Anger is a natural emotion, neither good nor bad. Its motivation and the way you manage it makes a difference in the way you feel, and the way others feel about you.
The Dalai Lama spoke of the difference between anger motivated by concern for another's well-being, for example the angry response when a child is about to do something dangerous, and anger that motivates hatred, as when anger is directed at another person who has done you some harm. In the first case, the anger is at the action and it dissipates once the action has been stopped. In the other, the anger is at the person and may lead to harmful action or negative feelings long after the action is over.
People may be angry about traffic conditions, dealing with bureaucracy and having their partner leaving a mess in the kitchen or having an affair. On the political/social action front, people may be angry about perceived injustice. Progressives are angry about the political shift to the right and the erosion of freedom to choose to smoke marijuana, marry whoever they want, or get abortions. Conservatives and populists are angry about the government putting undue constraints on private behavior, spending hard earned money on the poor and more. "When anger is over social injustice, it will remain until the goal is achieved. It has to remain."
Anger is a powerful emotion - a state of mind. It is a collection of physical sensations, feelings and thoughts. Emotions represent energy fueled by circumstances, external events, habits and beliefs. Without conscious effort, strong emotions like anger result in unskillful behavior, damaging to the individual and those around him or her. When an emotion is strong it takes control of the mind and results in reactive behavior.
Blind hatred and blind love are both examples of the way emotions take over the mind.
Anger exists in many forms, from mild annoyance to rage. It signals displeasure - being denied something wanted, or being faced with disappointment, pain and suffering - and fear - fear of loss of control or of some unpleasant outcome.
Fundamentally, anger is the result of an egocentric view that fails to accept the reality that everything is changing, and in a way that is not necessarily to one's liking.
When anger arises, even in its less dramatic forms, feelings become so intense that they cannot be contained. The energy must be released to relieve the feelings.
When there is a clear target, the cause of pain or disappointment, then anger is directed towards that person, group or thing.
For example, frustration with a non-responsive smart phone application can lead to a smashing of the phone being used or yelling at the support person you called for help. Anger caused by the potential loss of a loved one can lead to violence towards a perceived rival, the loved one (who has become a hated one) or both.
When there is no clear target, anger may be directed inward or at some random target like a door that gets slammed or the steering wheel that gets hit when traffic backs up.
Options - Channeling the Energy or Being Driven by It
How can we manage anger? There are options:
- Free expression - Let anger take over, justify it and allow it to drive speech and action
- Repression - swallow the anger, driven by fear or self-judgement
- Transformation - use the energy of the emotion to skillfully address the situation.
Often the first two options are taken unconsciously. There is a reaction. Sometimes, the reaction is justified, and the anger is consciously fueled and sustained. Those who are trained in self-restraint, who are interested in transcending their limitations, and are willing to confront their impulses choose the third option. They choose to transform the anger's energy into something more useful.
Choosing to transform and channel the emotional energy is a courageous and difficult path. It means becoming increasingly able to see the onset of the emotion and be able to accept the feelings that accompany it, without running away. It means taking responsibility for one's actions and accepting the reality that while anger is triggered by external events, it is your condition and conditioning that turn the trigger into anger.
At first it seems impossible to not react angrily. Though, as one practices being mindful of feelings, and free of an immediate identification with them, the frequency of emotional reactions reduces and the behavior they bring becomes more likely to be intentional and appropriate. This practice is motivated by the realization that anger, whether justified or not, is a destructive force unless its energy is consciously channeled into skillful behavior.
When seeing that something is wrong, and having the need to do something about it, one can experience anger and act without the anger being the driver. This is reflected in the training given to non-violent protesters that teaches them to accept the verbal and physical blows of haters, experience their own feelings and respond with love, while not backing down.
The social cause is the driving force, the anger may still come up, but it is recognized and channeled into skillful action and into the understanding that allows for compassion towards, as opposed to hatred of the abuser.
Anger is not to be denied. Practice mindfulness of feelings to find the gap between trigger and reaction. Apply wisdom, to make sure your response is appropriate to the situation and an expression of compassion and loving kindness. Forgive yourself for lapses - anger driven reactive behavior - and carry on.
 The (Justifiably) Angry Marxist