Clean Anger?

Recently I rose to my feet in anger and lambasted a colleague with a barrage of upset. When it was all out I realised I was on my feet, in my weekly meeting, surrounded by silent and bemused onlookers. Composing myself I sat down, red faced, and carried on though slightly flustered. 

Anger or 'krodha' in sanskrit is such an overwhelming emotion that ancient wisdom saw it as one step on the ladder toward absolute delusion. In such delusion our normal composure is not only lost, but we are overcome with an exaggerated and threatening level of conduct. The Roman philosopher Seneca thus considered anger to be 'a monstrous desire to destroy something'.  Having first hand experience of this, I once stood up against a giant who nudged me off my seat on an Indian train. In upset I caught hold of his huge arm and gave one almighty push. Despite all my personal strength he never moved an inch. Good job the giant was a humorous one. I might have been otherwise pulverised. That's anger for you, driving a then young skinny man in outburst to his own personal danger. Even Oasis had something to say about anger's lingering effects, warning us to not 'look back in anger'. Anger can be deluding and destructive.

Perhaps you are familiar with the term 'I am sorry, that was said in anger'. And there we are apologising and in discomfort for saying something we meant but regrettably. As Syrus once said 'an angry man is angry again with himself when he returns to reason'. However someone unapologetic for his anger was Martin Luther, who famously said 'when I am angry I can pray well and preach well'. Perhaps anger may have a good effect and its expression purposeful. Speaking on the ill effects of its repression, Woody Allen in Manhattan said 'I don't get angry, okay. I mean, I have a tendency to internalise...I grow a tumour instead'. There is some truth in the adage 'better out than in'. Some psychotherapists are of the view that all facades and masks are transcended when in anger the gutsy honest emotional and generally concealed facts are broadcasted...'oops I did it again' or rather 'sorry I really didn't mean to tell you what I was honestly thinking'. In the ancient Bhagavad-gita, repression is denied as a substitute for self control. Appropriate engagement or regulation are where anger management might be realised. 

Robert Augustus, author of Spiritual Bypassing, writes about 'anger phobia' a quality found in a kind of deluded spirituality. He writes of anger being a positive force, a force mobilising us truly and effectively. However that anger must be 'clean anger' or free from mean-heartedness, blaming and shaming. Swami Prabhupada spoke of anger as a natural impulse that needs true expression. To control it means to embrace it, to put anger to good purpose. In citing the examples of the god Hanuman and the sage like warrior Arjuna, Prabhupada taught that the mobilisation force of anger is not only important to self preservation but it protects us against harm. Thus Prabhupada said 'Krodha, anger, cannot be stopped, but it can be applied rightly.'

When faced with exploitative forces, forces that seek to harm, we better get angry. Anger has its place. We get angry, its in our DNA. When we get angry we can do super human things. But just as with the barber's razor we may be beautified or fatally harmed, so too with anger. 

So, whether in expressing some home truths in a meeting (and later apologising), or standing against cruel and threatening forces, don't overly fear your own anger. Own it, put it to good use and purify it. That's what it is there for.  It is only unclean anger that need be feared and which is destructive of our spiritual lives. 

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