I am reading a book by Thomas Keating, Divine Therapy. He has some insightful words about anger.
Keating distinguishes the energy of anger from the passion of anger. The first achieves anger’s goal, whatever that is…to speak a pointed truth or to pull a situation or a person back from loss of control. Then the anger ends and the person is “ready for the next event with its proper emotional response.” The second, the passion of anger, continues and we find ourselves in a mood of anger that lingers beyond its usefulness.
I think that when people say that someone has anger issues, they are talking about the passion of anger. Isn’t it true that sometimes people are angry about things that don’t seem to merit anger? Or people are angry long after a difficult situation has been resolved? I think this is what is called a resentment. I once heard someone say that a resentment is letting someone live in your head rent free.
Lingering anger, in my understanding, is related to control. When we can’t control people or situations, we get angry. It usually takes the form of blaming the person or situation for not being more cooperative with our way of thinking. This has all been true for me. I have a prayer passed on to me by my mother. It is known as the serenity prayer. It goes like this:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things that I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.