Care With Anger

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Reason is no match for the passions, something Spinoza realized. His solution was to elevate reason to a passion. Our solution is to try to minimize the downside of emotions by focusing on consequences. Emotions grip us with intensity and often compel us towards actions that we have little control over.

But with most of the emotions this is a very good thing. Their evolutionary purpose is to provide instant information about the situation so that we can act without having to contemplate what to do, thinking with our gut as it were, saving valuable time. This aided in our ancestors’ survival. When you are happy you laugh, when you are sad you cry, when you are afraid you try to protect yourself. These actions are usually the correct ones for the situation, and even if they are not the consequences are usually minimal. If you are acting silly in a situation that is supposed to be serious, people might be annoyed but no one is going to get irrevocably hurt.

Anger is a different story though, because it often leads to destructive acts and we often regret these acts later on. Just like with the other emotions, we behave without thinking, but the consequences for us and the people around us can be quite severe.

The solution is to interrupt the process when we are feeling angry, choosing to sit with how we are feeling instead of acting right away, becoming passionate about using reason to assess the situation. When the anger subsides you will know if the behavior you were ready to enact was correct and you can always go through with it then. We are not talking about ignoring the situation, and in fact are encouraging the opposite. By mindfully embracing your anger you are in a much better position to see its source clearly and decide on the best course of action.