Making Anger Your Teacher

Norman Fischer from Ten Percent Happier on anger:

Now, in meditation circles, anger often gets a bad rap. We imagine that we aren’t supposed to ever get angry, or if we do, we’re bad at meditation.

But trying to never be angry won’t work. If you think about it, we can’t make anger go away any more than we intentionally produced it in the first place. So, when are angry we just have to be angry.

Instead of fighting with anger, we have to turn toward it, to experience it without affirming it and waving it around, and to investigate what it really is. It turns out, the closer you look, the more anger can teach us.

As Norman points out, anger is often seen as a failing in meditation circles, whilst happiness or sadness are not. But why is this? Do we choose to be happy or sad any more than we choose to be angry?

Emotions are unavoidable aspects of the human experience, and anger, in particular, indicates our desire for something to change.

Maybe it’s unreasonable for us to expect this change, in which case our anger can only cause us suffering. Learning to let go of needless, unproductive anger is perhaps the greatest gift that meditation and mindfulness has to offer us.

But maybe the changes we want are realistic, and anger motivates us to achieve them. Perhaps anger is the catalyst we need to go out and protest, or to start a difficult conversation, or to take a good look at ourselves.

Because above anything else, anger can teach us about what’s going on inside us. If we can examine the source of our anger, rather than helplessly reacting to it, anger can be a great source of insight into our beliefs, our values, and our fears.

Anger can be a great teacher, but it’s not an easy one. Learning its lessons requires patience, humility and wisdom. All of which should helps us to be angry less often.