I keep wondering, is anger worth writing about? Years ago I auditioned for the actors section of a theatre workshop directed by Tad Danielewski. I discovered during that experience that anger is a sort of polymorphous category. It’s a catch-all, powerful emotion when you are confused about what you really feel.
Anger covers up what you really feel
Actually, the truth is probably that anger covers up what you really feel. Think about how a person responds to embarrassment. Isn’t slamming the door or shouting, which are signals that anger is present, more culturally validated than blushing or crying?
Same thing happens if you feel scared. Anger feels more powerful than showing fear or powerlessness.
What if you’re feeling cocky because you’re better at something than everybody else in the room? If you punch or throw something, those are anger signals, and they show just how little you care about any other point of view in the room.
The emotional continuum
Suppose you’re in a business where you need to summon an emotion from the continuum that constantly streams through our minds and bodies–sounds like I’m describing the profession of acting, right? Okay, what if a director tells you that in a particular scene the character is angry? What do you do on the stage? There’s not much information there, really. But if you know the character was shy as a child, then you know the real emotion the anger is covering up, and you can act that.
The anger comes after the primary emotion because most of those first response feelings are too raw or too exposing, whereas, anger is culturally acceptable.
At one time I kept a whole rubbish bin of angry retorts that I had thought of to say too late, letters that I never intended to send, and blogs that I would never post. I reread some of them a few decades later and decided that they all needed to be rewritten in order to focus on the original emotion the situation had prompted. That would be honest. The anger that lay on the surface was not.
When you need to roar
Sometimes these days I still need to roar! Sometimes injustices need to be aired. Sometimes truths need to be shouted.
But I wonder if that presupposes that I’m the audience for myself that matters? Is personal catharsis a valuable end for a powerful emotional release? Based on my experience, though, self-referentiality isn’t particularly satisfying. Besides, the chance of causing damage to a person near-by is always present, and I don’t want to live with that outcome.
The only thing I sense to be useful about anger is the energy behind it. If there were some way to harness that power so that it could implement positive change, perhaps I’d be more willing to give up my search for the accurate primary emotion, or at least relinquish some of the focus, to anger.