How I see it is anger isn’t an emotion in the same way that happiness or sadness are emotions. Happiness and sadness arise from deep inner experiences of trust, while anger, at least from my perspective, is attached to the belief of rightness; trust and belief are distinctive, and their exploration is something that we will explore at another time.
What I mean by, the belief of rightness, is that anger is more of a reaction anchored in the thought “(blank) is wrong!” That “blank” can be another person, a group of people, a country, a politician, or even one’s self. Anger arises from some thought that is connected to a belief that someone holds as right. However, thoughts do not arise singularly, for the second half of that belief of rightness looks a little like this: if, “(blank) is wrong!” then something other than (blank), “is right!” In this way, anger can easily be attached to the idea of fairness, rightness, righteousness, justice, but more often than not, anger is simply regarded as justified.
It is those two sides, that for something to be wrong another thing must be right, that has led to what I think is part of the problem with anger: it is inherently justified by the person that is angry. When a person is in the right, and they believe themselves to be, the anger that is there can seem unending, ever growing, and unquestioned.
Yes, there is a utility to anger and understanding the wrongness of an act. However, and this to me is the key, justifying anger, only seeing one’s rightness and only seeing the wrongness of others, denies the emotions and experiences of other parties for one’s own way.
When anger is justified, it bears a hint of entitlement as well. As an example, “I am angry! Why? Because you’re wrong! I am right and you know better! You can’t see how wrong you are! I’m overreacting? I know better than you to not be that stupid! My reaction is completely normal! You should feel the same way as me! You don’t? You’re a bigger idiot! I’m angrier!” That’s an abridged version of many arguments and disagreements I have experienced over the years, and in each, the same sense of justification cyclically furthers the disagreement and the divide between parties.
This cycle of anger continues, and the justification of anger furthers the divide between two people or parties, and for some, anger is a long road that does not end, with no signs saying stop. It cannot end, so long as someone is right.
(Originally written September 6, 2012)