Anger is something I don’t do well. When I get angry, one of two things happens. I get emotional and cry, and no one takes me seriously; or I swallow it, and no one even knows I’m mad, and I wallow in it for days. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because later this week I will have to see someone who I used to be very angry with, for the first time since they hurt me. I’m very nervous about how I am going to react.
I learned a lot of my non-coping strategies from the culture of the LDS church; as a woman, but especially as a Mormon woman, I’ve been taught my whole life to avoid conflict, to be nice, to deffer to authority especially when I disagree, and to swallow my negative emotions. In writing this post I looked up as many references to anger by general authorities as I could find. Unsurprisingly, they were all either about how we need to choose not to be angry, or warnings about the evils of anger. For example:
“Anger is the mother of a whole brood of evil actions” (Gordon B. Hinckley, 2007)
“If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry” (Thomas S. Monson, 2009)
I absolutely agree that anger can be damaging, and in many instances, dangerous. However, I feel that simply telling people that anger is bad and they should try not to feel it is not the answer. Emotions happen. They are a reality. Even when we are at our best, they run away with us. What we should be teaching people is that Anger is part of the human experience, and giving them tools to cope with it when it does inevitably come up.
Besides, anger can be positive when it can be channeled in to productive directions. For example, my neighbor with a special-needs child has been able to turn her anger at a system that disadvantages her child in to advocacy for many families in similar situations. It can be a great source of motivation for change.
What do you do when you get angry? Have you ever turned the experience in to a positive?