How do you cope with anger? I’ve learned things about anger from my favorite comic book character, The Incredible Hulk. The Hulk was created in 1962 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and tells the tale of Dr. Bruce Banner and his anger induced alter-ego, The Incredible Hulk.
Here are things I have learned from The Hulk:
- It is okay to be angry
I’ve been told this and maybe you have as well, that you “shouldn’t” be angry or “just let things go” or “you have to stay calm”. I personally think it’s okay to be angry. Anger is not necessarily a bad or negative emotion. We have a right and a responsibility to ourselves to be angry, to feel our emotions.
Ignoring or suppressing it is detrimental to ourselves and to those around us. I tend to suppress my anger so as not to offend or hurt someone else or to keep the supposed peace.
What happens is the levee I built starts to leak and the anger I suppressed floods out at inappropriate times, and I end up making a mess of things. The same happens with Bruce Banner when he tries to suppress his anger. He can’t and he becomes the Hulk, sometimes at the most inappropriate times, and the Hulk can definitely make a mess of things.
- Anger can be used for good
Some people view The Hulk as an agent of destruction and seek to either control or destroy him. Yet, there are others who see The Hulk as a hero. How we choose to show our anger usually dictates how we are perceived.
We can lash out and be aggressive physically or verbally. We can be destructive, we can seek vengeance to hurt those that have hurt us. We can choose to not forgive and be bitter, etc.
We can also decide to express our anger in a healthy, assertive, constructive way. We can choose to identify what is causing this anger internally inside of us and express our needs without attacking the other person. The choice is ours.
- Anger indicates something deeper is happening
We can respond to someone who is angry by going deeper and listening to what is really bothering them and respond to that and not to the anger. Anger indicates that something said or done has touched something deep inside of us.
The Hulk is a manifestation of Bruce Banner’s anger not just because of his gamma irradiation, but of a deeper pain caused by his past relationship with his father. For you and I, there are wounds we have that when touched, we become angry. We can address those sensitive places internally before our anger does it for us by lashing out at whatever or whoever touched those wounds.
I do not like the term “controlling” anger because it implies that anger is something negative that needs to be controlled. No one says “I have to control my happiness”. Or take classes on how to manage their love. People don’t say someone has “hope issues.” The anger isn’t the issue, what the anger is protecting is what needs to be addressed. If only the anger is addressed and not the deeper wound, that wound will not have an opportunity to heal.
- The angrier you get, the stronger you become
The Hulk biggest power is just that, the angrier he gets, the stronger he becomes. During Secret War issue #4 (Aug. 1984), the villains destroyed the heroes’ base and the Molecule Man dropped an entire mountain range on the heroes. The Hulk saved all the heroes by holding up an entire mountain range all by himself to keep everyone from getting crushed.
Anger can strengthen us and cause us to unite for change or to fight social injustice. Tomorrow is Martin Luther King’s birthday. I think about the Civil Right’s Movement, how people were angry over injustice and did something about it.
I think about how it started with a few people becoming angry and standing up for what is right. They not only made history, but caused change.
I think about how Martin Luther King used his anger to protest in a peaceful, non-violent way. How the resistance and hardship increased and people’s anger and resolve strengthened and the movement became stronger and stronger.
I think about how people could have used their anger to retaliate in violence and hostility, and some did. But on a whole, people channeled their anger toward peace and an entire nation was moved and changed. I like this quote:
” You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation.”- Marian Wright Edelman
So what do you think about anger?[photo by Mr. Fotoshop]