Some Thoughts About Anger

I like people who are alive. People who are alive are hard to control. They have ideas, aspirations, and feelings, including anger.

John Cowan in Small Decencies


Lots of anger after November 8, 2016. Lots of fear too—often hidden in anger.

A few thoughts about anger:

Rollo May in Power and Innocence:   

The central element which constitutes the human being: It is the capacity to sense injustice and take a stand against it in the form of I-will-be-destroyed-rather-than-submit. It is a rudimentary anger, a capacity to muster all one’s power and assert it against what one experiences as unfair. …this elemental capacity to fight against injustice remains the distinguishing characteristic of human beings. It is, in short, the capacity to rebel.

Can we relate to anger at injustice? What do we do with the anger we feel when we see unfairness? What would be a good way to deal with election anger?

From an unknown source:

A peaceable young man asks a rabbi:

Are we not to forswear anger and live peacefully with all men? The rabbi answers, my son, God made anger for a purpose. If he had not intended for us to use it He would not have put it in our souls. Only be careful how you spend your anger. There are many things we should not be angry about. We should save our anger for those things which demand it.

What do we get angry at that we shouldn’t? How do we pick our battles?


Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

Do we think carefully about how we will spend our anger? Do we discuss our reactions with someone else before we express them?

I wrote in The Spiritual Warrior in the Time of Trump:

 Warriors are often angry people. Their anger is forceful disapproval of lies told, trust betrayed, innocence violated, reality denied, power abused, and incompetence rewarded. They don’t turn indifferent or deny their anger and become sadistic and abusive. True warriors engage their anger and use its energy to empower themselves and free others.

How do we engage and use our anger? When have we harmed the spirit of others in our own lives?

Rollo May in Power and Innocence:

In the utopian aim of removing all power and aggression from human behavior, we run the risk of removing self-assertion, self-affirmation, and even the power to be. If it were successful, it would breed a race of docile, passive eunuchs and would lay the groundwork for an explosion in violence that would dwarf all those that have occurred so far.

How do we think about anger? Should it be removed it from the human condition? Do you agree with May about what would happen if we removed power and aggression from human behavior?

It will be a shame if we waste the Trump/Pence anger and not use it to support the human spirit.

9 thoughts on “Some Thoughts About Anger

  1. Hello Tom,
    I’ve been following you for several years and enjoyed/learned much in the process. It’s been forever since we’ve interacted, but it’s a comfort to know you’re online and making a contribution.

    I’d like to inject my central thought on anger as a primal response to fear. Fear is the root cause and as such too often triggers other base level responses. Anger separates us from reason as fear compresses thinking to primarily survival responses.

    Not the best way to react unless it’s a true life or death condition. The recent election results are best analyzed, and creative responses generated in an anger-free zone.

    Take care Tom and have a wonderful Christmas!!



  2. Hi Tom —
    Like this piece on anger. I believe anger motivated people such as Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, etc. If they hadn’t rebelled against an unfair system, things may have stayed the same.
    My problem is that I’m not sure how to “rebel” against the latest manifestation of injustice, namely the Trump machine. I am going to the women’s March in Washington DC on January 21 and I sign nearly every online petition that I see. But I fear this is all for naught, as this man is a narcissistic man-child, who doesn’t see anything but his own agenda. He is placing people into places of power that want to dismantle so many protections that are in place for the environment, women and minorities. I think this is the beginning of our country’s decline into oligarchy and I find it hard to be hopeful and motivated. This feels like the biggest thing to overtake our country in my lifetime. I don’t remember feeling this way about the Vietnam war, or Reagan’s election or even the attacks on the World Trade Center. But I feel this election of Trump is the beginning of a very disastrous chapter in our American History. Perhaps this is the materialization of Black Elk’s vision of the Blue Man who would nearly destroy the world.


    • Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you about the threat. My reactions to your piece:

      I don’t think anything will change Trump: He is ego driven and without an inner core of values or purpose–that I can see–and cannot distinguish, apparently, between small and large issues/irritations. We should save our breath with Trump supporters. We should present them with the evidence of how a Trump presidency impacts them as time goes on. But, for the most part, they seem uninterested in truth, history, science or in listening to voices of wisdom and experience,

      Therefore, the people need to rise up.

      First and foremost, people need to wake up and we need to help them awaken. They must see reality as it is. Students, minorities and immigrants need to take a greater responsibility for how Trump will impact them. They must realize and use their collective power. Women need to resist mightily the attacks on women and reproductive rights that come with Trump. Paul Ryan is not a friend of the poor or elderly; they can get engaged. Men? I’m not so hopeful about my gender but there are those of us who have moved out of traditional male roles and beliefs. A question for all those who are awake and distressed: “How can I help awaken others?”

      I am a believer that each of us does what he or she can to contribute to standing against evil, injustice and bad leaders. So I think each person has to ponder what they feel called to do and their capabilities in acting. Action might be going to the woman’s march (a big action), another might go out of their way to help another person and, in doing so, modeling compassion. One might write letters, another might blog. One might demonstrate in coming months (I suspect there will be much demonstrating in 2017 about many issues) And so on.

      This is an organic process and leaders must emerge from the system of people that cares. They will mostly be new leaders. Bernie Sanders is not new but he has a vision and history and is credible to tens of millions. He has a leadership role to play.

      I’ve never felt this way either. Nor have people around me. I think we have been in decline or on the precipice of it for a long time. Trump appears ready to push America off the cliff. It may be too late already and we just don’t know it. When 47% of Americans vote for Trump, we are all at risk.

      The ground has shifted; everything has changed. This can be a real creative time for those with an alternative vision for America. If they engage.

      That’s my “off the top” reaction. Your thoughts?



      • Thanks, Tom, for your response. Your guidance on this has been helpful. I pondered your response during the day yesterday and I came to the following realizations: I can only control my actions and thoughts . My perimeter of control is approximately the size of a hula hoop. Beyond that is not mine to control. However, I can try to change what I can — I will continue to protest the Trump agenda by signing petitions and going to the march and whatever else I feel I can do with the resources I have. This is enough. I will remember that kindness everyday makes a difference. I need to have gratitude for what I do have, even with current political upheaval. I have a great life and need to remember that people in Syria and Haiti and the animals on the brink of extinction are really suffering in this world. I need to maintain perspective and not allow negative thinking take over my day. Thanks for giving me a nudge in this daily practice. 🙂


  3. Interesting take on anger.  Judy

    From: Tom’s Thoughts To: Sent: Monday, December 12, 2016 8:15 AM Subject: [New post] Some Thoughts About Anger #yiv9985102855 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv9985102855 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv9985102855 a.yiv9985102855primaryactionlink:link, #yiv9985102855 a.yiv9985102855primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv9985102855 a.yiv9985102855primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv9985102855 a.yiv9985102855primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv9985102855 | Tom Heuerman posted: “I like people who are alive. People who are alive are hard to control. They have ideas, aspirations, and feelings, including anger. John Cowan in Small Decencies Lots of anger after November 8, 2016. Lots of fear too—often hidden in anger.A fe” | |


  4. Thanks to you, Tom, for keeping the conversation flowing through your valuable posts this past couple of months. Thanks to those who have replied, and those who read without replying here. Since my last check-in, I have been in a combination of inner contemplation/self-care and outer action in the various ways I know how and am able… much like some of you have expressed. I am in a process of answering approximately 300 emails which have accumulated in my Inbox, many dealing with the variety of emotions expressed in “Tom’s Thoughts” columns.
    I have written (journalled, as I do) about The Human Species as a Failed Experiment, which gives me — along with my soon-to-turn 80 years of experience — a perhaps cynical, and broad, way of looking at the turn of Trumpian events in a greater context of world degeneration.
    This is not to say there aren’t amazing pockets and pools of creativity… of the very wealthy and the very poor, and lots in the middle, who are trying to make positive contributions… of thousands of petitions (many which I will sign) and well-intentioned politicians and grass-root activists and the amazing water protectors… but I honestly don’t see a real way out of the deep well the human species (mainly through greed) has dug itself into. I live in the north (Yukon, Canada) where the effects of climate change are seen and felt dramatically…
    That said, I will continue to do what I can, where I am. Kindness seems to be something I can do. Through my energy work, I can support the activism that will no doubt increase over the Trumpian presidency. I am still focussing on and connected to the DAPL water protectors’ activities, through two of my very dear, long-time friends from Navajoland days, whose grown children are still in the DAPL scenario as it unfolds (and still needs our vibrational support if nothing else) in the North Dakota court-rooms… and who knows what will resume on the ground at Standing Rock after January 20.
    There is going to (continue to) be a responsibility for each one of us, as you have mentioned, Tom, and I can listen to my own body, mind, heart and spirit — which seems to always come back to the spiritual warrior position, if it ever actually leaves it! — as my guide to where to put my next thought, word and/or action. I’m thankful for the like minds who have gathered through you, Tom, as we move into the next phase together.
    In loving spirit, Eleanor


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