An Integral Exploration
A state-of-the-art, interdisciplinary study of anger and how to work with it, in personal, transpersonal, and interpersonal contexts. Anger’s anatomy, function, and evolution — from mere reactivity to wrathful compassion — are explored in great detail, as are four approaches to working with anger: Anger-In, Anger-Out, Mindfully-Held Anger, and Heart-Anger.
“Brilliant, original, well-crafted and most helpful to us who work with real patients in the trenches… the scholarship is comprehensive and sound…exceptionally competently written.”
— John E. Nelson, MD, author of Healing The Split: Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding Of The Mentally Ill
“I don’t know of anyone who has investigated the theme of anger as deeply, in so many ways, as Robert has. He brings wonderfully together deep groundedness in psychospiritual work with anger with a firm background in a great variety of scholarly material on anger — from psychology, psychotherapy, physiology, linguistics, the history of religions, and gender studies. He has a keen sense of the most important questions to ask and his writing is lucid and poetic, integrative and passionate. This is a rare study that I hope has considerable impact on a culture that is often very confused about anger.”
— Donald Rothberg, PhD, author of The Engaged Spiritual Life
“An exceedingly interesting and insightful meditation on the confusing question of where anger comes from and what can be done with it, not only in clinical but also spiritual practice.”
— Stephen Diamond, PhD, author of Anger, Madness, And The Daimonic: The Psychological Genesis Of Violence, Evil, And Creativity
Anger, contrary to much of popular opinion, is not necessarily the same as aggression. Aggression involves some form of attack, whereas anger may or may not. Aggression is devoid of compassion and vulnerability, but anger, however fiery its delivery might be or might have to be, can be part of an act of caring and vulnerability. Nevertheless, anger is too easily linked with aggression.
Aggression is not so much an outcome of anger, as an avoidance of it and its frequently interpersonal nature and underlying feelings of woundedness and vulnerability.
Viewing anger as necessarily being aggression — or even as the cause of aggression — gives us an excuse to classify it is a “lower” or “primitive” emotion. Or something far from spiritual. But anger is far from “primitive,” though what we do with it may be far from civilized. Rejected anger very easily mutates into aggression, whether active or passive, other-directed or inner-directed. Thus does a means of communication become a means of weaponry.
Anger assigned to do injury, however subtly, is not really anger, but hostility. Anger that masks its own hurt and vulnerability is not really anger, but hardheartedness or hatred in the making, seeking not power with, but power over. But there is a potential healing here: to reverse the equation, to convert aggression, hostility, hardheartedness, hatred, and every other diseased offspring of mishandled anger back into anger.
This conversion, however, does not mean eviscerating or drugging the energies of such negative states, but rather liberating them from their life-negating viewpoints, so that their intensity and passion can coexist with a caring, significantly awakened attention. In this sense, the world needs not less anger, but more. Especially anger coming from the heart.
Where violence — the brass knuckles of neglected or abused wounds — tramples or dynamites boundaries, anger in many instances protects or guards boundaries, at best resolutely exposing and illuminating (or perhaps even flaming through) barriers to intimacy or integrity, without abusing the barrier-defender(s). As such, anger is moral fire. Anger that burns cleanly leaves no smoldering pockets of resentment or ill-will. Violence is not a result of anger, but rather is an abuse — or violation — of anger.