ANGER: Venting vs. ?

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Steam pipe, for machines or Cyborgs

Edited from ethoughts weekly 5/13/04

Lisa Colón DeLay ©2004

Letting off steam regularly is fine-- if you're a train

Anger: Venting vs. ?

Indulge with me in a short scenario to see if you can relate:

Suppose one beautiful spring evening you sit in your living room enjoying a good book, or something on tv. Outside you hear the sound of adolescent laughing. Mildly amused, you peek through your curtains and see some familiar neighborhood youth tossing several ping-pong balls to each other as they go up your street. You smile and settle back in your chair reminded of the simple but fun antics of your younger days. The following morning you go outside to find your car crusted in egg yolks and smashed shells.

You fume with anger. “How dare they! Rotten kids,” you think. “Those weren’t ping-pong balls! If I had known they were going to egg my car I would have stopped them.” Your blood boils. You fantasize of chucking an egg at those ankle bitters who made your car a target of vandalism. You feel the need for a good vent for your fury. Right?

However, as you approach your car you notice a mother bird in a tree branch high above your vehicle fussing about her nest nervously. Suddenly an egg falls from the nest and lands amongst the other destroyed eggs. You realize the young people had nothing to do with your car’s condition. Does your attitude change? You feel a certain sense of relief, right? If so, what happened to the anger? Where did it go?

I contend that the notion of purging or venting our anger for good mental health is actually a myth, and a destructive one. It seems it rarely is necessary for feeling better at all. We don’t go around like human forms of unopened soda pop that have bounced down the stairs. One crack in the container, and–POW!

The only thing that cools, or adjusts the anger, in the scenario I mentioned, and many others like it, is the change of the mind. It’s a choice, rather than a reaction. It’s a way to see a happening without being emotionally hijacked. In reality, all that is required to alleviate anger is a change in mentality, or a new perception. As one modifies anger, the feeling is consequently neutralized.

I think the idea of the venting our anger as a tactic for good mental health may have been birthed when those burying anger found it coming forth in baffling and unconstructive ways. (The technical term is repression.) The discovery of psychoanalysis was pioneered by delving into the sub-conscious mind; including the newly named matters of “repressed feelings”. If matters are dealt with– pop psychology  tells us– in a proper visible “exorcizing,” we won’t have unexplained, reoccurring anger problems, frustrations, and related psychological disorders. This kind of “repressed anger management strategy” of our era is so intertwined with our culture and norms, we scarcely see it as a recent invention.

Notwithstanding, repressed anger is real and dangerous, like submerged toxic waste. I will dare allege anger buried becomes guilt; and this anger pointed inward (guilt) ferments, and turns into depression. It is also quite avoidable–without ever discharging the anger like steam from a blazing locomotive. These negative emotional features and many others surface because anger isn’t transformed or neutralized. Buried, anger of the past however; in contrast to present-day, situational anger, is not the same matter.

Surely we should attend to anger and not stow it. A constructive, respectable dialogue regarding upsetting issues is quite wise. Unfortunately, what often happens in using venting as anger resolution is we may feel entitled to vent, or ill at ease if this venting doesn’t transpire. This is simply not accurate. In reality, expelling our anger is so often counter-productive or damaging. It can be like throwing a grenade on a comfy campfire. Additionally, we are bound to be angrier people if we rehearse being angry and letting the vehemence rocket rather than changing our perspective.

Next time something deplorable happens we can think to ourselves, “How can I consider this differently ? Do I have all the fact to warrant blowing up, probably not.” This will transform the mind and transport us from anger. We don’t have to rely on the ventilation of anger. Understanding this is truly a victory. We need not be captive, or slaves, to anger. We need not give vent to it, like detoxifying a poison from our system, if we truly resolve it, and more importantly transform it.

If something offensive occurs soon think of it as a chance to practice this principle. I believe it will also develop our strength of character to think this way more often.

Please leave your thoughts about venting, anger, or anything related to this topic.


9 responses to “ANGER: Venting vs. ?

  1. Laurie Mellinger


    Wow. Beautiful analogies–and excellent applications. I’m in the midst of two such situations at present, and will endeavor to apply your sage advice. Thanks!


  2. Laurie Mellinger

    Oh, and it’s really hard to see the gray (purple?) print on the light blue comment section!!

  3. Doug Jackson

    At first I thought it said “Anger vs. Venti” and that this would be a blog about how I react when Starbucks gets my order wrong.

    I see your point, Lisa, but the idea that all anger should be transformed seems to rest on the idea that all anger is illegitimate, which the biblical concept of the wrath of God (if nothing else) would tend to refute. The imprecatory psalms pray for a lot of wrong things but they are a good witness to the fact that injustice cries out for justice, that we should be mad when evil seems to win. All that doesn’t take away from your completely legitimate statement that analysis often proves anger unfounded and that an emotional shrapnel-fest is never a good or helpful thing.

    • Doug, thanks for bringing up that point!

      I really believe anger is a natural response.

      I particularly enjoy the psalms because God allows us to come to him bearing any emotion. It is our words, thoughts, and actions towards others *from* this position that may be unwarranted. Nothing could be better for a person, angry or not, than bringing everything before God: passion, rage, vengeful feelings, anger, frustration, and any other seemingly negative emotions.

      God’s anger spoken of in the Bible, is unlike our variety. Our anger is most typically personal in nature, not primarily based on justice qua justice. Often anger is a sheer veil over hurt, fear, or frustration. The boiling up of anger is just the outmost branch of that bigger tree with an intricate root system.

      Wrath and anger of God are holy. What % of the time is this true for us? gulp…

      It may take God 500 or 1,000 yrs to get God “angry”. (Is *anger* a proper word, I wonder? Language IS limited.) How long does it take for our anger to bubble up, or burst out?

      Also- his displeasure and actions related to it are always in keeping with his perfect holiness, so we can safely assume it exists in a fashion *almost* completely unlike ours. We may experience or interpret God’s anger as like our own, or how we might think or behave, but this is a largely human-centric hermeneutic; a deeply tainted vantage point.

      The most often used word for this type of response from God, in Hebrew connotes a controlled response that is justified, and extremely brief in nature, [esp when compared to the offenses endured.] God’s long-suffering outweighs his displays of “anger” many times over.

      Another noteworthy difference is that when God is “angry” and does something about an offense, mercy is a chaser that goes on like a caboose with the coming “train of correction,” (esp, in the case of his people. Witness the words of Jeremiah, and the compassion translated to the exiled just after a condemnation/judgmental pronouncement [correction] for ages of wrong-doing.)

      I do believe that at the core of human anger is a repulsion at injustice (this is god-like). It may only take a millisecond for a person to surmise that the anger applies to injustice experienced by one’s self, and is so often not perceived beyond that point of view…. so much so that I believe most cases of outbursts of anger are not righteous ones.

      ¡All this determination from me, a (continually) recovering angry, hothead, who grew up in a family of screamers!

      I love this interaction. Thank you!!

  4. divine…….

    left hand governed by right brain represents the “soul”.
    right hand governed by left brain represents “body”.

    fold them together for prayer to experience oneness that is present and taste of god.
    that is namaste (eastern greeting gesture ) to bow to god in oneself.

    Happiness is prayer and thanks to god.

    as you bring your both hands together one automatically starts breathing deep like a child so in time of stress , anger, wants to avoid hot discussions one should try this for a minute or so and see the change. folding hands together body produces neutron waves and their effect is calmness.

  5. Doug Jackson

    “Then an experience that perhaps no good man can ever have in our world came over him – a torrent of perfectly unmixed and lawful hatred. The energy of hating, never before felt without some guilt, without some dim knowledge that he was failing fully to distinguish the sinner form the sin, rose into his arms and legs till he felt that they were pillars of burning blood. . . .It is perhaps difficult to understand why this filled Ransom not with horror but with a kind of joy. The joy came from finding at last what hatred was made for. As a boy with an axe rejoices on finding a tree, or a boy with a box of coloured chalks rejoices on finding a pile of perfectly white paper, so he rejoiced in the perfect congruity between his emotion and its object.” – C. S. Lewis, “Perelandra”

    “There is among the passions an anger of the intellect, ad this anger is in accordance with nature. Without anger a man cannot attain purity: he has to feel angry with all that is sown in him by the enemy. . . .He who wishes to acquire the anger that is in accordance with nature must uproot all self=will, until he establishes within himself the state natural to the intellect.” – St. Isaiah the Solitary, 4th century

    This is what I was, in my more clumsy language, going for. Of course, you are exactly right about the inevitable fallenness of even our best reactions. As a believer in apophatic theology I am reminded that anything we say about God is always more wrong than right. In fact, I think we make a similar mistake when we speak of God’s “love” and invest that statement with the content of our own, far more anemic and selfish, emotion. Lewis clearly agrees with you – no good person in our world can ever feel “pure” rage in the literal sense. In one of his letters to Arthur Greeves he says we like anger because, in the moment when we let fly, we feel perfectly righteous – which clearly is a lie!

  6. “Without anger a man cannot attain purity”
    -WOW. Great to think of anger, when rightly applied, as that which lends to holiness.

    I’ll muse on that for quite a bit.

    also-Interestingly cited, “intellectual anger”. Not a feeling, but a knowing–really a reckoning of right and wrong.

    The bit about Ransom… very good. Thank you.
    Here I think you razor the meat from the bone, in revealing that there is a clear distinction between an ultimately selfish telos regarding anger, and what Lewis’ fictional story speaks of- A pure and refined repulsion of sin/evil/injustice…all that is against God. Idealistic for us, perhaps, but existent!

    I agree with you on the love bit, as well. What can we really to fathom of God’s love? (esp. with our shoddy application of it!) The transforming nature of it is the most divine/miraculous, to me.

  7. Doug Jackson

    Check out this article on the benefits and risks of regulating emotions: