a node at the edge  

July 07, 2002
SensoryMore Angry Voices

Interesting comments in the the Value of Anger posting. As I expected, this is not a subject that people treat lightly. However, I was surprised at how personally some people took this posting.

For instance, Dave Rogers disagrees, strongly, with the concept of "healthy anger", writing:

    Anger isn't some transcendent experience. It's a temporary (hopefully) abnormal condition. Let it go.

Frank Paynter was actually "pissed" because Mike Golby and I talked about the healing power of anger. He wrote:

    Anger is a bad thing. It comes from fear, and it inspires fear. Fear has a proximate cause. Root out the cause, displace the anger. Anger sucks. Angry people rationalize inhuman behavior. Angry people foster hostility and resentment in others. Angry people haven't learned a loving acceptance that transcends helpless acceptance. Angry people are stunted in their personal development.

And both Jonathon and Dorothea saw themselves as "gently melancholic and intellectually pessimistic", taking exception to the line If it's angry people that forge a new society, it's the gently melancholic, the intellectually pessimistic, and the complacent and indifferent people that destroy it.

Considering that I was wrote this line after reading a book based on a period of time 1000 years ago, I wasn't expecting immediate identification. However, this shouldn't be surprising. No matter how technologically advanced we get, no matter how we see ourselves advancing as a species, we're still nothing more than humans experiencing human emotions. Love. Hate. Joy. Compassion. And Anger.

Anger is a part of us. It's been a part of us before we ever attached a name to the emotion so that we could discuss it rather than act it out. To deny anger is to deny ourselves. Might as well deny love - it, too, can lead to destructive actions.

I don't know about anyone else, but I have no interest in being a saint. And I have no interest in denying my capability for love or anger. I would hope that I expend my love on those that return it - to do otherwise leads to a great deal of pain. And I hope that I can control my anger and use the energy it generates for something productive, such as fighting the current political administration.

Mike had it right - anger is sharing.

Posted by Bb at July 07, 2002 07:03 PM


Man, that pisses me off!


But I'm with you - as the PiL song goes, 'Anger is an energy!'. On the spectrum, where it shades off to the left into discombobulation or disapproval, it's wan and useless, and where it engorges off to the right into rage and fury, it's desctructive and pointless, but a fine, keenly felt, rigourously controlled anger is a power.

The meek shall inherit the earth, my ass.

(Heh..does that make you angry, that I say that? Good!)

Posted by: stavrosthewonderchicken on July 7, 2002 08:19 PM

Shelley, and to anyone else who takes this issue seriously, I've written something that is likely my last word on the subject in the context of this forum. You'll find it here

I've written about anger long before this discussion, and I probably will long after. But in the context of this particular exchange, I think it has merit, and it concludes my thoughts here.

It's long. It's not exceptionally well written, there are at least two sentence fragments I'll fix some other time. It was not easy to write because it talks about things I don't often like to talk about.

It's an angry post, so some of you may think that's a good thing. Well, it's not a good thing because I'm mostly angry at myself. This tries to convey why.

It's not an appeal for attention or sympathy or validation. I've had plenty, certainly don't need any from you. I hope you don't think that's unkind, it's merely an expression of frustration. At moments like this, I've usually been advised, "David, just be still." Usually, I listen. When I'm pissed, I don't listen well. Another of anger's virtues no doubt.

Frankly, the way I feel right now, I don't give a shit what the fuck you all think, except I would really like it if you would read it. After you read it, I don't care. Go proclaim the healing power of anger from every roof.

If you're looking for me to admit I formerly engaged in ritual cannibalistic sacrifices of small children, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. It's a fairly typical, rather mundane story.

It's not that people who don't embrace anger don't have negative feelings, or don't get angry, we do. We just don't think we're heroes when we do.

Posted by: Dave Rogers (not that other Dave) on July 7, 2002 09:53 PM

Paynter not Payntor... Poynter would be cool but it's not me, it's an institute.. Payntor is just a mispelling.

Posted by: fp on July 7, 2002 10:26 PM

Dave, I can respect your viewpoint. For you, it does sound as if anger has very unhealthy consequences.

For me, anger can be harmful at times, it's true. Getting mad at someone I like because I'm hurt is one I, unfortunately, have to battle at times. I equate this with Michael Webb's incredibly beautiful, gentle posting at http://www.mlwebb.com/oregon/2002/07/07.html#a336, and his comment about anger moving a person up from sadness.

But there are times when I've done extraordinary things because I was angry, things I couldn't have accomplished without the impetus of the anger. And, when I'm going through a particularly bad time, anger keeps me from giving into what could be a very severe depression.

I might prefer love as a way of keeping myself from spiraling downward, but that's not always something that one can call up on demand. We have to work with what we have.

What I do in these cases is get angry at the circumstances, and use this anger to make them better. And when I give into the tears, I make myself angry again, until I'm back on steady ground again. It works for me, but then the reason why it works could be because I "control" the anger. And who knows, perhaps it's not anger after all - just stubborn determinism.

I'm sorry for making the comments in regards to previous posting. I think I am still defensive because of the difficulties yesterday. And I do get tired, 'angry' if you will, when personal confrontation happens in my comments, which seems to happen a lot (probably due to the intervention of yours truly).

As for thinking that I'm a hero because of the anger, that's far from the truth. I think I'm human when I'm angry. No more. No less.

Posted by: Bb aka Shelley aka Weblog Bosswoman on July 7, 2002 10:30 PM

yet another rambling thought -

anger at a person, or anger at a situation?

What is the target of your anger - what do you want to change?

Is anger healthy when you are trying to rip some jerk a new asshole? Or is it *only* healthy when you try to change the situation that allowed the person to be a jerk (either to you, or in general)?

It anger healthy when all you are doing is trying to remove the source of your anger, or is it only healthy when you are trying to replace the source of your anger with something better?

Posted by: Dave on July 7, 2002 11:14 PM

If you're looking for me to admit I formerly engaged in ritual cannibalistic sacrifices of small children, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.

'course if you are looking for that sort of thing, I'd be the man you need to see.

Also : I can't keep track anymore of all these Daves. (Hey Shelley - you think we could get a status bar on these popup windows so when we mouseover a name, we can see the URL? Or maybe title tags?)

Posted by: stavrosthewonderchicken on July 7, 2002 11:25 PM

I can see that my favorite chicken is in a fey mood - lock up the women and horses.


Can easily add this back in, Stavros, so that the URL will highlight. I think that Mark Pilgrim mentioned a way to add a text description for a URL, and I can add that to my comments window template. Soons I get server straightened up.

Posted by: Bb aka Shelley aka Weblog Bosswoman on July 7, 2002 11:32 PM

Dave, wanting to rip a person a new asshole would, in my estimation, fall into unhealthy anger. Now, wanting to change the circumstances that led to wanting to rip the person a new asshole could be healthy anger.

As an example, I don't want to rip President Bush a new asshole because 1) he's already a complete asshole, this would be impossible, and 2) the secret service wouldn't be happy with me. Instead my 'anger' at President Bush and his almost daily idiotic actions is directed at doing whatever I can, legally and ethically, to ensure he's not elected again. And that, to me, is a positive use of the anger. Perhaps not to Bush, but to humanity in general.

Posted by: Bb aka Shelley aka Weblog Bosswoman on July 7, 2002 11:39 PM

The most comforting people to be, or to be around, probably are the ones who are at total peace with the universe. But then you fall asleep or die. The most interesting people in the world are chasing something or running away from something, and anger is often the fuel, or a component of the fuel. Anger can be distilled into a pure long-lasting vengeance, too.

I watched a movie recently -- yeah, me, watching a movie -- a pirated avi copy of something called Donnie Darko that had anti-anger counseling for school kids. The anti-anger people in the movie turned out to be the dolts and perverts. Which proves nothing, of course. I ramble. But it made me wonder whether anger and its control is a big topic in the US now.

Posted by: Eeksy-Peeksy on July 8, 2002 04:50 AM

Dunno, but I liked Donnie Darko a lot.

Posted by: stavrosthewonderchicken on July 8, 2002 06:26 AM

The way to get a tooltip (on just about anything, not just a link) is to put a title attribute on. The value of the attribute shows up in the tooltip.


FWIW, I hardly meant to give the impression that I was somehow immune to anger, or thought I ought to be. That would be pretty astoundingly sanctimonious of me. I do have my sanctimonious moments (and am not overly proud of them), but I don't think this has been one of 'em.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo on July 8, 2002 08:20 AM

Earlier today, I was wondering about all my repressed American friends (forget the Canuck - he's shitfaced again) when something came along that really pissed me off. Anger, or different types of it, is relative and demographic, it seems. Our living conditions have as much to do with how we interpret the emotion as they do with our response to it. Just a thought :)

Posted by: Mike Golby on July 8, 2002 09:06 AM

I've come from the school of "Emotions are neither good nor bad; they just are. It's what you do with them that's good or bad." Maybe it's a cop out, but it seems to dismantle a lot of the stuff that most people are hanging up on. To me, it's like posing an argument: "Is sunshine moral or immoral?" Huh?

Anger is. We can channel it in good directions or bad directions. That said, anger is in some ways like playing with fire-- if you don't know what you're doing, you can burn yourself and others. On the other hand, fire is an archetypal symbol for rebirth and purification.

Some emotions seem to lend themselves to unhealthy outlets. I think anger is definitely one of those. I think it's commendable that those in the "anger is good" camp have been able to fruitfully find good outlets for that anger. I have a hard time understanding anyone feeling guilty or ashamed or wrong for having experienced an emotion. Guilt/ shame should be reserved for actions.

Posted by: Andrea on July 8, 2002 12:49 PM

I'm still wondering what the all the fuss is about. Anger is just another emotion. It happens. It will continue to happen. And calling it bad won't make it go away. Rather acknowledge it and use it to do something to make the world a better place. And I agree comepletely - trying to ensure that Pres Bush is not re-elected would make the world a better place :)

Posted by: Nithia Govender on July 8, 2002 01:03 PM

I think the idea is that anger is a necessary motivator. Anger that leads to motivation, to questioning of the status quo, to positive action, is a good force. Anger that is just pointless, directed at no one, everyone, or the wrong one, is just as detrimental as learned helplessness. And I would characterize that as rage. The difference between rage and anger, IMHO? Coherancy.

Posted by: Jennifer on July 8, 2002 01:56 PM

This debate reminds me of the incredible vitriol to which I was exposed when I published an essay at motherjones.com a couple years back. ,a href="http://www.motherjones.com/reality_check/violent_media.html">The article, written by comic book author Gerard Jones, posited that violent media (movies, videogames, TV shows, gangsta rap) are actually good for kids. Some of the debate about the essay can be found here.

Posted by: Brooke on July 8, 2002 07:31 PM

Dang, here;s that link not fucked up:


Posted by: Brooke on July 8, 2002 07:32 PM

forget the Canuck - he's shitfaced again

Actually been on the wagon for a couple of weeks now - one of my periodic toxin-purges.

Posted by: stavrosthewonderchicken on July 8, 2002 07:51 PM

Good. Hate to think what alcohol and them little packets of five mystery pills the doctor prescribed for you would do in combination. I prefer my Wonder Chicken regular, not extra-crispy.

Posted by: Bb aka Shelley aka Weblog Bosswoman on July 8, 2002 09:47 PM

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