Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
My question for Buddha is what type of poison are we talking about? Are we talking about cyanide that kills rather quickly or are we talking about tequila or aspartame? Too much hard liquor and, well… you could be poisoned. However, an occasional margarita may just hit the spot. Aspartame won’t kill you instantly but if you drink enough diet beverages you’ll probably not be the poster child of perfect health given that some consider this sugar substitute a silent poison. But don’t you sometimes just need that cold, calorie-free caffeine?
So I think my question is fairly relevant since drinking a little bit of poison doesn’t always cause someone to die. In fact, we crave our poison. And if I’m honest, I sometimes crave the emotion of anger. I’m tired of being told to let it go; get over it; be the more mature person; don’t stay mad. Anger is motivating. It can be the force that pushes you to say, “That’s enough!” This declaration can lead to movement, action and potential change. Truth be told, when we prematurely let go of our anger we just replace it with something much more insidious. We paste on the neutral face of indifference while the gremlins of bitterness and resentment burrow deep into the gut and soul with gripping claws. This isn’t a poison; this is a cancer that slowly eats away at our sources of happiness. So give me a small dose of diet-Pepsi-angry any day. I’ll sip it down ice-cold and will probably belch out a sloppy response that will later require a request for forgiveness. And so be it!
I’d far rather someone get mad at me than shut down. I’d far rather they admire, hug and pet that anger for a day or two if the situation calls for it. When people have permission to overtly clutch their anger versus hide it – they’ll get tired enough to loosen their hold with little coaxing from someone else. When I sense a client is angry, I don’t want them to drop it like something dirty or unacceptable. I will encourage them to hold it, understand it and appreciate it just as they would the emotion of joy, surprise or appreciation. When the time is right, anger will slip away on its own with little need to call attention to its departure.
Carrie Arnold, PhD, PCC, BCC
Principal Executive Coach & Consultant for The Willow Group (Writer, Reader, Trainer, Facilitator, Wife and Mom)