Aw, hell. I was in the middle of this post about wrath when Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut became the victim of a mass killing of (among others) kindergarten students. I have completed my original thoughts, but have added, in the context of today’s events, a comment about what happened. It’s at the end of this post.
I started this series with wrath because it is perhaps the most deadly of the deadly sins — and not just because people who live in anger have a greater tendency to commit murders. Anger creates a condition of continual stress in your body, which, over time, causes heart disease, high blood pressure, and other physical ailments.
Anger vs. Wrath
When people come to a therapist, they usually have one of three emotions that they are trying to ‘get rid of’: anger, fear, or sadness. Leaving aside for a second that “getting rid of”
an emotion is not the answer, the key here is that anger is one of the top three most miserable emotions to live with… and it’s even more complicated than that.
Anger is almost always tied up very tightly with anxiety. Sometimes the anger attempts to hide the fear, and sometimes the fear is desperately covering up deep rage, but they appear to be paired in many, many people.
On top of its marriage to anxiety, anger also sometimes serves an important function, by giving energy to people who are paralyzed by fear or depression, to function at a more or less ‘normal level’.
Anger is a useful emotion.
That bears repeating: Anger is a useful emotion. Which is why I tell people I will not help them get rid of it, only to use it better.
It can help you identify wrongs in your life. Is someone consistently treating you with disrespect? Anger will let you know, if you let it. Are you being asked to do more than your fair share at home or work? Anger will give you a heads up. Are someone’s lies hurting you? Anger will tell you (if you let it).