Here’s a provocative take on anger from Fred Newman (who often advises us to look in the mirror).
Dialogue 52. Dealing with Anger as Activity (From Psychological Investigations: A Clinician’s Guide to Social Therapy)
Student 1: I understand that you believe that expressing anger is a choice. I know that if I don’t want to be mean to people, to hurt people, I have to choose to not be angry.
Fred: Why do you want to give expression to anger as opposed to performing it? When it comes to anger, people often say, “Forget this performance stuff. I want to kick ass.” But why not do a performance of anger instead of hurting somebody? I think people are resistant to performances of anger, because they want to get what they take to be the cash value of anger, which is seeing somebody hurt.
Student 1: I get something from anger.
Fred: What do you get from it?
Student 1: A feeling that—you harmed me and now I have to do something or else I am a fool.
Fred: When people talk about anger, they talk about their being angry in response to what the other person did. But it can’t be that all anger is reactive. Your picture doesn’t include you being the initiator; it’s always the other person. How about the possibility that you are as much the initiator as the other person? Is it worth considering that it’s not simply you defending yourself, but it’s you defending yourself in a way that gives expression to your need to be a perpetrator?
Student 1: It’s ugly.
Fred: Why do something ugly when you can do something beautiful? Performance of anger can be very beautiful. Why would you choose to do anger instead of doing a performance of anger?
Student 1: I’ve stopped looking at it as a choice.
Fred: How did you lose your capacity to choose?
Student 1: You just feel crazy.
Fred: You think crazy people don’t make choices?
Student 1: No.
Fred: I think crazy people make choices the same as everybody else. People want to hide behind crazy. I think you are saying that this is just behavior. “I am overcome by this. I have no choices.” I don’t think that’s true. It’s a lousy performance. Why does someone as talented as you want to do a lousy performance? I hear a defense of lousy performances. Why do we defend them?
Student 2: We have the right.
Fred: Who gave you the right?
Student 2: You imagine that it’s essential to your survival.
Fred: Yes, but in this case, too, it’s you who are always under attack. What about you as the attacker? It’s not just a logical point. It’s helpful to take a good look in the mirror. Anger is easy to justify. It’s a defense mechanism against being attacked, but there always has to be someone doing the attacking.
Student 2: Isn’t there a global sense that we don’t get what we are entitled to – that the world is unfair?
Fred: Absolutely. It’s called religion. The root of the cultural concept of justifiable anger is religion.