By Jake Wiskerchen
“If anger can be the source of so much misery, why then is it such an important emotion?”
- Carroll Izard
As discussed in Part 1, anger is something we can control. It is absolutely a product of choice, although often when we feel it, we do not believe that we have any choice in the matter. It comes down to recognizing emotion and labeling it accordingly.
If I am surprised by getting fired at work, I can absolutely tolerate that surprise without choosing to become angry. If I am scared by a possible threat to my life, I can surely work through that fear without becoming angry. And if I am sad that a loved one died in a car crash, I can certainly deal with my anguish without bridging into anger at the other driver who caused it. Likewise, things that cause shame, guilt, and disgust can also be endured without eclipsing into anger. The key to this is recognition and accurate identification.
Regardless of that though, when we experience anger we can also accurately identify it and avoid behaving in a way in which we will not be proud of ourselves later, after the anger subsides. And it always subsides. In an earlier post I wrote that emotion in the brain lasts only between three and nine seconds. All emotion has a beginning, middle, and end. Learning to tolerate that without acting out of it is the key to emotional management.
Bede Jarrett stated that the world is not angry enough to stop evil. This suggests that anger can be used in a positive way, which is to combat evil. Similarly, anger can be used to motivate for success…but only if it is recognized, harnessed, and mastered. This is the case for all emotions but right now we are discussing anger.
Tom Brady, after his third Super Bowl victory, was asked what motivates him to continue working hard. He replied that he was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft. Amazingly, this highly successful quarterback, who had already achieved the pinnacle of his profession three times, was still motivated because of his anger at being selected so low in the draft. He viewed it as a personal slight. Despite his success, he used that anger to continue to push him to greater heights. He has now won four Super Bowls and been to six, a record for any quarterback, and continues to work hard.
As a society we are often so quick to judge anger as “bad” because of the typical associations with it that we forget that it can have a positive influence. Beyond that, perhaps as discussed above, it is not even necessary if we are fully attuned to our own feelings. But as long as we have the emotion of anger to deal with, maybe we can choose to let it help us, rather than hurt us. Or, worse, let it hurt others.