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Anger is an Acid

Gandhi said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it stands than to anything on which it is poured”. This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog is about anger that often comes from our interpersonal disputes.  In previous blogs, it is usual that one of the questions has to do with the emotions being experienced as it usually helps to name what we are feeling, and it is common that a first response from many is the word anger. There is a lot of meaning behind this word and while it says a lot and we all likely understand its usage, there is more to say about the impact on us of feeling anger. So, we are going to explore the impact of anger in a bit more detail here – anger as an acid – as Gandhi describes it.

To start with, the word essentially means “a strong feeling of being upset or annoyed because of something wrong or bad” (Merriam-Webster https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anger). When Gandhi refers to anger as an acid it adds another consideration to having feelings of anger  since the implication is that acid burns away at us; it’s toxic; it’s hurtful. And his quote tells us that it is us we hurt with our anger – more than  the other person.

When thinking about this I can think of many reasons why we and the other person are both hurt by our anger – both feeling it and being on the receiving end of it.  I was struck by the quote though as, on reflection,  ongoing anger that we feel might in fact, have bigger consequences for us than the other person at whom we are angry. I suggest you consider a dispute about which you have lingering anger when answering this week’s questions and see what you think for your experience of anger:

  • What happened that resulted in you feeling anger?
  • About what are you specifically angry regarding the dispute you had or are having with another person, i.e. what they said or did?
  • About what might you be angry at yourself regarding this dispute?
  • If you consider your anger is like an acid what does that mean to you?
  • In what ways is it causing you harm?
  • In what ways is your anger having a harmful impact on the other person?
  • Who of the two of you is suffering most from your anger, do you think?
  • Why is that (your answer to the above question)?
  • What might relieve the anger for you?
  • What might be different for you if you figure out a way to let go of your anger? What may be different for the other person? What might be different for the relationship between you?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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