Misplaced Anger
(06-27-2009, 05:43 PM)QuisUtDeus Wrote: Misplaced anger is rooted in lack of virtue.  Increase your virtues, and the misplaced anger will subside.

For example:

Someone changes lanes in front of you and goes slow.  You get angry at them and call them a MF.

Why should you be angry?  Did they single you out? No.  Is their intention to mess you up and cause you to be late for work?  No.  So why get angry?

It comes from pride.  We believe we have a right to go the speed we want and anyone interfering with that is deserving of our wrath.  Further, we get mad at the person instead of the circumstance.  THEY have interfered with US....

Likewise, the person who innocently changes lanes in front of us and goes 30 in a 50 zone isn't doing it to mess us up.  Therefore, our anger is not just.  We have no cause to be justly angry at them because we don't know the circumstances:  they may have a busted car, they may be ill, they may be old and are trying to get to the doctor, etc.  Sure, they may just be stupid or not give a crap about people around them, but that would be an assumption and our anger would not be objectively just.

The response that is difficult but that we should strive to have is to pray for them: "God, if this person be afflicted in some way that is causing them to drive slow, please help them.  St. Christopher, please pray that this person's driving for whatever reason doesn't cause an accident and that they and the others on the road arrive at their destinations safely."

Another appropriate response is to accept the event as penance from the Hand of Christ even if it is just circumstance and not Divine Intervention: "Jesus, thank you for this opportunity for penance, for this test of my patience.  Please send me the graces I need to increase in virtue and my love of you."....

The sticking it in one's craw and blowing up after time is just an indication that there is a lack of having the virtue (e.g., of patience).  If we truly held the virtue of patience, there would be no explosion at the end.  So, if we do this, it's an indication we need to do more work to acquire a higher degree of that virtue.

IMO, patience is one of the virtues that is most lacking when it comes to anger (the other is pride).... 

This driving issue is a great example and the one I run into the most, believe it or not.  But I conclude that it IS just anger, since they clearly don't give a crap about people around them -- namely, me -- else they wouldn't cut me off.  They'd wait until the faster car -- mine -- passed them, and would then move over.  I do feel a little bad if the focus of my anger turns out to be an oldtimer, but that's the only exception.

Still, though I may not be convinced that this is unjust anger, your larger point -- how we should respond -- is correct, and the only practical solution. 

I ultimately conclude that my anger -- "outbursts" is too strong a word, since I am under control -- though not unjust, is probably rooted in a lack of virtue, as well as displeasure with other related facts that are not tied to my "adversaries'" driving skill: specifically, a long, horrible commute, eg; the sense that time is being lost; etc.  Because I don't get ticked off when I am driving on vacation, or driving in my native small town; or out for a pleasure drive in the country.    So my conclusion is that my lack of virtue prevents me from restraining the anger I feel, the anger that has its real source in factors that are outside the specific event that triggered the anger.

I guess I am saying I agree with both of you: it IS a lack of virtue, but it is also tied to sadness, or in my case, great dissatisfaction with one particular, essentially, unchangeable element  -- my commute and work-related lifestyle.

This is an excellent thread idea. Thanks for posting. I definitely agree that misplaced anger can cause disproportional reactions...also that anger often arises from fear or sadness.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to deal with the roots of misplaced anger? I understand that growing in virtue is a major component, but sometimes getting over hurtful events has to happen as well. For example, I converted when I was seventeen. My well-meaning Baptist parents flipped out, and I still get mad enough to cry when I think about some of those conversations. I've tried not to bottle up these emotions too much--I made a point of talking with trusted friends about the situation. I don't really bear ill-will toward my parents, but I'm not exactly over some of those conversations either. Do you just stop feeling hurt and angry about past events? If so, how does that happen?

(07-01-2009, 12:10 PM)Tinuviel Wrote: Do you just stop feeling hurt and angry about past events? If so, how does that happen?
I think there's a need to process such feelings.  One thing I did, which seems to have helped quite a bit, was start an anonymous blog.  I use the blog to specifically address past hurts and really just dump it all out.  Through writing about the issues, I've explored them more thoroughly, and since it's anonymous, I don't have any need to hold back.  I've found that through exploring the issues, I start to see how I was personally at fault for some things, and I can also see how other people did what they did either through ignorance, or their own problems.  It makes it easier to forgive somehow, I don't know, it seems to have helped me.
Couple things, because I have a significant problem with anger.

1) So, I get mad at people I perceive as doing stupid things, either to themselves, or potentially to me (the traffic example). I do not understand this anger very well. I'm mad that they don't give a rat's @$$ about me or anyone but themselves, but why that ticks me so much I don't get.

2a) I don't think I have any problem expressing my anger at authority figures, or those I love. That is, I disagree with your theory that there's an 'explosion' phenomenon. I'm not saying this is everyone, just that with me I have no problem telling or showing someone I'm mad without letting it 'build up' first. I've let cops have it if I think they're wrong. Zero hesitation. They're just people.

2b)I think the real deal with those I love is very different from the authority figure case. With authority figures I lose it because I a)expect more from them than the general population and b)I don't really care about someone's title or position, if they're doing something wrong, it's wrong, and they're just a human and I tell them what I think.

2c)With those I love it's totally different. I think I lose it there because I have some unresolved fear of abandonment because my mom and dad ditched me as a kid with my grandparents (who were awesome people), and I feel like when they slight me it's reflective of their opinion of me and thus a sign they're about to abandon me, so in response I go ape$h!t and try to 'control' whether someone leaves me or stays around me by being a jerk and driving them off, at least that way I'm in control of them leaving (by assuring that they will leave).

I don't have a therapist working with me on this stuff, this is just my own analysis of myself over my 3.5 decades of life.

Of these:
I think point #2c I'm very sure of.
#2b towards authority figures I'm fairly sure of, but not super-sure.
#2a I'm also very sure of, but it isn't very 'impactful' in my life to understand this.

#1 continues to be quite impactful (#2c less so because I now understand what I'm doing and why), but I don't get it at all why I do this. I do however, strongly disagree with Quis's explanation of why. I think I'm pretty honest with myself, and I really don't see what he said going on in my head. We'd just have to agree to disagree there.
For me it's definitely been rooted in lack of virtue, like Quis said.  I've been taking a similar approach to what he suggested, praying for patience, reminding myself to keep a guard over my tongue and redirect my train of thought if I'm getting annoyed with someone.  And when I'm getting impatient with listening to someone, I try to force myself to look away from whatever I'd rather be distracting myself with and listen attentively. My family says I'm much more pleasant to live with now, so it's apparently helping. :)

Several of our least-pleasant family members get all caught up in the psycho-babble cycle of talking it out (i.e. complain without ceasing about how they've been wronged, to the point their faces are contorted with hatred over incidents that happened and were resolved amicably twenty years ago).  There have been a lot of things I've had to let go, because I want peace, and peace doesn't lie down that road.

And I don't think that and various other "wrongs" that have been done me are the source of my impatience with people now.  My problem, as it is with most people, is that I think I'm the center of the universe and want what I want now.  We're born shouting our demands to the world. It's not without reason that most of the saints saw themselves as so sinful they were surprised everyone didn't treat them with contempt. Thinking we deserve the world on a silver platter, ala Veruca Salt, can only be due to lack of virtue.

(07-02-2009, 01:50 AM)Iuvenalis Wrote: Couple things, because I have a significant problem with anger.

1) So, I get mad at people I perceive as doing stupid things, either to themselves, or potentially to me (the traffic example). I do not understand this anger very well. I'm mad that they don't give a rat's @$$ about me or anyone but themselves, but why that ticks me so much I don't get.

Well, it is good to get angry at injustices.  However, even if it is virtuous to have a just anger, the degree of anger needs to be proportional to the injustice.  For example, we shouldn't get as mad at someone littering by throwing a Necco wafer on the ground as someone committing sacrilege by throwing the Blessed Sacrament on the ground.  We don't give pickpockets the electric chair, either. :)

So maybe in the case you describe, your anger is justified, but the degree of anger is disproportionate if you think you are getting too angry, and that's a slightly different question.

don't get me started.

Perhaps it would help if you meditated on what anger is for. A good new article on the subject:


I see more people than ever now angry over trivialities -- hence road rage and so on. Part of it is surely a sense of entitlement and a lack of discipline, but at the same time people are being told not to be angry over things that should make them angry. (For an example of that right here, hop on over to the thread about the man who repeatedly molested his adopted son, ignore the occasional sadistic comment, and read the responses from the poster who wants mercy for the abuser. I see many cases now of people wanting to skip the demands of justice and go stampeding toward mercy, forgetting that mercy carries a heavy price that must be borne by someone.) I wonder if part of the reason people are losing their temper over trivialities is because they are trying to repress anger over things that it's currently unacceptable to be angry about and the anger is bubbling up someplace else in distorted form.
Good article, thanks.  Your post  reminded me of a lady I knew who was being exploited, and she was angry all the time.  Her exploiter kept telling her that she needed to "work on" her "anger problem" when really she needed to build assertiveness skills so that she could get herself out of situations in which she was being taken advantage of.  It was hard to watch, so I interfered.  One day when she was slamming around and mumbling  I had an "anger is your friend" talk with her.  It did not help.  She had become accustomed to using victimization to justify certain negative behaviors, and sought out situations in which she would be made angry so that she could indulge in such behaviors. 


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