“Sometimes, you have to get angry to get things done.”Ang Lee
We treat the expression of anger as if it is a human failure of epic proportions. We suppress it, attempt to masquerade it, and hold different people to different standards in how they should display it. Why do we do these things? Weathering it requires too much energy. Being on the receiving end hurts our feelings or otherwise makes us uncomfortable. Black people are simply intrinsically angry – goes the poorly contextualized, racist claim. While white people are simply being duped or have no other recourse than to be angry – asserts the at-all-costs motivation to ensure white comfort prevails. While there are other reasons, the ones listed above arise from my experiences.
The definition of anger varies; some understand it as a basic emotion while others think it is a secondary one. I have experienced anger as the latter – an emotion felt immediately after the primary one is triggered. What are primary emotions and why is better understanding their role in causing anger avoided? It is not our responsibility to better understand them? We do not know how, triggering our anger-related feelings of insecurity and inadequacy? If we remain in the dark, we avert having to do something about it?
According to the Gottman Institute, primary emotions leading to anger can be numerous. Those constantly stoked within me are exhaustion from feeling inadequate, fear of being misunderstood and punished for it, embarrassment from not meeting societal and “the gays’” physique expectations, being offended by unchecked racism, and the lack of accountability plaguing our society among other emotions.
Contending with an angry person is no fun. They seem temporarily deaf – ignoring reason irrespective of how calmly it is delivered. They appear blind to all signals of deescalating body language and gestures –making us feel our efforts to make things better are ineffective. Some angry people become visibly sweaty. Who want to deal with what may result in unpleasant body odor thereafter? Anger may arise as the silent treatment; passive aggressive behaviors meant to hurt and/or exclude us, or hit us in the pocketbook through confiscating earned opportunities for a promotion or our family and friends maxing out credit cards due to revengeful spending. Either way, being on the receiving end of anger is distressing.
The discomfort of allowing someone to vent their anger in an unopposed & non-delegitimizing way is not necessarily condoning its delivery. Note, if you are physically threatened, the angry person must be addressed within the boundaries of the law. The displeasure of experiencing anger’s wrath is dwarfed by the dangers of forcing someone time and again to suppress its expression. Doing so compounds the seriousness of the underlying issue(s). More grievances may arise if the original ones continue to go unchecked. Anger is an express lane to satisfying the unmet need(s) – the by any means necessary exit ramp in seeking relief.
This incubation can make matters far worse with hell to pay once suppression tactics in the future fail.