The art of converting anger into disciplined energy

Becoming a scientist is one of the challenging missions you could undertake. And being one who is funded to think is unfathomable. You have to be a bad-ass when it comes to thinking, with years of experience under your belt. You make theorems, chemicals and modified DNA strains that change the way the world works. And you find immense pleasure wet-dreaming your beds about calculus or periodic tables.

John was one such guy. He was Mr.Smartypants, has 29 years’ experience, and was funded by a big, multi-million dollar company. He attempted to devise a chemical formula for creating a stain proof shirt.1 A shirt that divorced stains, requires no ironing, is comfortable and reduces your laundry work to like 0. 

After over 15 months of hard work, he was on the verge of achieving the next breakthrough in the clothing industry, but something happened. He found that the compound would catch fire because of the absence of something. And he couldn’t figure this “something” out. Fifteen more months passed by devoid of any progress. It made him lose his cool and out of frustration, he threw the conical glass of chemical across the room considering nothing.

A few minutes later, the entire building was set ablaze. He lost everything in it, research papers, current progress, everything gone in like seconds.

Often we find ourselves in John’s situation. When things don’t go our way we curse, break objects, scream, only in vain. Things usually get worse, causing more pain and problems than we ever wanted in the first place. Anger is the root cause of all this. To turn anger into your BFF, it’s essential to know how people took care of him throughout history.

A brief history of anger

The prehistoric era [3.8 billion – 45,000 years ago]

Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

We think of anger as half-brothers, bonded by blood. And in various time slots this powerful emotion was present, for better or for worse. Ancestral foragers, used anger to cope up with natural pressures, projecting human emotions onto god. A thunderstorm or an earthquake meant that, god was angry. 

When these people found parts of their body paining with no external wounds to show for it, they taught angry invisible elves shot magical arrows into the bones of the people. These elf shots cause them pain, at least that’s what they taught. 2

The medieval period [5000 years ago]

Fast forward a few years with kingdoms and empires surfacing, they worshipped Goddesses of anger in many parts of the world. Lyssa in Greek, Ira in Roman for instance. People considered expressing anger as sin and some related anger to witchcraft. They were serious about this anger thing. It was immoral and irrational for adults to express them, and they taught children that anger is bad. And that’s a great thing. 

Come on! You bloody b@$#%d!

Now let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. Warriors and fighters thought anger is a trance-like state that people get into for battle. It made them indifferent to wounds and fearlessness in battle. It gave them power. Take military officials for instance, they are unforgiving with training their candidates. And this ruthlessness means the life and death of candidates. Some people thought anger was one the most important pillars that helped maintain social hierarchy.

The common and modern era [2000 years ago – Present]

From left: Abraham Lincoln, Buddha, Marcus Aurelius

An era filled with profound thinkers and psychologists. And different people had very different and intriguing views on anger.

Psychologists find that when anger takes over, we lose our personality. It disturbs judgement, alter bodily conditions and jeopardizes social interactions. Psychologists Kemp and K.T.Strongman find anger to be an irascible emotion whose function is to obtain pleasure and avoid pain under the conditions of difficulty. And there are a plethora of other philosophers advise us to take back control of anger.

Seneca suggests, we must master anger by reason, will and self-control. Pythagoras advised to restrain anger, Marcus Aurelius thought anger was for the weak. They strongly believed that disciplined warriors broke down angry hulks both in sports and war. Buddhists disregarded anger altogether, And Egyptians taught anger as a demonic possession of the mind.

Advancing to the last 3 centuries, Abraham Lincoln’s anger against slavery fired fuel to American civil war and his struggle for the emancipation of the slaves. 

And in the 20th century, Psychologist Stephen A. Diamond concluded that anger is a pure and creative energy that threatens psychological and social order if suppressed chronically. Animals throughout time used anger as their protection. When an aggressor intimidates them, they bare their teeth, make loud sounds and attempt to look physically larger to warn their aggressors. Anger is considered to be a manipulation strategy for social influence.

This is what I would sum up with. Anger is a powerful emotion if converted into discipline can be put to good use, else things go horrendous.

The four stages of anger

To understand anger, let us consider its four stages,The victim

1. The psychotic rebel

2. The menacing maniac  

3. The stoic badass

4. Yeah, they are made up names…

The victim:-

Lasting only for a few microseconds, it is here; we find us put in fault. For instance, your mom tells you to clean your room for like the 48th time and you still keep staring into the endless void of your phone. 

She comes back, finds the room still untidy and starts shouting at you for being lazy. She seizes your phone and commands you to clean your room. The moment you experience now is the victim stage. You are blamed for being lazy. And snatching your phone intensifies this victimization. This victim energy soon gets converted into ominous energy and you go into the stage of a psychotic rebel.

The psychotic rebel:-(Anger in emotion)

It’s here where the victimized energy gets converted into a much more powerful emotion, Anger. Now you soon start losing control of both your mind and your body. A more powerful force takes you over.

Your heart beats like a dryer with a shoe inside it, your entire body becomes tense and the fight-or-flight kicks in. Anger builds up, and you gush out of hatred. Your mind is the King Leonidas and every cell in your body are the soldiers of Sparta. They all go crazy when your mind filled with anger takes over. Every cell in your body screaming to shout back at your mom. And by now, the emotion would have consumed you as a whole and you become the menacing maniac.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gI6sARmxEuc
AHOO! AHOO! AHOO!

The menacing maniac:-(Anger in action)

AAARGH! I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!

Here’s where hell breaks loose. You shout back at her and act like a lunatic. And your tantrums don’t end there. You are disgusted by her mere presence. Anger is the champion of self-feeding emotion. So, your mom shouts back at ya!

The feeling of anger intensifies as your anger is deemed unacceptable. (Your mom thinks you’re lazy, while you don’t) and you stay in a state of arousal, unable to pay attention to what is happening. But anger never subsides, it keeps increasing exponentially. After 15-20 minutes of argument, it leaves both of you exhausted. Both of you want to finish this off. So anger pull’s its slacks up, takes a final call which empowers you to hit your mother. And BOOM! This is how tragedies occur. Though arguments never last for this long, many accidental murders are powered by this momentary anger, resulting in long lasting regrets and pain. 

“Wounds made by fire can be healed, wounds made by tongue never heals”

Thiruvalluvar

Once you put an end to the outburst(Either by walking out of the room or hitting someone), you become calmer and start getting a hold of the situation. Anger subsides. If you realize your mistake then the anger is gradually reduced to dust. Let’s say you didn’t, say you walk out of the room sickened by your mother. You never acknowledge your fault, then you have allowed time for your brain to rest only to get angry once again. You fall back to the stage of a psychotic rebel and when the time is right, you turn into a maniac once again. And the cycle repeats over and over and over and you get it…

Why does this anger arise in us?

Anger is an imperfect mixture of fear and frustration (The frustration of cleaning the room and the fear of the reaction of your mom when she sees the trash can that you live in) Anger aids us in losing our self-monitoring capability which increases difficulty in distinguishing between what’s right and wrong. We are “sure” about the nature and cause of the angering event and it never involves us. Why?

Anger is a process of self-validation. When we can’t self validate, we indirectly self-validate by invalidating others. You can’t change the fact that you haven’t cleaned your room, but you can self-validate by proving that your mom was wrong about you being lazy. 

Anger arises when someone is responsible for the situation and you feel you have the power to influence the situation. For instance, intense feelings of anger arise when your brother dips your new $1000 laptop in a bucket of water. But you feel sad when the same laptop gets carried away in a thunderstorm(Situational forces). You can’t get the thunderstorm, apologize to you but it’s easy to thrash your brother. Psychotherapist called Michael C. Graham defines anger in terms of expectations and assumptions about the world. We feel angry when they aren’t met, because of someone.

Anger is a powerful emotion, an illusion and a mind numbing drug, that kills you, the faster you consume it. It impairs your ability to process information, exert cognitive control over your own behaviour.

The best fighter is never angry.

Lao Tzu

Now, how do you think people like Abraham Lincoln took hold of this intense, powerful emotion and used it to their advantage?

The art of turning aggression into power

From the psychotic rebel you can take two paths. 

1.Become a menacing maniac that creates more problems

2. Become a stoic badass that solves them

Regardless of Lincoln, Buddhists or the stoics, they experience the same rage and anger just as we do. But they convert this rage, fear and frustration into disciplined energy.

This leads to the question, how can you convert anger into your own source of power?

One, Acknowledge anger.

We lose our self-monitoring capability when we are angry and acknowledging it is more likely to stop it right on its tracks. You feel the emotion of anger, and you aren’t anger itself. Learn to distinguish between the two. We can never control our emotions but we control how we react to them.

Perks of Step 1: Acknowledging anger keeps this intense energy at bay and calms it down.

Two, Pause before you speak.

Ask yourself, will this matter in 5 years? Will my anger do any good in this situation? Most probably it won’t. We feel most of our problems are bigger than everyone else. Here are some problems around the world that require immense attention.

Ellen borough Lewis, a koala rescued from a massive brush fire in Australia. The animal was burned over most of his body before being rescued by a woman.

1.Forest fires in Australia have caused a large destruction of habitat, and many animals are in danger. Some may even go extinct.

2. There is Mr. Coronavirus. There are over 4000 people infected by it, hundreds of people already dead. And there is no cure yet.

I think you face a lot more difficult problems in your life than the above ones. Don’t you? Proving you aren’t lazy(though you are) is more important than preventing several species of animals going extinct or finding a cure for a lethal disease. Am I right?

Perks of Step 2: Helps you realize that the anger you are currently overwhelmed with is not worth the reward, when expressed.

Three, find what you can control and what you can’t.

If you have the power to control the situation do what’s required (even if it’s hard). I don’t find any point in worrying about something that we cannot control. 

“Some things are under our control, while others aren’t…”

Epictetus

Perks of Step 3: In every situation there is always something that we could exert our control on, whether it’s cleaning our room, finishing our work or saving the world. Becoming aware of it helps you zero in on that particular task, creating a desirable outcome. And this is the art of converting anger into disciplined energy.

The next time you shout at someone, ask yourself, are you aware of your current state? Are you angry? Or are you feeling the emotion of anger?

Anger isn’t inherently bad. Anger is an emotion that tells you that something is bothering you. The following two are what I find to be the most important cause of anger, at least most of the time.

Environment– Living in a polluted or noisy environment makes you irritated. This makes you more of a walking TNT ready to explode at any moment. Other environments like living with people who are crybabies who constantly complain about anything and everything, toxic relationships and unhealthy friendships is likely to make you angry. How can you better your life? Change the environment. Cut down on your crybabies gradually, get out of toxic relationships, form deep meaningful relationships and enjoy your life.

When essential needs of the body are not met, anger takes you over easily. To name a few, lack of quality sleep, an improper diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking.

Regardless of the cause of anger, it’s you who holds the power to react to it. It sounds unsexy to just acknowledge anger and I’m sorry for those people who want magic “tricks” and quick “hacks”, I don’t have them. But for the rest of us who are looking for long lasting solutions to put this untamed beast down, let’s acknowledge anger, become less stressed and live our lives much happier.

Now, Ask yourself, What is it you are angry about the most?


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FOOTNOTES:-

1.Yes, there was a kickstarter project to create a stain proof shirt, but the story about John was made up.

2. Check out this pdf for an in depth analysis of the brief history of anger.

The art of converting anger into disciplined energy

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