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Positive Thinking

Suppressing Anger is Not a Spiritual Value

I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with anger for a long time… safe to say decades. I remember as a child admiring Spock and wanting to be just like him… seemingly free from the trouble of negative emotions. I judged anyone who “got angry”. Feeling superior to “angry people” while denying my own anger created its own set of problems.
My relationship to anger is part of my spiritual journey. But there is no shortcut on that path— stuffing my own anger doesn’t make it go away, it just comes out disguised: judgementality, gossip, accusation, snark, sarcasm, questions-that-aren’t-really-questions, depression (wallowing), egoic noises, edginess, avoiding, giving unsolicited advice, “making observations”, disproportionate reactions to situations. Not pretty.
As I woke up to the fact that my anger issues were in fact mine I became aware of all those unhealthy habits I took on to avoid anger (in myself and in others). It became clear that what I saw as my “spiritual superiority” was not that at all, but my box full of coping mechanisms. What a let down.
A handful of people close to me might describe me as “more angry” now. However, the opposite is true: I am better at expressing my anger, I am less judgemental of others expressing their anger, and as a result I and those around me have permission to express and release anger rather than holding on to it and simmering. That list of disguised anger? I do each of those far less than I used to. However if you are someone that is asleep to your own anger issues and you are around me when I get angry  (or for that matter, around anyone who expresses their anger responsibly), watch yourself employ one or more of the items on that list. In fact, that list is an excellent litmus test to apply to yourself to check your own anger issues. If you find yourself saying, “I do some of those, but I don’t have anger issues”, think again.
I still have “problems with anger”, but I’m more aware of the unhealthy tactics I have used, so more often I am able to make a conscious choice about how to handle matters rather than unconsciously reacting and making things worse rather than better. I would love to live in a world free from anger, but denying, suppressing and judging anger gets no one there.