Anger is a LieJan 01, 2020 01:23PM ● By Trish Roberts
I used to think that anger was a necessary evil, an unavoidable emotion. I had no choice but to respond to injustice, insult or injury with anger. In my mind, it was an emotion as valid as love, joy, fear or pain. I remember reading an article many years ago that said anger wasn’t a real emotion, but rather a way of masking genuine feelings. Interesting. I put that in my back pocket and forgot it in the wash.
Years later, I went to my first meditation session hoping to calm my rage over my racist boss and disappointing boyfriend. The conversation around anger arose again. From it, I learned that anger is a negative exaggeration of reality. When we’re angry with someone, we highlight their negative characteristics and downplay their good qualities. We can’t honestly see the source of our anger—thus the expression “blind rage”—but it does have its consequences. High blood pressure. War. Injury. Unhappiness. Stroke. Ulcer. Disease.
Conversations with someone who is angry about something that happened many years ago are interesting. Someone had stolen money from a client of mine in a business transaction, and he told me he would never stop fighting to get it back. He was proud of his decision and prepared to go to the police, to court and to the newspaper—fully willing to spend the next 10 years making sure the scammer didn’t “get away” with it. I told him sometimes you’ve got to reclaim your life. Don’t let the person who harmed you 10 years ago take the next 10 years, too.
Since then, I’ve gone deeper, thinking maybe it’s time to give the gift of grace to someone else; maybe the perpetrator needs the gift of my grace. I had this realization after going through a terrible car accident in 2018. The back of my VW Beetle was hit by a tractor trailer and I easily could have died. The driver lied to the police, telling them I was trying to change lanes, so they didn’t find him at fault. I thought maybe the driver needed his job so much, he had to decide between honesty and survival. Maybe he needed some grace. And for me, that car accident felt like a message from the universe to change course. If it hadn’t happened, I don’t know when I would have launched my dream business. By releasing myself from anger and reframing it, I was able to get on with my life.
I’ve had people say we need to get angry to fight injustice. They are right that we absolutely need to fight injustice. However, anger is not the path. It’s not any path. I offer you Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as examples: We have to remember that their message was all about nonviolence.
While I’ve never been an angry person, there was a time when anger was my lover. It had become a warm shoulder to lay my burdens on at the end of a long day, along with its more subtle varieties: disappointment, annoyance, bitterness, discouragement, impatience. I rested my head on it. I had a sip of wine with it.
Anger rears its head when we don’t get our way. As if traffic should flow for us like angels floating on wings. The train should never pass our station. We should never get caught in the rain. That little twinge of impatience, jealousy, discouragement or annoyance—don’t let it fool you—is part of the same machine, and the machine is not your friend, even if it shows up with cupcakes and roses.
Author Trish Ahjel Roberts is a self-actualization coach, yogi, founder of Black Vegan LifeTM and creator of the 2020 retreat, “Thinking Outside the Chrysalis.” This is an excerpt from her upcoming book. More at HoneyButterflyz.com.