The Deep Roots of Anger

Anger. What is anger? Is it an emotion that fills us with hatred? With a blind sense of rage? Possibly, but not necessarily. There are countless articles, memes, and posts on LinkedIn pushing the narrative that anger is an unhealthy emotion, that it leads to violence and a pessimistic view of the world. I’m not going to refute or debate any of these suggestions, because ultimately they are all true in some capacity.

However, the knee-jerk assumption is that anger is always bad – that angry people are simply negative beings and therefore no good for the greater society. Angry people contribute nothing. They are poisonous and toxic. They must be avoided at all cost. I take exception to this surface evaluation. What’s lost in the narrative is the difference between perpetual anger and some fleeting negative emotion.

I must confess. I myself can be an angry soul from time to time – perhaps even childish and petulant in my tantrums. I have no problem admitting that I’m human… that I wear my heart on my sleeve. There are countless things that piss me off in life, but that doesn’t mean I should be locked in a cage or forgotten. The difference is that my rage is temporary – driven by some external source or stimuli. Eventually, the feelings dissipate. Like anyone, I have moments of frustration or disappointment. If I should lash out and kick a fire hydrant, well it’s my own bloody fault if my toe gets broken. Shame on me!

…And that’s just it… What do we do with our wrath? I’ve always tried to channel my passing moments into something more productive, such as poetry or art – a timely article that points out injustice or some other social bullshit nonsense. None of us are cut from the same cloth. We all have differing viewpoints and realities. Most of us are quite humble in our moments of rage. We have productive ways in which to diffuse the bomb… something that brings us back into balance with the universe.

I’m quite happy for those who have mastered the art of zen. Perhaps they should bottle it up and sell it to the rest of us angry simpletons.

Honestly. What would you rather have – someone who uses their brain to unlock the roots of their misery, or someone who throws bricks, smashes private property, or burns down their local CVS Pharmacy? If we all acted on our negative impulses to destroy and hurt our fellow man, then we may as well have no society to live in at all. That’s what wars are for, and that’s a completely different article for a different rainy day…

If only someone would take the time to ask, What’s wrong?

Yes, anger is a turnoff. It is a part of the human condition we wish we could avoid. It is a natural response to something we find unfavorable. It does not mean the person who is experiencing anger deserves counseling or therapy – some do, some don’t. In fact, I’d say some level of anger is probably quite healthy. It flushes out problems into the forefront, demands attention, problem-solving, proves you have a pulse and that you care deeply about something. In many instances, there are consequences or byproducts of anger that lead to a much better situation. If only someone would take the time to ask, What’s wrong?

Yup. Just two simple words – What’s wrong? Isn’t this where compassion begins – by eliminating the source of someone else’s misery? By helping them climb in from that dangerous ledge? There are always reasons for anger. Every single human being must learn to live with, cope with, and deal with the confusion of its very existence. Nobody escapes life without tasting this sour emotion. It is nothing less than a vital part of our chemistry, our humanity, and our personal identity. How often we deal with and experience anger is the variable. How we react and how we treat others in our rampage will likely determine how willing others are to reach out that helping hand.

It’s a tough nut to crack, but I’d much rather pick someone’s brain who is angry, to help them find a solution to their problem, to get to the roots of their dilemma – not just ignore them and disregard their agony. That’s awful. It’s a far more interesting concept than locking someone up and throwing away the key, yet that seems to be the surface remedy so frequently posted here on social media… especially from compassionate experts… Just get rid of the angry person because it’s too much work to understand their pain. That’s nice.

What scares me worse than someone who is angry, is someone who lives in perpetual bliss – someone who believes that Cloud Nine is going to save us all. They wave their hands at reality and fail to acknowledge the rust growing on their sword. Indeed, La-La Land is just as frightening – if not more so than a person who has a thorn in their side. So instead of throwing anger into a deep dark hole, let’s try to remember our own moments of discord and recognize where their misery is coming from. You never know if your open ear might lead to a positive ray of light in that person’s bleak and cloudy outlook. Thank you for reading…

Aaron Towle
Aaron Towlehttp://www.repdigest.com/
Aaron Towle is a Multimedia Artist living in Green Cove Springs, FL. He proudly served in the military as a journalist and now works as a developer in the Defense Contracting Industry. He is passionate about art, literature, and photography and looks to continue building his credentials as a professional writer. He currently produces an online publication called Reprehensible Digest, which explores the subtle dynamics between art and literature.


  1. I really appreciate your meaningful and honest reflection on the topic of anger, of asking a person, “What’s wrong?”, Aaron. I’m intimately familiar with anger -the full range of expressions-from a moment of exasperation, to a perpetual anger/shame cycle, to the annihilating rage type that comes from unresolved traumas inside the being of a person. From the perspective of neuroscience anger is part of the fight, flight, freeze reaction for survival. When this gets in a “stuck mode” for human beings, this becomes a huge challenge-the executive function-goes off-line-so higher thinking of “What are the consequences, the impacts, the results of my words/deeds done in anger?” do not come on-line. Many see anger as a secondary emotion that covers shame, hurt, a violation, a slight-physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual crossed boundary. The practices to dismantle the bomb of exploding rage remain important to growth, self-awareness, our evolution-to heal deep wounds takes focus, willingness, and sometimes support from wise professionals. The distance we create from our hurts creates distance and walls between those we sometimes care about the most. Anger is necessary part of growth, of being human and humane, of tracking back to the source of fear that lead to the anger. I don’t see this as an either/or but a both/and self-discovery, other discovery of how we evolve beyond sometimes primitive ways of interacting with one another, to more thoughtful, compassionate ways that are dignified, strong, without being ball-busting. Oppressed people have many, many reasons to be enraged-let’s listen to their realities, their lived experiences without fearing their underlying sense of powerlessness. Why do some people feel threatened for their lives? This seems to be a deep-seated fear that drives much of the anger. How do we learn to remove the barbed wire around our hearts and heal, live and thrive? “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”― Viktor E. Frankl Anger turned inward can become depression. Anger turned inside out can become purposeful passion that fuels a fulfilled, transformational life. Thanks for this great topic for which I have thought extensively about-for which I have used to alter the trajectory of my life path.

    • Amazing response Laura, and I think you are much more “in the know” on this subject. Part of this article was a loose response to how often people shame “anger” on social media. Far too many “experts” lump the emotion in as a negative thing that must be dismissed outright. How can we not be angry sometimes? How can we not be angry at our media? At our politicians? At people who wrong us in society. Learning how to work with and through our anger is very challenging and probably depends on the individual and circumstances. I would never condone anger as a means to an end. It has its place from time to time, but is not the be-all end-all solution to resolve conflicts. This article was based on a certain mood I felt when I wrote it. My emotions were on my sleeve… But in fairness, I would much rather endorse the positive virtues of life… and to stick to my word, try to find ways to understand another person’s anger – to help them resolve issues instead of igniting them. Your thoughtful statements here gave me more to think about. I appreciate and value this, and perhaps next time I’ll consider that a greater audience is going to absorb my words. Thank you Laura! It is always an interesting discussion when we cross paths… Kindest blessings and joy my friend.

  2. It is essential to recognize anger when it emerges, for what it is, or rather a protection mechanism that signals to us that something is wrong, that our rights have been violated, our real needs disregarded. Anger expresses a reaction of intense dissatisfaction, of frustration, that is, it acts as an alarm signal.
    Listening to one’s anger helps us to know our real needs, our values, helps us to be more authentic to ourselves and to maintain more authentic relationships with the people around us.

    • Agree completely Aldo. I think anger is unfortunate, but it is also quite necessary in helping us resolve certain problems and dilemmas. Obviously it is no fun to be angry, and it is not something I condone to solve ALL problems… Sometimes the fact that we are angry gives us the opportunity to reflect on things in a different way. In some instances we are forced to step back and meditate deeper on a complex problem. Nobody signs a peace treaty when they are pissed off… It takes cooler heads to prevail before they can both agree to sign that declaration. So, next time I feel angry, I will try to take my own medicine and step back from the problem. It’s okay to let anger out on occasion, but we cannot be guided through life on a destructive whim… Anyway, it was a pleasure hearing from you my friend. Hope things are well in your world…

  3. I just may have to take a look at your Digest – sounds fascinating. That said, you echoed my sentiments more beautifully than I would have been able to do in my current state of anger. I struggle with folks looking only for happy and peace, when there is a profound message in anger that shouldn’t be ignored. Thanks for this post. Green Cove Springs, eh? That’s right around the corner.

    • Thank you for understanding Carol. Anger is not something I am trying to promote, but sometimes the world isn’t so kind. There’s nothing wrong with a brimming, positive outlook, but to avoid the things that trigger us and pretend we live in some blissful utopia does nothing to solve problems. It’s simply not reality. We can’t wish away the negative… but sometimes a little anger helps us get to the root of the issue. And yes, been in Green Cove since 2007… a far cry from New Hampshire where I grew up… but much warmer in the winter!