Learning to Be Angry – Free Ebook

There are many reasons to believe that one
of the dominant problems in the world today

is an excess of anger. We know all about the
very shouty and their antics: their tantrums,

their lack of reason, their unwillingness
to compromise.

But it may be rather more realistic, albeit
odd sounding, to insist on the very opposite:

that whatever the impression generated by
a publically vocal angry cohort, the far more

common yet (by nature) invisible problem is
a contrary tendency, a widespread inability

to get angry, a failure to know how rightly
and effectively to mount a complaint, an inarticulate

swallowing of frustration – and the bitterness,
subterranean ‘acting out’ and low-level

depression that follow from not allowing any
of our rightful sorrows to find expression.

For every one person who shouts too loudly,
there are at least twenty who have unfairly

lost their voice.

We are not talking here in praise of delirious
rage, the sort that injures innocents and

leads nowhere. The point isn’t to rehabilitate
barbarism, it’s to make a case for an occasional

capacity to speak up – with dignity and poise

  • in order to correct a reasoned sense that

something isn’t right – and that those around
us need to take our perspective on board.

We are – as a rule – hopeless at being angry
from the very nicest of motives: in part,

from a belief in the complexity of situations
and the minds of other people, which undercuts

enthusiasm for anything that smacks of self-righteousness
or pride. We tell ourselves – in relationships

or at work – that others must have their good
reasons for behaving as they do, that they

must be essentially kind and good and that
it would be an insult to their efforts to

raise our hand about a problem that we surely
don’t even entirely understand.

We tend to import our modesty from childhood.
It’s a privilege to allow a child to manifest

their frustration – and not all parents are
game. Some are very keen on having a ‘good

child’. They let the infant know from the
first that being ‘naughty’ isn’t funny

and that this isn’t a family where children
are allowed to ‘run rings around’ the

adults. Difficult moods and tantrums, complaints
and rages are not to be part of the story.

This certainly ensures short-term compliance,
but paradoxically, preternaturally good behaviour

is usually a precursor of bad feelings, and
in extremes mental unwellness, in adulthood.

Feeling loved enough that one can tell parental
figures to sod off and occasionally fling

something (soft) across the room belongs to
health; truly mature parents have rules and

allow their children (sometimes) to break
them.

Otherwise, there is a species of inner deadness
that comes from having had to be too good

too soon and to resign one’s point of view
without a flicker of self-defence. In relationships,

this might mean a tendency to get taken royally
for a ride for many years, not in terms of

outright abuse (though that too) but the kind
of low-level humiliation and taken-for-grantedness

which seems the lot of people who can’t
make a fuss. At work, an unwavering concern

for politeness, empathy and gentleness may
end up providing the perfect preconditions

for being walked all over.

We should – at times – relearn the neglected
art of politely being a pain. The danger of

those who have never shouted is that they
might, in compensation, end up screaming.

That isn’t the point either. The goal is
a firm but self-possessed protest: Excuse

me, but you are ruining what’s left of my
life, I’m so sorry, but you are cauterising

my chances of happiness; I beg your pardon,
but this is enough…

We have the speeches written in our heads
already. There is likely to be a spouse, a

parent, a colleague, or a child who hasn’t
heard enough from us for far too long – and

who it would be of incalculable benefit to
our heart-rate and our emotional and physical

constitution to have a word with. The timid
always imagine that anger might destroy everything

good. They overlook – because their childhoods
encouraged them to – that anger can also be

a fertiliser from which something a lot less
bitter and a lot more alive can emerge.

Our arguments book is a guide to arguments in love. It teaches us why they might occur what their symptoms are, how we could learn some wiser ways of communicating and how we would ideally patch up after a fight.

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