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Thriving on Anger

 By: Christian Conte, Ph.D.
The student said, "My anger is overwhelming."
The master asked, "Did I hear you say 'your' anger?"
The student replied, "Yes, I'm telling you my anger is out of control."
Then the master said, "If it is your anger, then discard it just as you would give away an old pair of shoes."
"No," said the student frustrated, "It's not like that. It's not my anger."
"Excellent," replied the master, "then it sounds like you have discarded it already."
When we attach ourselves to our anger, it becomes a part of our identity, and we have a tendency to defend that with which we identify. Anger is a natural emotion, but like any emotion, it is not there to remain permanently; it is only there to serve a purpose. When you learn to understand the purpose of your anger, you no longer have to identify with it, only listen to it.
Listening to anger does not mean allowing anger to control you like a puppet. After all, you listen to things people say all the time without accepting them. Think of any basic argument: You might listen to the other person, but that does not mean you will either agree with or heed what that person is saying. The same can be true for anger. When you're not attached to your anger, you are free to listen to what it is trying to inform you about, and then make a conscious decision to either act on it or not.
For example, sometimes anger indicates that you are hungry, overly tired, or in pain. Anger, in any of those instances, might be saying, "Get something to eat!" or "You need sleep!" or "You need endorphins!" (because, of course, when you lash out in anger, you are flooded with endorphins, which definitely feels much better than pain). Anger, in all of those cases, is trying to tell you something. When you are not attached to it, you can step back and ask yourself what it is trying to say to you.
Once you learn to gain awareness from your anger rather than react from it, you will find that you have no need to identify with "your" anger, only to learn from it. In that way, anger, like any emotion you have, can become your teacher. One might even argue that once you learn to do this well, you will be thriving on anger.

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