Start your review of Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion Write a review Shelves: professionallit , readablenonfiction , thought-provoking Certainly this book spoke to me as a therapist, someone who tries to help people who are dealing with strong feelings of all sorts but frequently anger. But it spoke to me on a personal level as well. And over the course of my life, Certainly this book spoke to me as a therapist, someone who tries to help people who are dealing with strong feelings of all sorts but frequently anger. So I picked up this book with a great deal of interest. Tavris begins by pointing out that we, as a society, have a legacy of ambivalence about anger. Having once believed in ideals of stoicism and suffering in silence, current popular thinking is that expressing anger in its full force is the only way to discharge it; otherwise, it will supposedly come out in other, more insidious forms.

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About The Book "This landmark book" San Francisco Chronicle dispels the common myths about the causes and uses of anger— for example, that expressing anger is always good for you, that suppressing anger is always unhealthy, or that women have special "anger problems" that men do not.

Carol Tavris expertly examines every facet of that fascinating emotion—from genetics to stress to the rage for justice. Chapter 1 Rage and Reason -- an Eternal Ambivalence Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes They have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

Deuteronomy On the train to Brindavan a Swami sits beside a common man who asks him if indeed he has attained self-mastery, as the name "Swami" implies.

When I have told you --" "Oh, Swami, this is anger. You have not mas --" "Ah, but I have," the Swami interrupts. Let me tell you a story. As the incidents increased, everyone became fearful, and many refused to go to the temple.

The Swami who was the master at the temple was aware of the problem and took it upon himself to put an end to it. Taking himself to where the snake dwelt, he used a mantram to call the snake to him and bring it into submission. The Swami then said to the snake that it was wrong to bite the people who walked along the path to worship and made him promise sincerely that he would never do it again. Soon it happened that the snake was seen by a passerby upon the path, and it made no move to bite him.

Then it became known that the snake had somehow been made passive and people grew unafraid. It was not long before the village boys were dragging the poor snake along behind them as they ran laughing here and there. When the temple Swami passed that way again he called the snake to see if he had kept his promise. Tell me how this has come to be. It is an understandable mistake, for ambivalence about anger permeates our society.

Once thought to be a destructive emotion that should be suppressed at all costs, anger is now widely thought to be a healthy emotion that costs too much when it is suppressed.

In the abrupt transition from Puritan restraint to liberated self-expression, many people are uncertain about how to behave: Some overreact angrily at every thwarted wish, others suffer injustice in silence. We are told in one breath not to rock the boat, and in the next that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Some people take a dose of anger like a purgative, to cleanse the system; others dread any ripple on their natural placidity and fear the loss of control that the demon anger, like the demon rum, might bring. Or open warfare -- very frightening. They fight back. Anger lust sits there, like an uncooked doughnut.

When David Banner gets angry, he becomes, uncontrollably, a giant green id, a bilious beast. He is not a man at all, super or otherwise. These incarnations of anger represent dual attitudes: is anger handsome or ugly, righteous or dangerous?

Is it under our control, or do we have as much chance of telling it what to do as of regulating the carotid artery? Is it a human blessing, or a bestial sin? The Bible does not answer, now recommending the furious smiting of the unjust, then the ameliorative turning of cheeks. Although my friend occasionally berates herself for her ambivalence about anger -- and spends a lot of time in therapy trying to "resolve her feelings" -- she is in fact part of a long and noble debate in Western tradition.

In the eighth century B. Stifling his angry impulses to kill Agamemnon at once, Achilles retreats to sulk in his tent and pamper his rage. But Achilles feels better about sulking than my friend does. When the servant is found murdered, Qvist is arrested; and the trial that ensues for him is both legal and spiritual. At last, although he knows he is innocent of the deed, Qvist convicts himself of the desire.

He remembers an earlier time when anger had defeated him, an experience that I expect is familiar to modern readers: No sooner did he feel himself alone than his anger disappeared. His bones seemed to turn to water, and a most awful sickness took possession of him. He sank to his knees, shaking, and covered his face with his hands This anger, which came upon him so suddenly and with such absolute power, had been the greatest trial of his life.

Memories rushed upon him. The face of a young German student, blond, arrogant, and opinionated, rose before him. He felt again the sword in his hand, and in his heart the furious desire which had possessed him to kill that young man.

The reason for the quarrel escaped him. Two more unlike stories you could not find, for the anger that is sweet to one hero is anathema to the other; Achilles nurses his anger and Qvist curses his; one uses his anger and the other feels used by it. Over the centuries, the pendulum of opinion has slowly swung to the Qvistian position, a result of profound changes in our attitudes about the nature of humankind.

About as soon as man could think, he thought thinking was superior to feeling. I use the word "man" advisedly, and not generically, either. The battle lines were drawn early for what Pascal would call the "internal war" between reason and emotion, and for most of our history a brave confidence in reason prevailed. Reason, or at least religious faith, gave man a fighting chance to control anger, pride, lust, covetousness, envy, gluttony, sloth, and any other deadly sin that happens to be his weakness; philosophers and theologians sought to distinguish man from beast, and from woman, by praising his intelligence, rationality, and upright posture in both the moral and vertical meanings of "upright".

Far from advising emotional self-expression, our predecessors came down firmly on behalf of self-control: Hesitation is the best cure for anger The first blows of anger are heavy, but if it waits, it will think again.


Carol Tavris

She grew up in Los Angeles, California, with her parents, Sam and Dorothy Tavris, secular Jews who promoted and practiced critical thinking and equality for women. She was encouraged to argue and discuss everything with them, from household rules to religion. Her parents gave her books about successful women—ranging from Phillis Wheatley to Susan B. Anthony —and her father taught her poetry and storytelling. Her grandparents were Russian Jews who emigrated to Chicago in the early s.


Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion


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