I have been thinking about anger lately. There’s certainly a lot of self-improvement literature that promotes positive thinking in it’s various forms. I’ve also noticed how averse society is to the subject. As I went on thinking though, I remembered going over this topic on several occasions among friends. It turned around our generation being too soft(there’s even a term for it, snowflake). We concluded that the incapacity to get angry came bundled with a tendency to apologize for just about anything one does and being personally offended at the slightest remark whilst staying mute.
I am not quite sure how it has propagated, but by knowing about this concept, I have been seeing it everywhere in my direct environment. I can count about 50 apologies on a daily basis at the office for the smallest of acts: waiting in line for a resource, asking a question, stating an opinion… the list goes on. I thought about it for a while, why do we do this? The list went down to one item: conflict-aversion. Or what we might call agreeableness. Some amount of it is good or we would be stuck permanent chaos, but there’s no way were going forward when no one is willing to take a position. There’s also no way we can get out needs met if we never get angry at ourselves when we’ve been pushed around too long. The bullies we knew in high school simply became the tyrants in the business place. It creates paralysis among peers. This framework or “game” that we have agreed to play(because we eventually succumb to our environment as to not become outsiders to our micro-culture) is just one way of playing the game. It takes courage and intuition to slice across the existing paradigms, but it guarantee’s fun, self-discovery and the potential to become a better player. Actually, it gives you a chance to win. Winning doesn’t sound appealing? Well, like it or not, the Darwinian theory of evolution will say otherwise; and so will your body when you get into action.
How can anger help us? Well anger can potentially be a game-changer. It can help us break free from the mold. It’s somewhat frowned upon as a primal emotion, but it has it’s uses and boy does it wake people up when used correctly. There’s nothing more powerful than an angry person that is right for being angry. We can feel it, we can see it, we know it when it’s rightful. Therefore I am talking about sophisticated anger. Or intelligent anger. It’s anger that is forged in meaning and isn’t exactly directed at an individual’s ego, but at a concept. The idea is that were trying to destroy tradition to make space for something new and better to arise. For example, if someone is constantly getting inside of our space and pushing us we might answer back by pushing and cussing at them. This brute answer is probably the first one that comes up for extroverted people, but that’s just putting oil in the fire. The same situation can be resolved differently, by calling out a higher concept. With strong body posture and a steady gaze, we assertively tell the other person that invading personal space is akin to coming into someones house without invitation. No one likes an intruder. The answer can be flavored in a myriad of other ways, what matters is confrontation. We resolve the situation at the lowest possible frame(in this case we were referring to personal boundaries). That is, our relationship with the situation doesn’t blow out of proportion into the past or the future. It’s about solving what isn’t working out right now, it’s about solving two clashing concepts. By destroying someones idea of us, we give space to a new identity. The peculiar thing is, if you stop being a pushover, after the initial clash most people get along very well. It feels good to know who you are and what you are about, it dispels uncertainty and people can feel that.
Some exercises that I propose for a better understanding of powerful and potentially destructive emotions is to practice in front of a mirror. This low-stakes environment can help find an anger pattern that is sophisticated. The timing, the tone of the voice, the nature of the subject; it all matters. Sophisticated is used in the sense that our behavior remains within the borders of what is socially acceptable within the game we play. From there, we can step it up with small situations at work and go for them. By learning to work out conflicts and put ourselves first, we can become better negotiators, friends, employees and partners.