On Anger and Angry People
You’ve probably had first hand experience with an angry person. I don’t think you’d be reading this if you haven’t. Perhaps you’ve been physically or verbally abused by an angry person, or perhaps you work for an angry, abusive boss, or perhaps you’re the one with the anger issues.
No matter what your experience is with anger, it’s impossible to live in this world and not encounter it—either within us or from those around us. So it is essential that we have a clear understanding of anger and how to be with this powerful energy in healthy, productive ways.
The purpose of this blog is merely to make you smarter when it comes to anger. This isn’t the place for a full-blown discussion of this powerful emotion. I only want to give you a general understanding of anger and how it shows up in you or others.
If you want to go deeper and learn how to deal with your anger (or the anger of someone in your life), that is best done in a private conversation between the two of us. I’ll tell you how we can do that at the end of this blog.
Now, there are 4 types of anger, or better put, there are four different reasons we get angry or 4 different motivations behind our anger. Here’s a brief look at each of them.*
Type #1: — Anger “AT”
The first type of anger is directed “AT” someone or some condition. This is far and away the most common form of anger. Probably more than 95% of the anger we’ve experienced in our lives or in the lives of others is “AT” anger.
There are two aspects to “AT” anger. The first is that it’s fundamentally selfish. There’s a big, fat ME in it. “I am not getting want I want and I’m angry about it.”
The second is that “AT” anger is extremely specific. “I am not getting what I want (wait for it…) and it’s your fault!” The anger is directed “AT” some specific person or circumstance.
So blaming, finger pointing and feeling “at the effect of” (a victim mentality) are the central characteristics of the first, most common type of anger. It is destructive and it always causes drama.
Type #2 — Anger “UP”
The second type of anger is not directed “AT” but “UP.” It’s far less personal. Assigning blame is not the point, as it was with the first type. This kind of anger is about creating positive change.
“AT” anger looks backward, points fingers and asks, “Who’s fault is this?,” while “UP” anger is a forward-looking force that seeks growth and change. “UP” anger asks, “What can I learn from this and how can I raise the moment?” rather than, “Who’s fault is this and what are they going to do about it?”
The signature feature of “UP” anger is that it comes from a perspective of personal responsibility. Whatever we’re angry about is not seen as happening “To Me” but “By Me.” We take radical responsibility for what we’re angry about.
We choose not to see ourselves as victims and being “at the effect of” someone or something. We, instead, see ourselves as creators (or co-creators) of the situation that we’re angry about. Therefore, “UP” anger asks, “What is my role in creating this situation and what can I do about it?”
Type #3 — Anger “FOR”
If “AT” anger is about blame and “UP” anger is about change, then “FOR” anger is about support—supporting the best in, or standing “FOR” the highest version of another person or situation.
This form of anger is pretty rare. It’s best illustrated by a mother seeing her young child about to drink bleach and angrily screaming, “NO! STOP!” Her anger is “FOR” the child. It’s not about her.
Each of us (and this goes for communities, corporations, even countries) has a potential, a capability, a best version of ourselves. We each have amazing gifts to give, and we are capable of bringing incredible presence and radiance into this world.
But sometimes, perhaps because of laziness, fear, or distraction, we are far less than the people we’re capable of being. And it’s in those moments that you or someone might angrily scream, “NO! STOP!”
“FOR” anger says, “You are not being the person you are capable of being and I’m angry—not “AT” you, but “FOR” you.” It’s offered in support of another person’s best and for their benefit. It’s not about their best being better for you, it’s about you wanting their best—because it’s who they are.
For example, if a man is distracted and lacking presence, his partner might be angry about it, not because she selfishly wants his attention, but because in that moment he’s being less than the man she knows he’s capable of being. She’s angry “FOR” him; she’s not angry “AT” him. There’s a huge difference.
Type #4 — Anger “IS”
This last type of anger is so ridiculously rare that we shouldn’t even bother talking about it. Frankly, I have virtually zero personal experience with “IS” anger (at least that’s the story I tell myself), so my comments are merely philosophical in nature, and therefore, pretty much worthless. But I’ll share my stories about “IS” anger just to humor myself, and possibly you.
To explain this type of “enlightened anger,” we have to go into the deep end of the pool. So let me start with explaining what enlightenment is.
Enlightenment is the total and complete surrender to, and oneness with, “what is.” The subject/object duality drops away completely and there is only One, there is only this. There is no ME, there is no YOU and there is no IT. There is no separation. There is just — this.
And this, this NOW moment, takes on a variety of forms or shapes. Life is occurring and unfolding in all kinds of different ways. And the shape of NOW might take the form of fear, trust, birth, death, sickness, health, sadness, happiness, wealth, poverty, eating, hunger, sex, celibacy, marriage, divorce or, of course, anger. Anger, like anything else, can be the shape of the NOW moment. Anger “IS.”
Remember, an enlightened person (like Eckhart Tolle or Michael Singer) experiences everything that any other person experiences, the only difference is that they have no judgment of, resistance to, or agenda for how the moment is supposed to be.
They are completely and utterly surrendered to and one with the moment—as it is. And sometimes that moment might take the shape of anger. And so what? It’s just what’s here. It isn’t good, bad, right or wrong. It just “IS.”
It’s tempting to think that enlightened people never experience anything other than absolute inner peace, that there’s never “a ripple on their pond.” Yet I am pretty sure that if Eckhart Tolle’s wife, Kim, passed away, he would feel sad (or angry, depending on how she died) and I consider that to be a “ripple.”
The difference for enlightened beings is that while they experience everything we do, the “good” and the “bad” (though they would never define life that way), they’re at peace with the “good” or the “bad.” They’re ok with whatever shape the NOW moment takes. There is no resistance to NOW. It’s just the shape of the moment. So there could be (and is) sadness, anger, death, etc. but they’re ok with it. It’s not a problem. It just “IS.”
What Anger Type Are You?
So which type of anger do you experience—in yourself or in others? Well, it’s almost always going to be Type #1 — “AT” anger. The work for most of us, then, is how do we let go of this destructive type of anger, the type that only wants to point fingers and lay blame, and shift to “UP” anger, the kind that seeks positive change? (You have to work through them in order.)
Well, the first step is to be honest with your “location.” What type of anger do you really experience? The second step is then to fully accept that it’s the “AT” anger type (because it almost certainly is). Once you’re honest with your experience, it’s about mastering the tools that will help you shift out of that way of being and experience the more constructive types of anger.
How To Deal With Angry People
The other issue, of course, is how do I deal with the angry person in my personal or professional life? Well, both issues (this one and the one directly above) are best processed in the presence of a skilled coach and I happen to know a great one (wink).
If you want to talk about this, I offer a free 30-minute exploratory conversation to discuss this or any issue impacting your love life. Call me at 407-687-3387 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*I want to thank Michael Bernard Beckwith for creating this model and Jim Dethmer and Diana Chapman for their work in developing and adapting it for this kind of conversation.