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That Righteous And Revolutionary Emotion, Anger

I see anger as a potentially positive emotion that is all too often misdirected or suppressed. I tend to see depression as misdirected anger. This is anger directed inwardly towards oneself rather than outwardly towards the true source of whatever oppression one might happen to be facing. Let me be clear about this matter, I am talking about one particular type of anger. I can illustrate this point by lifting a paragraph from the Wikipedia Anger page.

Anger is viewed as a form of reaction and response that has evolved to enable people to deal with threats. Three types of anger are recognized by psychologists: The first form of anger, named “hasty and sudden anger” by Joseph Butler, an 18th century English bishop, is connected to the impulse for self-preservation. It is shared between humans and non-human animals and occurs when tormented or trapped. The second type of anger is named “settled and deliberate” anger and is a reaction to perceived deliberate harm or unfair treatment by others. These two forms of anger are episodic. The third type of anger is however dispositional and is related more to character traits than to instincts or cognitions. Irritability, sullenness and churlishness postures are examples of the last form of anger.

The sort of anger I am referring to could be called Type 2 Anger, and it is at the roots of many movements for social justice and equality today. “The second type of anger is named “settled and deliberate” anger and is a reaction to perceived deliberate harm or unfair treatment by others.” I think there is always a concern for fair treatment and justice, it’s just that when the concern makes itself known, as during the height of the civil rights struggle in the 1960’s, we have one of those episodes alluded to in the paragraph above. “These two forms of anger are episodic.” Patience involves waiting for the right moment. Automatically one thinks of Moses, his chosen people, and their promised land. Type 2 Anger is always simmering under the surface, and waiting to boil up into a paradigm changing social conflict.

Another aspect that needs clearing up is the relationship between Type 1 Anger and Type 2 Anger. Type 1 Anger involves an immediate threat or percieved danger, and getting out of this danger could indeed be a matter of life and death. Type 2 Anger occurs when the problem is not one that can be so easily resolved. When the threat or danger is lingering, being incorporated into a hierarchical and unfair social structure. Not getting angry, given enough abuse and maltreatment directed at an individual or a group, in some instances, is crazy or, in an effort to try to prevent equating folly and error with pathology, an illogical response.

Anger can potentially mobilize psychological resources and boost determination toward correction of wrong behaviors, promotion of social justice, communication of negative sentiment and redress of grievances. It can also facilitate patience. On the other hand, anger can be destructive when it does not find its appropriate outlet in expression. Anger, in its strong form, impairs one’s ability to process information and to exert cognitive control over their behavior. An angry person may lose his/her objectivity, empathy, prudence or thoughtfulness and may cause harm to others. There is a sharp distinction between anger and aggression (verbal or physical, direct or indirect) even though they mutually influence each other. While anger can activate aggression or increase its probability or intensity, it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for aggression.

What is the “correction of wrong behaviors”, the “promotion of social justice”, and the “redress of grievances” without anger, but polite table conversation? You’re just grumbling under your breath about another problem nobody is going to fix…again. Anger is the backbone in a peoples’ desire to change a negative situation into a positive one. It involves the very basic insight that sometimes overtly bad behavior should elicit outrage and fury.

Note: The angry disposition, or Type 3 Anger. You may wish to find a treatment for this sort of anger, although I’d think that doing so is carrying intolerance a little too far…again. I see it as another form of misplaced or misdirected anger. I think more purely selfish motivations are involved in Type 3 Anger. I myself have no intention of wasting much energy on the subject at this time. Some people, after all, did get the short end of the stick. It’s just a matter of realizing one’s connectedness with other people that separates Type 2 Anger from Type 3 Anger.

Perhaps it would help if we referred to Type 1 Anger as Visceral Anger, Type 2 Anger as Revolutionary Anger, and Type 3 Anger as Reactive or Possessive Anger. Revolutionary Anger is good anger, other sorts of anger, not so much.