If I see a hungry lion racing for me, aiming for my throat, I feel fear. It’s a visceral reaction out of my conscious control. It is an instinct.
If I am walking down a road in England, perpetually scared that a lion might attack me, that isn’t fear, although it is commonly called such (as in Susan Jeffers’ book, Feel the fear and do it anyway). It is actually anxiety. It results from a behaviour—worrying—based on an irrational belief which has generated the feeling of anxiety.
I wish we had a word which bore the same relation to anger as anxiety does to fear.
We get angry—for example, if a stranger attacks my child—and it is a visceral, instinctive response. If I am still angry about the situation two hours later, or two years later, it isn’t anger, it’s something else: a synthetic state which requires mental energy to maintain it.
True anger is biologically impossible to sustain: the level of adrenaline and other hormones and what have you sloshing around would kill the brain. But the anger, at the time, is unavoidable and a necessary life preserver.
Whereas synthetic anger is rarely justified. It may serve a purpose. It is often maintained unconsciously, so the angry person is genuinely unaware of his/her contribution to it. It is very often consciously justified thorough a variety of techniques such as being righteous and more or less covert demands for sympathy.
But it is the emotion which fuels conflict, racial hatred—hatred of all groups different from “us”—and is used as an excuse to fail to move forward. ‘Habit’ is too weak a word for this: just because it is not conscious doesn’t mean it is not volitional.
Anger is always a cover emotion. What it is covering may be… fear, or frustration, or judgement or many other things. It is worth being aware of why we are angry and then making the effort to work out why really we are angry.
by Jeremy Marchant . © 2014 Jeremy Marchant Limited . uploaded 6 june 2015 . image: Free images