anger, friend or foe?


by Alex King

Is anger your ally or adversary? Commonly, the immediate response is to think that anger is bad. Before we become steadfast in this opinion, however, another question must follow. Is our opinion a conditioned response, or do we honestly believe anger to be bad?

Anger is a potentiality, like uranium. It has dangers inherent in its nature, but only if it is mishandled. With the right precautions, it becomes bottled energy. Just as uranium can be used to spin turbines in a nuclear power plant, so too can anger be used to motivate an individual to succeed, to excel.

The misconception about anger arises because of events that burn themselves into our minds, the same way a nuclear explosion burns the land it touches. Our emotional perception of these events would cause us to label anger as “bad”. Then again, the misuse of anything can be bad. Uncommon though it may be, consider you were unfortunate enough to watch as someone was stabbed to death with a pencil. Because I use a pencil to write my drafts, would that then make my posts bad? Would I be bad for using this pencil? If it had a terrible enough impact on you, the mere possession of a pencil, in your eyes, could become akin to the intent to murder.

More often than not, it is conditioning that sets for us “acceptable parameters” within which the healthy mind must function. Take a quick moment and consider: what would happen if you erased these parameters, these preconceived notions of ethics and the functionality of the world, and rebuilt your thinking based only on logical possibility?

Once, I was introduced to the concept of ethics devoid of a strict good or bad determination. Instead, I was challenged to explain why I thought, given some arbitrary event, a person would be more or less well off because of the event. I’ve come to believe this to be a more ethical approach to ethics. Avoiding an absolute bias maintains the mindset that some uncertainty exists in any though flow, no matter how well founded. Recall that, not so long ago, the world was flat.

Having played the devil’s advocate, I’ll leave off with a minor concession. Ignoring all other aspects of life, I believe myself to be less well off because of the anger. If I could endure my existence on a paradise island, I would seek complete relief from this emotion. Then again, if lights powered themselves, uranium would become worthless.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Disturbed performing “Leave It Alone”

9 Responses to “anger, friend or foe?”

  1. 1 Stefanie
    September 29, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    To think of anger to the point where it exhibits in screaming, fighting, and destroying, making it closer related to rage and fury. In this definition of anger I do agree that it would only be needed in extreme situations. After a point of peaceful living and self realization it may become dormant to the point of nonessential in a person’s existence.

    However, to think of anger relating to indignation and agitation I see it as more of a driving force to be better and do better. Anger over loved ones dying from cancer and other various diseases pushes us to fight back with research for cures. Anger with ourselves can propel us to be better and try harder. The line anger toes to stay balanced is a fine one, but then don’t all emotions toe the same line. Working in harmony to define who we are. In that thought of anger I do feel it is essential to our existence.

    • September 29, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Thank you for sharing your view. I fully agree that the line is a razor’s edge, but I also support that it can be navigated, though not without difficulty. Anger can indeed by a powerful driving force on the road to success.
      -Alex King

  2. 3 Daryl Watton
    September 29, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Alex, I must commend you on the quality of your writing. I have just finished writing to a couple of my incarcerated pen-pals and mentioned specifically that acquiring excellent writing skills can do wonders to improve their situations, even for those who are facing decades or their entire life behind bars. Do you mind if I send copies of your entries here to my friends as an example of excellent writing skills? They could learn so much from you on this one aspect alone not to mention the content to which they can relate.

    • September 30, 2014 at 7:36 am

      I’m honored you want to share my writing with others. Yes, if you think it may help someone who is incarcerated, by all means, pass along these humble words. Thank you for the compliment.
      -Alex King

  3. 5 Frank Manning
    September 30, 2014 at 12:45 am

    Yes, Alex, anger can be a driving force to motivate a person to succeed, to excel. The problem, though, is that anger–that pure energy of rage and fury–can be so corrosive to the soul, leading to hatred, cynicism, and the death of empathy itself. Anger is like the starter on a car–a jolt of electricity gets the machine moving, but now we have to switch to internal combustion to keep going. Indignation and outrage at injustice or atrocity are surely a type of righteous anger. That anger can motivate people and even nations to righteous action, but success is achieved not through rage but through determined, effective activity that actually redresses the grievance. Just stewing in anger at past injustices or personal slights is such an awful waste of energy and being! That’s why an unoffical motto of my hometown is “Don’t get mad, get even.”

    • September 30, 2014 at 9:49 am

      Unchecked, anger is holistically destructive. It destroys both the angry person as well as any who get too close. When it is properly controlled, however, it becomes nothing more than an energy source, driving an individual to greater heights. In my analogy, I used uranium because of its capacity for destruction when mishandled. Self control is the defining factor in all this. Many people who have “anger problems” really don’t have any issue with anger at all; their problem is self control.
      A further note, allowing anger to corrode you, to “stew” in it, is simply another mismanagement of the emotion. A choice comes to either allow this to break you, rob you of your drive, or to “get even”. Whether it’s acknowledged or not, those seeking retribution are nearly always motivated by anger, a type of cold, slow-burning emotion carrying them through their endeavors. Anger does not necessarily imply violence.
      In your metaphor, you describe anger as the ignition. What, then, fuels the individual?
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am always intrigued by opposing viewpoints.
      -Alex King

  4. September 30, 2014 at 3:12 am

    I agree with Frank. And I have a question for you, Alex. Have you read “Anger: Wisdom for cooling the flames” by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, author of several philosophical books? It’s an interesting reflection about how to turn anger in a positive force.

    • September 30, 2014 at 9:53 am

      I am familiar with the name of the author, but I haven’t read this particular work. I will say that Buddhist philosophy has given me the tools I’ve needed to build a lot of my beliefs on anger as well as joy. Thank you for the recommendation.
      -Alex King

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