We all have difficulties being around certain emotions – and it’s usually the strong ones. For some, watching people cry is to heart wrenching and their immediate response is to do anything to stop the crying. For others, it’s pain. For me, it’s anger. To be in the company of other people who are angry – even when I am not the subject – is deeply uncomfortable.
You are probably thinking that reaction is normal so why worry about it. As with anything that we can’t be with, we limit our range as human beings. If we are unable to be around people who are grieving, then we will be unable to support the very people we care deeply about when they need us.
Emotions like pain, anger, grief, and sadness are all natural feelings. To cut ourselves off from the experience is to limit how we live our lives.
I’ve come to realise that I have a very limited version of anger. Up until now, I’ve experienced anger has manifested in others through shouting, irrational behaviour and perhaps even violence.
What can be possibly good about that?
With that limited perspective on anger, not much is good about it. Anger linked to a sense of powerlessness expressed in this raw way is destructive. Things said and done in anger are impossible to take back.
But there what if there was a place for anger?
From his latest book, Consolations, David Whyte re-defines anger in a way that gives us permission to be angry:
“Anger is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for.”
If we express our anger as fierce love for others, what becomes possible? The explosive, powerless pressure cooker anger is certainly destructive. Operating from a place of commitment and compassion for what matters to us, we are able to express what is needed in that moment in a way that brooks not misunderstanding.
For the sake of our range, and for the people we care about, let us dare to explore the very emotions that we shy away from.