Dealing with Anger, part 1
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Dealing with Anger, part 1

[This essay is informed in part by an excellent book by David Loy entitled Vinegar into Honey: Seven Steps to Understanding and Transforming Anger, Aggression, and Violence]
Life never gives us everything we want, and indeed life rarely gives us everything we expect. Anger is a natural reaction to this frustration, and this anger can poison interpersonal relationships and undermine our general desire to be compassionate people. From a spiritual standpoint, anger can be a stumbling block that prevents us from following our calling to participate in our reconciliation with Godís Creation, one aspect of which is to help reconcile humanityís very broken relationship with nonhuman beings.
The first step in dealing with anger is to recognize the anger. We often fail to identify our angry feelings, and instead we tend to focus on the apparent source of our anger. For example, what we might regard as a desire for ďjusticeĒ might be an expression of anger. Commonly, depression masks anger. Often people find themselves in situations that they regard as hopeless, and their resulting depressed mood can be a symptom of anger that they feel unable to express.
An important step in dealing with anger is to take responsibility for the anger. We canít control many of the factors that induce anger, but the anger we feel is our own and how we respond to that anger is entirely up to us. We can choose to hold onto resentments and focus on vengeance, or we can accept that the world is full of injustices and our task is to find prudent, compassionate strategies to deal with those injustices. We are called to forgive perpetrators, but we are not called to forget their victims.
Next, we need to learn about our anger, and the only way to do this is to look at ourselves as objectively and dispassionately as we can. Strategies for this self-examination include thoughtful reflection on situations in which we have been angry and assessment of what made us angry and how we responded to the situation. How would a person who observed the scene describe what happened? How would the person with whom we were angry describe what happened?

With these insights, we can start to heal anger. Iíll continue this discussion next week.

Go on to: Dealing with Anger, part 2
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