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How do you live with ANGER? Would you rather avoid it? Move beyond it? Or use it as a fuel for action?

I don’t have the answer here – but here’s a first cut waiting for your comments…

Of all the emotions, anger is the one that I like least. It’s hard for me to feel safe expressing it, although I often feel it. It roars in my gut, leads to cloudy thinking, and wakes me up at 3 am with useless fantasies about how to get back at someone. (Not my finest moments!)

Anger is also hard to deal with when I feel it coming back at me. I’ve seen expressing lead to problems at work and violence in the world.

Maybe it’s time to learn how to let it go, at least according to Deepak Chopra in his recent article on LinkedIn.  I liked his points. Yet, despite his wisdom, I couldn’t help wondering: “Isn’t there a positive side to anger that we might want to keep?”

I decided to ask some on-line colleagues for their thoughts.

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                                            Deepak Chopra            Todd Macmillan photo

But first, here are a few of Chopra’s points in his words:

• Anger is one of the most destructive emotions.

• It ruins relationships, intimidates co-workers, and creates bad feelings.

• Weighed against its supposed usefulness, getting mad is unrealistic, impractical, and unhealthy.

• Your anger won’t cause others to change, however strongly you feel they must.

• It [anger] is impractical because one person’s rage is puny compared to the wrongs and injustice of the world.

• It is unhealthy because the upset you feel afterward is a state of stress harmful to every cell in your body.

He gives two insights:

1) Your anger is all about you. You will never deal with it until you look inward to examine yourself.

2) Once you look inward, you will see that anger isn’t part of your true self. Be your true self [silent, at peace, and context to exist] and anger is solved.

He adds, “When you do decide to go inward, you will be shocked at how entangled your anger is with your entire personality, daily actions, beliefs, and world view. Every person contains the anger of centuries…”

I get it! We get bent out of shape about all sorts of stuff – especially when we hang on to our beliefs about concepts that may not be true. That anger can burn and destroy us and others. Yet when we are in touch with the core of who we are, much of that anger can dissolve.

Chopra calls for a spiritual solution to the problem of anger, one that requires an ongoing commitment to peace-seeking and turning inward to find our deepest truths.

Good stuff – if easier said than done.

But wait! What about ‘ole Jesus storming the temple? He was a spiritual master and HE was angry!

no war

There’s a big risk that people like me will read Chopra and think that we shouldn’t be angry.

Isn’t there a place for anger? Given the suffering, gross inequities and injustices in the world today aren’t there things we SHOULD be angry about?

When I’ve coached managers who weren’t able to express anger, it often seemed as though they lacked the “fire in the belly” needed to address tough issues or go to bat for their beliefs.

And when I’ve met people who told me that they didn’t believe in being angry, or had moved beyond anger, I’ve wanted to say, “REALLY?” It felt as if they were living from some belief that anger was wrong – but anger still lived in them.

Here’s what my on-line colleagues had to say  (paraphrased a bit for clarity):

Anger is just a messenger like all the other emotions. What we do with the message is the key.

What if anger was ok, expressing was acceptable, and we didn’t need to try to cut it out or attack it?”

I feel anger in response to the injustice and unnecessary suffering perpetrated in the world. I do my best to check my intentions before I speak. If I am aligned with love, I say what I say. I am unwilling to repress my truth for other’s comfort.”

“I think of anger as ultimately repressed life force.”

“When you feel your power to change a situation and take charge, you can retain your compassion for those who are causing the suffering. In that place….anger is the fuel of compassionate leadership.”

Violence is anger without compassion.”

“So much of this anger stuff doesn’t acknowledge power dynamics and quiet social contracts of subordination. It doesn’t look at the context it arises in and makes it yet another personal problem to be solved.”

“We are all subordinate to a broken system of thoughtless consumption and greed. Everyone should be angry about that and that anger isn’t unhealthy, the broken system is, anger is a symptom and a messenger.”

Hmmm…Maybe Chopra has a great perspective AND there’s more to talk about.

Yes – it’s good to not lash out in anger or let it fester.

Yes – it’s important to be responsible for my anger and my actions – and to do my own introspective work to see where I can let go.

And

Yes – there is much to be angry about in the world today.

Yes – allowing myself to have my anger (and my compassion) gives me the passion I need to work for change.

It’s “both/and.”

In the end, for me, it may be less about whether I have anger or feel anger (so closely linked to my ability to feel passion) but what I choose to do with it.

Now, over to you…I have lots to learn!