When the iron is hot

Anger is often seen as a destructive emotion. The Buddhists liken anger to a holding a hot coal in our hand before we throw it at our enemy.

The stoic method to deal with anger is to observe it and let it subside just as easily as it comes. Stoics recognize the feeling of anger and ensure that it does not have a grip over their actions. Separating one’s self from one’s anger is a deliberate act that is mastered with years of practice. But adopting this perspective relegates anger to a merely a counterproductive emotion.

An alternate perspective is to channel anger into a creative force. Opponents knew better than to taunt Michael Jordan on the basketball court because once he was riled up, he turned unstoppable. Josh Waitzkin, the chess prodigy turned martial artist, mastered the art of transmuting his anger into his best chess games or jujitsu performances. Under the right circumstances, anger replaces lethargy with action, inspires clarity and increases our resolve to fight injustice – just as it fueled struggles for freedom, civil rights and gender equality.

Anger is often destructive and wasteful, but that need not always be the case.

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