Visit the self-help section of any bookstore and you’re bound to come across lots of literature on how to ‘curb,’ ‘manage,’ ‘overcome’ or ‘beat’ your anger.
Anger, the message goes, is something bad that should be eliminated. I vehemently disagree. For I know that without a healthy dose of anger, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
As a child, I had a lot of anger in me. I was angry with the doctors who only saw me as a patient and not as a young girl with feelings and needs. I was angry with my mother for allowing this and angry with my father for not being around. I was angry with my teachers for not recognising that I was bullied, angry with the parents of the bullies and, of course, I was angry with the bullies themselves.
Within all that anger, however, lay a vast reservoir of passion and a profound need for justice, tolerance, acceptance, and the right to be me, with a fat lip and all. My parents must have understood this, for thankfully they allowed me to express my anger, and they never made me feel that being angry was bad.
However, in my twenties, a well-meaning therapist suggested that my anger no longer served me and that I should find ways to curb it. Learning to suppress my anger and behaving like a ‘grown woman,’ wasn’t the answer, though, because now that I was unable to express my anger, I became depressed instead.
What, then, is anger? It’s energy and that energy needs to find an expression, lest we make ourselves ill trying to deny and suppress it.
Often anger is also trying to tell us something, and the best we can do for ourselves – and others – is to stop and listen to the message.