For years I have been ‘banging on’ about how you cannot control what happens to you. You only control your response to it.

 I’ve said things like, “No one can make you angry without your permission”.  “Choose peace and kindness”.  “Leave it with the other person”. 

I’ve told stories about Victor Frankl, the Viennese psychiatrist interned in a concentration camp who claimed that the last of human dignities remaining is the ability to choose one’s thoughts at any given point in time.

 How come, then, I asked myself was I so angry last year? Why wasn’t I heeding my own lessons?

 Reading and listening to Eckhart Tolle only made me angrier. He was telling me that there was something in me that wanted the drama, wanted the conflict; that I wanted to be right than at peace.

 Yet, amidst my anger, there was an inner voice telling me that I had a right to be angry even if I didn’t like the angry me.


Since then, I have discovered a great book,  The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner. As soon as I read the first paragraph, I knew I was ‘on to something’.

Ms Lerner writes, “Anger is a signal and one worth listening to. Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something is not right. Our anger tells us that we are not addressing an important emotional issue in our lives, or that too much of our self – our beliefs, values, desires or ambitions – is being compromised.’

“Anger is something we feel”, she continues. “It exists for a reason and always deserves our respect and attention. We all have a right to everything we feel – and certainly our anger is no exception”.

What a relief!

That is not to say that I wasn’t responsible for my anger. I was. I was the one choosing to compromise.

That is also not saying that venting anger is OK. It is not. If you are angry, you cannot present your case rationally and objectively.

The lesson is to calmly state your needs and, if they are not being met, walk away, particularly if your values are being violated.  To stay and compromise always leads to anger at self, resentment towards the other party and brings dis-ease into the body.

As Ms Lerner so logically claims, “Feelings of depression, low self-esteem, self-betrayal and even self-hatred are inevitable when we fight yet continue to submit to unfair circumstances, when we complain yet live in a way that betrays our hopes, values and potentials”.

Read that last sentence again.  If you aren’t feeling good about yourself, if you are constantly angry, look at yourself and explore where you are compromising.”

It may be in the workplace, in a relationship, with your children or with a friend; wherever it is, and with whomever it is, acknowledge that you are responsible for giving in; not defining your boundaries; not speaking up for your needs.

The more you suppress your needs and compromise for the sake of the relationship, the more angry you will become.  When you ultimately ‘blow your fuse’, you could be labeled ‘egocentric, selfish, volatile, destructive or, even, neurotic’, to quote Ms Lerner.

If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.



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