The Path to No Path


There is a difference between anger, assertiveness, and aggression. Let me look at these in reverse order:

Aggression is when I try to achieve something. When I am playing rugby and go to tackle someone who is much bigger than me, I am aggressive. A half-hearted attempt will not do at all. My intention is to gain possession of the ball; I am not trying to hurt the other player. He may well indeed be a good friend of mine, and I would grieve if my actions caused him any injury.

Yet I still tackle him aggressively – it is an expression of energy, expressed here in a context in which the rules are clear and we have both agreed to be in this situation, knowing what might happen.

Assertiveness is when I try to make you do something for me, especially when ordinary asking does not seem to work. Presumably, you do not particularly wish to grant my request, and I am trying to make you change your decision. Perhaps I can achieve this through some form of compromise.

There are many techniques I might try, and these can often be very successful. However, getting angry when I am trying to be assertive is not at all a good idea. If the other person perceives that I am angry, they may well refuse to grant my request, out of stubbornness born of fear. And if instead they accede to my demands, they will be resentful, feeling that they have been bullied, and may seek revenge. Or, they might realise that the fact that I have become angry means that I have run out of techniques, and so they have 'won'.

If I am more than a little aggressive, the other might confuse this with anger; or, cunningly, they may decide to accuse me of being angry even though I am not, thus side-tracking me and putting me in the wrong. Again, they have 'won'.

Anger is when I wish to hurt you. My aim is to inflict harm upon you, either upon you personally, or upon you as a representative of someone else. It may well be that I want something from you (in which case assertiveness would be more appropriate), or that my original intention was to play some sort of boisterous game with you. In this case, if you don't go along with my wishes, I feel hurt.

Anger is when I feel hurt, and I want you to feel hurt too. If I feel very deeply hurt, the word 'anger' does not seem to convey what I want to express on you. Perhaps 'rage', or even ‘murderous rage' is then more appropriate.

When I get very angry, my painful memories can start to surface, fuelling the anger. But we are brought up to not be angry. Anger is not merely frowned upon; it is a taboo subject, something which is almost universally condemned. So, having momentarily lifted the lid of anger, we slam it back down again.

The anger will remain bottled up, waiting for the next opportunity to express itself, only to find itself repressed once more. And so the cycle continues. Yet the repressed anger will manage to find a way to leak out, poisoning our children, poisoning our friends. They in turn will return the anger to us, and we blame them for it.

The only way to be free of anger is to let go of it, and to do this it seems to be necessary to go into it, to look into the anger so deeply that we get to the bottom of it.

Once we understand anger, we no longer need to repress it. The energy bound up in the anger and in keeping it at bay will gradually subside. Then anger is no longer a threat, and we will no longer bother with it, though we may still choose to put on an act of being angry in order to gain somebody's attention when they are asleep in front of us.

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If you should wish to contact me about anything you have read here, especially if you feel strongly for or against what you have read, or if you feel that something is missing, I offer you an opportunity to share.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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