Exploring Anger

anger dudeI’d like to introduce a topic of interest to me, in hopes that it is of interest to you: repressing anger, expressing anger. What constitutes a healthy way of dealing with anger? What are unhealthy ways of dealing with anger? What do Jewish scholars have to say about anger? Psychologists? Bloggers?

First, some definitions:
Repression: The unconscious exclusion of painful impulses, desires, or fears from the conscious mind.
Depression: Freud defined this as anger turned inward.
Anger: I couldn’t find a simple definition. The Wikipedia page on Anger is quite long.

I found a nice explanation of three different forms of anger by Rabbi Abraham Twerski:

…the Hebrew word for anger, kaas, is used for three different phases of anger, and this may lead to some confusion.

Kaas may refer to the feeling one has when one is offended or provoked. There is no need to describe this feeling. Everyone is familiar with it.

After we feel anger, we may react by expressing our anger in a wide variety of ways, from word to deed. In fact, clamming up and pouting is also a reaction, albeit a passive one. The reaction to the initial feeling of anger is also termed kaas.

The third phase of anger, which is likewise called kaas, is retention of the feeling. Sometimes the anger feeling dissipates, and at other times it may linger for hours, weeks and even years. We may hold a grudge for years against the person who offended us.

I like the way he divides anger into three. People often mush together the feeling of anger with the reaction. One of the reasons this is important to me is as a child, I was taught that anger was bad. As an adult, I’m learning to understand that anger just is. And recognizing it and finding a healthy way to deal with it is important to one’s health.

Here’s a famous letter that the Ramban, a rabbi from the 11th century, wrote about anger:

Hear, my son, the instruction of your father and don’t forsake the teaching of your mother (Mishlei 1:8). Get into the habit of always speaking calmly to everyone. This will prevent you from anger, a serious character flaw which causes people to sin.
More of the Ramban’s letter to his son

Now, having read what Rabbi Twerski’s wrote about anger, perhaps this letter should be re-translated as “rage” and not anger, a feeling that we all feel. Or perhaps we just need to accept that the Ramban did not know all.

To be continued…

5 thoughts on “Exploring Anger

  • Great post! I don’t think the Ramban was wrong. While Rabbi Twerski describes the different paths anger travels, the Ramban relays techniques that can prevent us from journeying down those said destructive paths.

  • Frumhouse,

    Thanks so much for reading my post! Most everyone I know with whom I discuss emotions has no idea who the Ramban is.

    I think the Ramban’s technique of managing one’s anger works for someone who has rage issues; that is, they are too outward with their anger. But some of us internalize our anger, and we don’t even know it’s there. If one has spent one’s life being the good little girl (this is more common in girls), staying calm may not be so healthy.

  • Also it could be that temper is what’s bad, and is what’s meant instead of anger. Since a temper is caused when someone is angry and doesn’t know how to deal with it, and it can lead to abuse. While if someone understand why their angry and how to help their anger then there’s no problem.

  • Jewish Side, I think many people know about the problems with temper; that’s why there are all these programs for anger management. What is less known is that keeping one’s anger inside is also very dangerous, dangerous to oneself. Depression is said to be anger turned inward; and certain disorders (alcoholism, eating disorders) are also related to not dealing with one’s feelings in a healthy way.

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