attachment and suffering, and particularly when I assert that suffering is self-chosen. (note that pain is different than suffering)
I think it’s quite hasty to assume that just because someone is not angry that they must automatically be apathetic and passive to the plight of others. There are a multitude of emotions that one can express that are far more constructive than anger in reaction to people’s suffering. Care. Concern. Empathy. Sympathy. Emotions that are based in love.
You don’t need to be angry to make a difference in the world.
We have a moral guidance system for a reason. For example, watching an innocent person be tortured, or seeing animals being abused will naturally evoke anger in a morally sound individual.
Once again, I question this. Emotional reactions of anger are not directly tied to moral values. Anger arises when a deeply engrained aspect of one’s identity is challenged. Your morals, in some cases, become those deeply ingrained aspects. You are angry because what you are observing is challenging your identity and you are reacting in a defensive manner rather than observing the reaction and seeking it’s source within.
I volunteered in animal rescue in one of the most poverty stricken cities in the country (East St. Louis, IL) for six years. I saw horrible things done to innocent animals, but anger was never in the equation. It certainly was for many other people and outrage seems to be a commonality among people in the animal rescue community. It mobilizes people, certainly, but it isn’t necessary to enact change.
I was the Vice President of the Board of Directors for my rescue as well as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations. We made the decision four years ago to focus on the positive side of animal rescue – the happy endings – and forgo the gory sad images that so many other organizations deluge the public with on a daily basis. We found great success with it and were able to enact sweeping changes in the community we served. I’m on the Advisory Board now, and we’re still rolling forward in a positive manner.
Having worked in that organization for so long, I also got to see how our group operated in comparison to those organizations who did focus on the negative aspects. The difference is astounding. One one hand, our organization was, for the most part, stable, warm, filled people with hope and happiness. The ones that focused on the negative were drowning in drama, suffered from volunteer burnout and turnover, burned bridges with supporters left and right (and they usually found their way to us) and were generally dysfunctional and swirling with controversy, regardless of how much money in donations the negative imagery and attitude generated.
In fact, it was Best Friends Animal Society – one of the largest animal welfare organizations in the country – who encouraged our organization to focus on the positive. It’s their own philosophy and obviously it has worked wonderfully for them.
In addition, part of our organization’s mission was to work with the community we served instead of against it. If anger were our primary motivator, we’d only focus on punishing animal abusers after the fact rather than using community education efforts to attempt to prevent it from ever happening in the first place.
Anger can certainly be useful and it can be channeled to create change, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy to hang onto. And just because you keep a cool head doesn’t mean you’re apathetic.
My first reaction to the reading was WOW. Your words captured a theme woven into my life right now. The reading has emboldened me to take back my power and inspired me to research some books, get back to meditating and provided a focus.Dina