The Spirituality of Being Pissed-Off

Anger gets a bad rap.

If all human emotions could be thought of as a family, then for most people, anger would be the “black sheep” of that family. It’s the troublemaker of the family, the one who brings embarrassment, misery and pain to everything and everyone “he” touches. It’s the “child” we wish we never had and wish would just go away.

Anger is unique in that regard. No other emotion is viewed with such negativity and resistance. Though most people don’t enjoy feeling sad or scared or hurt or disappointed, they don’t usually view those feelings as bad or dangerous. But with anger many do.

And that’s understandable. Most of us have had horrible experiences with anger or angry people. I mean, can you think of a time in your life when the expression of anger resulted in healing, deeper love and positive change? I didn’t think so. Very few of us can. But most of us can easily recall the damage done in the name of anger. Either we lost our tempers and hurt others or ourselves as a result, or we’ve been on the receiving end of angry people, like raging parents, partners, bosses or teachers. So it’s no wonder most people have such negative and resistive feelings about anger.

Banishing Anger
I read a post on Facebook from a “friend” (quotations just means I don’t know them personally) who spoke of feeling physically ill whenever she experienced anger in herself or in another person. This friend is a very spiritual person. She frequently posts things about God, love, peace, faith, awakening and enlightenment. I am totally into all those things, which is why we’re friends. In this particular post, she was sharing that anger literally made her sick and she was committed to banishing it from her life and experience.

Her post was followed by dozens of comments from people who felt the same way. The consensus was that anger was a really bad, dangerous emotion and that if one wanted peace, love and joy in their lives, they had to create a life, both internally and externally, that was devoid of anger.

That got my attention because I completely disagree. I chimed in with a few brief comments saying there are different kinds of anger, and yes, one kind is harmful and dangerous, but there is another kind, one that is a beautiful, necessary and healthy emotion, a powerful force for good and something that should be experienced and expressed frequently.

The feedback on my comments was respectful but dismissive. “Anger is bad,” I was told. “It’s dangerous, it’s harms my body, it tortures my soul and I don’t want to feel it or experience it my life. Period.”

While I understood, I thought that she and others were “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” Just because one’s experience with anger has been so painful doesn’t mean we should make it our deepest commitment to distance ourselves from anger all together (which is impossible anyway). I wanted to explain that there are three kinds of anger, but since I didn’t want to write the longest “comment” in Facebook history, I thought I’d sit down and craft a thoughtful, and hopefully, insightful article on this issue.

Having said that, this article is not a complete and comprehensive dissertation on anger (that would be a book), but only an attempt to keep our hearts open to the possibility that anger can be a live-preserving, love-enhancing gift to others and ourselves.

Conscious Anger
A conscious, healthy understanding of anger begins by recognizing some basics:

1. I define anger as “an energetic force for change.” Strip away all the baggage surrounding anger and what you’ll discover is that we get angry when we want something to change. It’s that simple. (But…for whose benefit do we want change? That’s the question and we’ll get to that in a minute.)

2. Anger, sadness, fear, joy and sexual passion are the five primary emotions. To be intellectually consistent, the way you feel about one is how you have to feel about them all. In other words, if anger is thought of as bad, then being horny is bad too. And being scared or sad or even happy is bad too. That, of course, is ludicrous. Anger isn’t bad. Anger is just a human emotion like all the others.

3. All emotions flow from the same “hose,” if you will. Restricting anger, or any of the emotions, “kinks” the hose and none of the emotions can be experienced fully. For example, impotence or premature ejaculation in men is usually about repressed anger. And women often lose their sex drive for the same reason. Passion and anger are intimately connected. To suppress one is to suppress your ability to feel the other.

4. The ability to feel and express emotion is a sign of life or aliveness. If you go to a morgue and punch a cadaver in the face or say horrible, degrading things to it, it won’t get angry because it’s dead! To the extent that you don’t allow and welcome all five emotions fully and freely into your experience, you too are dead.

Three Kinds of Anger
There are three different motivations behind anger. In fact, it might be more accurate to classify the motivations behind anger as Stages. For as we grow as human beings, the motivation behind anger changes or grows through three stages.

Coincidentally, this is true of every relationship we have in our lives. There are three motivations behind our intimate relationships; there are three motivations behind our careers; there are three motivations behind how we care for our bodies; there are three motivations behind how we handle our money; there are three motivations behind how we raise our children and there are three motivations behind how we feel and express our emotions, including anger.

The Stages are: Me, We, and Love

In any of the relationships mentioned above, we are, at every moment in time, living for and motivated by: what I want (me); what’s best for the whole (we), or, what serves openness (Love). Within this framework, let’s look at anger as it is experienced and expressed through the stages of Me, We and Love.

The “Me” stage, in general, is about controlling the world so we can get what we want. The motivation here is for me, myself and mine! It’s the selfish stage.

Now, if anger is an energetic force for change, as we said, then anger in the “Me” stage is used to force the world to change so that it’s the way I want it. It’s all about me. If you say, think or do something that I don’t like or want, I’m going to get pissed-off.

“Me-Anger” is used in the service of control.

When anger is expressed in destructive and harmful ways, it is always the “Me-Anger”, selfish kind. This is what my FB “friend” experienced. It should make her sick to her stomach. She should want to rid herself and her entire life of this kind of anger.

If we’re honest with ourselves, nine out of ten times, when you and I get angry, it’s almost always because we’re not getting what we want. It may or may not sink to the level of being abusive, but most anger is “Me-Anger” nonetheless. Our anger arises in an attempt to change our world into the way we want it.

The “We” stage is a step up the evolutionary ladder. In this stage, we’ve grown out of self-centeredness and we are now motivated by what’s best for the group or community of which we are a part. In this stage, we’re concerned about what’s best, not just for me, but what’s best for my intimate relationship, or my kids, or my community or company or country. This is the ethnocentric stage rather than the egocentric stage. It’s no longer a “me” thing; it’s a “we” thing. You recognize that something is bigger and more important than your selfish needs.

Anger definitely exists in the “we” stage. It arises when someone is standing in the way of what’s best for the whole. It’s a protective, boundary-enforcing energy. If agreements are not being kept, if there’s injustice, unfairness or inequality in the relationship, group or community, anger is expressed to restore order and balance. And that’s a very good and necessary thing.

However, “We-Anger” is rarely dangerous or damaging. It’s forceful, but respectful. Martin Luther King is the best example of “We-Anger.” He was motivated by what was best for black people and humanity as a whole. It wasn’t about him and it wasn’t violent.

This “We” energetic force of change is determined to realign behavior that is threatening to what’s best for the whole, whether it’s a marriage, family, community, country or planet. So, if “Me-Anger” was used in service of control…

“We-Anger” is used in service of community.

Before we get to how emotions like anger and sex are expressed in the “Love” stage, let’s step back and look at this stage in general terms, for it’s rarely recognized, understood or experienced.

The “Love” stage is the highest rung on the evolutionary ladder and only in our most surrendered moments are we filled with its Spirit. In this stage, a person has released all sense of a personal “me.” He or she doesn’t think about, notice or act in support of what they want. That is no longer a concern.

Additionally, people in this stage have evolved beyond simple allegiance and devotion to their community. They still may be a part of a group, but if their marriage, family, community, company or country is out of alignment with Love, anger arises. Love is their “North Star,” their guiding principle.

The sole concern or devotional posture of a stage three person is, “What serves Love?” What enhances or deepens Love and openness? Every decision, every action and every motivation is in service of Love.

Yet when a person experiences this highest state of spiritual awareness, when Love has pervaded their hearts and is the only motivation of their actions, most people believe that anger would never arise. The conventional wisdom, especially within spiritual communities, is that the more evolved you are, the less likely you will experience and express anger. But tell that to Jesus.

One day he walked into the temple, the holy place of Love, and saw that people were holding their version of a garage sale in there. They were buying and selling, wheeling and dealing. This outraged him so deeply that he made a whip, and in a fit of rage, he physically trashed the place and drove everyone out.

All anger is not bad. This kind is a beautiful, powerful and effective force for change—when it’s used in service of Love. It is the only force in the universe able to contain and transform evil. To banish all anger from our lives is to banish “Love-Anger” too, and that amounts to withdrawing from life and allowing unconsciousness to prevail. If love is what you want in your life, then “Love-anger” must be allowed to have it’s way with you. This kind of anger brazenly and fiercely stands against anything and anyone that is not aligned with and enhancing love.

In an intimate relationship, a “Me-Anger” person will be angry when their needs for attention or affection aren’t being met. At the “We-Anger” stage, anger is expressed when things like chores, finances, parenting, and free time aren’t fair, equitable and balanced. But what makes a third stage person angry in intimacy?

Well, the best way to describe this is by way of practical example. So, of instance, if a married woman is in a “Me-Anger” moment, she might be angry because her husband isn’t paying attention to—HER! Her needs are the focal point. They’re not being met and she’s pissed.

In a “We-Anger” moment, she might be angry because her husband seems distracted and disengaged from the family. He isn’t keeping his agreements when it comes to chores and parenting. The relationship feels unfair and she’s pissed.

But if a woman is in a “Love-Anger” moment and her man feels distracted, disengaged and distant, she’s angry, but not for herself or even for her relationship’s boundaries. She’s angry because he’s off his game. He’s more man than he’s showing and she knows it. When he’s clicking on all cylinders, he’s amazing to behold. His presence and attention is a gift to the entire world. But he’s drifting in this moment and it breaks her heart. Deep down, she’s hurting—for him! Not for her. For him. It kills her to see him be less than who he is. Love compels her to act—on his behalf.

What will wake him up out of his slumber and mediocrity so that he returns to being the man he’s made to be? It’s her “Love-Anger.” It’s her gift to him. He needs it. Not so he’s a better husband or a more present father, but because it’s the loving thing to do—for him.

Her love will not allow him to be anything less than his best self. “Love-Anger” is a kick in the ass, not for the kick-er, but for the kick-ee. This kind of love sees someone hurting themselves or distracting themselves or medicating themselves or victimizing themselves or being stuck in some sort of mediocrity and they can’t stand it. They know this person is capable of so much more, and for their benefit, anger arises to realign this person to love and his or her highest self.

“Love-Anger” is like passing smelling salts under someone’s nose. It shocks them and wakes them up, bringing them back to consciousness. “Come on! You’re off your game. You’re not being the man (or woman) I know you are. And I’m not willing to put up with you being less than you are!”

Therefore, the best way to view “Love-Anger” is that it is the voice of God. You’re making a “whip” and using it on them because they’re misusing their life. Their life is a holy thing and you can’t stand to see it be any less than the gift of God it was meant to be.

“Love-Anger” is used in the service of Love.

In summary then, anger in the service of Love is a beautiful and very necessary emotion in our lives. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Yes, some anger is dangerous and destructive to our bodies, our relationships and our world in general. But some anger, the kind that’s expressed for Love, is life-producing and life-enriching. Don’t withhold it from yourself or your world. It’s the voice of God.

The last thing I’ll say is if you’re wondering why I usually use the word “Love” and not “God” to describe stage three, it’s because someone like Osama Bin Laden (or any religious fanatic) could say their actions are motivated by “God.” In fact, terrorists like Bin Laden or abortion clinic bombers do believe they are serving God. But is any terrorist motivated by Love? Hardly.

Anger gets a bad rap. For Love’s sake, use it.

Roy Biancalana
Author & Relationship Coach

Roy Biancalana

Roy Biancalana is an author, a certified relationship coach, a certified “Living Inquiry” facilitator and a spiritual teacher. He has been supporting the personal growth and life-transformation of thousands of people for nearly 25 years. His passion is working with men and women who are committed to awakening to their true spiritual nature and experiencing the love life they most desire. With a warm, personal and informal style, Roy specializes in supporting single people in attracting the love of their lives and also helping those who are in committed partnerships experience a deeper level of intimacy. READ MORE

Leave a Reply