Anger: You Can Deal with It

Anger's a hot topic these days, if my random readings are anything to go by. This week I came across two online publications that focus on anger and present two very different approaches to resolving it. The difference in approaches intrigues me: one is medical and costs money; the other, spiritual and free of charge.

The medical approach requires looking outside yourself for answers; the spiritual, looking inside. The former trusts outsiders to know your mind better than you do; the latter trusts in the ability of the individual to find healing within.

The November 15 Utne Reader draws a picture of a country curious about its anger and studying it. The experts are out in numbers with their surveys, questionnaires, and other measuring instruments trying to figure out who, what, where, when, and why so much anger in our society.

The Reader says some experts want to see it classified as a disease in the DSM IV, that great directory of mental disorders for which there are numbers, treatments, and insurance dollars. Then again, the Reader asks, are there really more enraged people out there who are ready to blow, or is anger the newest frontier in a mental health industry, driven like all industries to make a buck?

"Psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher and other specialists in anger...say that recognizing dysfunctional anger as a disorder would help more troubled people recognize their problems and seek help," says the Reader.

Sounds like a head game right there.

Consider, by way of contrast, the spiritual approach. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh suggests a such an approach to dealing with anger in this week's edition of's online newsletter.

Hanh talks about dealing with it via the Buddhist practice of mindfulness of anger: "Anger. There's a seed of anger in every one of us. There is also a seed of fear, a seed of despair. And when the seed of anger manifests, we should know how to recognize it, how to embrace it, and how to bring [ourselves] relief. When the seed of fear manifests itself as energy in the upper level of our consciousness, we should be able to recognize it, to embrace it tenderly, and to transform it. And the agent of transformation and healing is called mindfulness," Hanh says.

It seems to me this approach means respecting yourself enough to pay attention to your own needs, to respect your mind's ability to resolve its problems. It's a constructive process. Not only is it free but also it is freeing.

Hans says: "My dear friends, peace is not something we can only hope for. Peace is something we can contemplate in our daily life by our practice of mindful breathing, mindful walking, embracing our fear, our anger, producing the energy of understanding and compassion."

"Physician, heal thyself," Jesus once said. I remember pondering that in an adult Bible study course a few years ago. What in the world did He mean, the group wondered.

I think He meant what he said. And he never charged a penny.


  1. Hi Sandy,

    I was a psychotherapist for years and saw a lot of anger in people but never thought of it as a psychiatric disorder in and of itself. Rather I saw it as a symptom. I and many of my clients used journaling as methods to explore our inner lives which often had the effect of releasing the pressures of anger, etc. When clients want to, or when I want to, some of the journal work can be discussed and examined with others.

    So the external and the internal approaches can come together, work together.

  2. Annie,

    Thanks for sharing your insight. You sound like a gem.

    It seemed to me in reading the Utne Reader that the writer was identifying the trend in our society to externalize the problem, to blame some unnamed other, and to throw our hands up in despair.

    As a teacher, I see students do this all the time. The healthy alternative is to claim a problem and work it through in just such a process as you have described.

  3. Anonymous9:50 PM

    Nor did he ever prescribe drugs...

  4. Anonymous9:50 PM

    Nor did he ever prescribe drugs...

  5. Anonymous10:53 PM

    food for thought...

    but ya know; I think anger gets a bad rap. Anger is energy of knowing you were hurt; and is the only emotion from being hurt that allows you to change things. If they took away anger would people be unable to change? Interesting thoughts.

  6. Very interesting post. Personally, I believe there are more angry people ou there because there are less people who are courteou and respectful of others, and there are more stresses in today's lives for people to deal with.

    It's sad.

  7. There's lot of different angers... something aggression is what is shown... I used to show both.. as I got older, wiser and happier my anger/aggression subsided. My anger was as quick as a flash at manfesting itself.. I can still suffer from it now, but I can control it to some extent. I honestly believe that happyness is the best thing to over come it. A feeling of well being is the cure for lots of so called "Issues"

  8. our attitude & how we react definitely accounts for a lot of it

    2nd Old Wom Tigley's thoughts on well being being the right spot of sugar medicine


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