THE BLOG
05/07/2014 02:41 pm ET Updated Jul 07, 2014

Anger: Does It Use You, or Do You Use It?

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Righteous anger. This is a phrase I have come across while reading a prolific contributor to our society, Rudolf Steiner. His contributions to mankind (in medicine, farming, education, spiritual development, to name a few) are continuing to blossom nearly a century after his death.

He wrote:

For the spiritual scientist, anger is also the harbinger of something quite different. Life shows us that a person who is unable to flare up with anger at injustice or folly will never develop true kindness and love. Equally, a person who educates himself through noble anger will have a heart abounding in love, and through love he will do good. Love and kindness are the obverse of noble anger. Anger that is overcome and purified will be transformed into the love that is its counterpart. A loving hand is seldom one that has never been clenched in response to injustice or folly. Anger and love are complementary.

Hear, hear, I feel vindicated. I have been given permission to accept myself and beyond that presented an understanding that feels in alignment to my truth. I have so often felt shame for my reactions to situations -- either through a very uncomfortable silence, which is then followed by the "moving right along" shift in conversation, or through a direct hit: "Wow you have anger issues." Our culture has made it as challenging for a woman who expresses anger as it has for a man who expresses fear. The judgments thrown our way are so prolific that many of us have learned to cut out the middleman and just slam ourselves (usually quite mercilessly) and through the use of culturally taught condemnation have cornered our esteem somewhere in a dank basement.

Non-Violent Communication training (NVC), the process created by Marshall Rosenberg, was another place where I learned another level of self-acceptance for what has been called my "not so lady-like" expression. It was through his gracious approach to viewing individuals that I understood that anger is akin to a warning light in a car. A successful approach to this "warning signal" would be to consider something's happening, what's needed to help the car feel (run) better? We never say the car has issues and simply leave it at that, usually we tend to its warning signal and apply the necessary care needed to help it run smoothly. Yet with people were prone to treat them with much less care.

So often my warning light starts to flash (maybe the first blush of anger starts to rise) when I feel alone and really want understanding. Through the use of NVC I learn how to take care of that need and nip anger in the bud, as in those cases it's usually not so much a righteous anger as it might be a long winded rant. Nonetheless, it's a process that lends itself to understanding and not flogging.

Dr. Mario Martinez, the founder of the Biocognitive Science Institute, encourages righteous anger as a pathway for individuals with disease or illness towards health and well-being. I appreciate him taking a stand for anger. Personally I could use the advocate, but I have wondered if what he's encouraging is simply the expression of the ego and not really righteous anger? Am I moving steadily towards enlightenment or just spewing hell fire? Could I claim noble anger as my companion, or was I just having a hissy fit?

I used to say, "I'm not angry, I'm passionate." I applied that rationale as a means of protection from men who labeled me "crazy" and as a defense from women who liked to think they were better than me because they weren't like me -- they kept their emotions in line. And in fact this play on words was a strategy I was enacting in attempts to forgive myself for "acting out," It didn't work because I unknowingly bought into that masculine taught value (which is purported as the "right" approach to our emotional existence) and was attempting to deny the existence of anger by calling it something much more beautiful, la pasión. That approach is not that far off from Steiner's conceit but there is a lot of digging one has to undergo in order for that transformation from noble anger to loving-kindness to actually come forth. One has to identify what type of anger one is participating in the first place. It takes rigorous honesty.

Thusly, I have often felt alone and embarrassed for my moments of anger and found myself buying so heavily into the social construction that being emotional was bad that I often found myself apologizing for my very existence (the shadow of the feminine energetic). Through Steiner and Rosenberg's heartfelt insights (the positive feminine energies) I have learned a balanced approach to my emotions, where denying them isn't prescribed. I may curtail them to gain insight and self-awareness, but I do not deny them to gain others favor. Fortunately for me as I age, growth has occurred through my diligent pursuit of wanting to being an authentically caring person (healthy, true, honest, empowered/empowering). I have come to a richer understanding of my emotional life and it's purposefulness.

My saving grace has come through learning the difference between indignation and righteousness, high minded vs. disgruntled anger. There are numerous examples of disgruntled, ego based (fear driven) organizations and persons who believe they are doing the "right" thing while causing harm to others on the behalf of their beliefs. Disgruntled indeed!

One way I have learned to identify this ego motivated anger within me is was if I wanted someone to feeeeel my pain. My fuel is then most likely indignant anger and therefore all actions taken from that stance will only perpetuate pain and suffering rather than create long term solutions that heal.

So if one considers Steiner's words, "When a person educates himself through noble anger he will abound in love," then it must follow that the obverse to ego based anger is thoughtfulness and if this is so, the motivation for taking action is derived from an entirely different energetic.

Thoughtfulness doesn't mean being kind, it means taking the time for introspection and rumination. It means applied focus and concentration. Towards what end is up to you. The clearest formula I have found suitable for distinction is: separation thinking (ego/indignant anger) vs. solution-oriented healing (noble/high minded righteous anger).

Is the mind creating more problems by harboring "us against them" thinking, or is it searching for answers, which could bring harmonious outcomes? Complaining for the sake of relief or ridicule is the ego's mechanism for steering you directly away from love, which is the highest mind available. Feeling moved to make a difference though means of supportive and creative processes transforms indignation and personal anger into is the healing expression of love in action. This is why Steiner included in his above statement that, "Anger that is overcome and purified will be transformed into the love that is its counterpart." It takes willingness on our part to go beyond personal suffering and, like the NVC mascot, the giraffe, see above the situation. By having the fortitude to approach anger for the gift that it is, rather than something to be shunned, we can curtail its negative effects on others as well as ourselves and use it as a serviceable vehicle of transformation.

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