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Old 05-24-2010, 12:49 PM   #4
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 286
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Re: Anger, when is it appropriate

Francis,

The evolutionary psychologists have quite a lot to say on the matter. Their understanding is imperfect, but bears looking at. Briefly, anything costly in terms of energy expense for an organism had better have some survival advantage, or the organism will not thrive. The adaptation does not by any means have to be optimal... only sufficient that the benefit balances or exceeds the cost.

That anger is costly is without doubt. That anger can be managed, possibly even eliminated, has been demonstrated by some sages. But I have to wonder if the energy spent in eliminating anger is not costly beyond that of anger itself.

Much of the cost of anger is associated not only with violent consequences when expressed, but the violence done when it is habitually repressed.

So it begs the question, what is the benefit to anger? I won't go into the evolutionary view here, except to say that it's worth considering the possibility that it might be something we should be grateful for.

I think the aiki path would be to welcome anger (our own and that of others) and embrace it as a tremendous gift of energy. The ability to direct it toward wise outcomes would be the best boost possible for our innate mechanisms. (Something for me to work on, for sure!)

I don't think it's a question of whether anger is good or bad. It's simply one of a number of chemical responses to environmental triggers. The useful questions go to exploring appropriate and constructive expressions of anger, and mindful reflection on whether our anger approximates an accurate reflection of the reality of the situation. To me, this would make an eminently worthy sub-discipline within aikido.

FWIW, O Sensei is reported to have had quite a temper. For that matter, there are many tales of prophets and saviors and enlightened masters who demonstrated righteous wrath upon occasion. Whether these stories simply reflect a human failing, or illustrate the wise use of anger, is open for debate.

Personally, I tilt toward Oscar Wilde, who said "Nothing human is foreign to me."

Great subject. Thanks!

Ross
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