Anger is a core human emotion. Newborns express instinctual cries of protest, and many a mythological god has wreaked archetypal havoc. Cultural norms around anger range from keeping a stiff upper lip to highly extraverted forms of expression. There are overall differences in how men and women tend to express anger; differences in temperament as well as situational stressors contribute to the intensity and frequency of angry feelings. Anger, like other emotions, is a source of information: it tells us when we feel violated in some way, and is linked to self-preservation. If fiery feelings can be understood first as a call to containment and self-reflection rather than reaction, it can fuel strategic thinking, emotional maturation and productive action.
“I was in a national forest alone, wandering around. I spotted a giant bird lying face down in a clearing. It had dark purple feathers on its back, and I knew I should try to collect some, since that is what my sister would do. I reached over and quickly pulled a handful out. I got three purple feathers. The bird turned out to actually be alive. It jumped up and I jumped back in fear, dropping the feathers on the ground. There were three people in the distance, that I couldn’t visually see but I understood them to be my classmates. They exclaimed, “she is so crazy to do that.” I wanted to get the feathers back, but I was too afraid and ashamed to get them.”
Lerner, Harriet. The Dance of Anger (Amazon).
Winnicott, Donald Hate in the Counter-Transference.
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