Anger: Our Self-Inflicted Fury of Revenge

By Richard Cirulli

“We have to count the letters of the alphabet and gather ourselves before we say something we regret.”

–Athenodorus

In this month’s column, I will address the topic of anger; a state of mind which we all have experienced some time in our life.

Existentialists are concerned with the meaning and quality of life, especially when events surface that makes us become unmoored from our anchor of life. They also strive to navigate the gauntlet of life by transforming life from merely existing to that of finding essence. No easy task for sure!

To a degree, we are all existentialists. Existentialism is not a cure-all for all emotional encounters, but rather just another tool along with classical philosophy, therapy and religion to use when confronted with life’s trials and tribulations.

I’m not a fan of cliches, especially when making important life decisions. Though for the sake of making a point, I will refer to the cliché, “Don’t get mad, get even.” It is also my least favorite cliché, just as a matter of ethics and morality. To place this in perspective, we can approach such an emotional state by taking the position that mad is a reaction, anger is a state of mind.

“The effects of anger are almost always worse than the harm from the violation.”

–Seneca

There is much validity in Seneca’s words, especially when we engage in common conversations, to remember it is best to heed the fact that once your tongue utters an angry statement you can never retrieve it. To seek our peace and essence in life it is best not to warehouse our negative thoughts and grievances for the purpose to revisit them to stir up our anger, since they become a brain virus that spreads like an emotional cancer throughout one’s being.

It’s quite ironic how some people are possessed to hold on to such anger from past events they wished they had not encountered, only to relive them in their heads daily, consciously or unconsciously. Oh yes, the frail human condition.

To help assist in finding your essence of life, a simple way to overcome such angry thoughts is to tell yourself these negative thoughts can’t afford to rent space in my head, and I will rent it out to more positive and constructive thoughts and memories. We can’t go back to the past to renegotiate a bad memory. But have the ability not to waste time revisiting them and dwelling on them and to better use our thoughts and time on more constructive endeavors, namely, to improve our own lot. 

According to a recent research study conducted by Michael Greenstein, angry people are more susceptible to misinformation and will use this misinformation to make life decisions and actions. Anger also renders false memories. Anger, along with its volatile temper, wounds us more than the person we are upset with. We often unjustly believe anger and revenge seem like the only course of action when we feel we have been wronged. The wise know better; anger will not take you to a better place or make you a better person or to allow you to be the best version of yourself.

Take, for example, Orestes of Greek mythology fame, who having used his anger to take revenge, finds himself spending his life trying to free himself from the haunting of the three goddesses of fury, namely the fury of anger, who follows him wherever he goes. The moral being anger and revenge do not make Orestes feel better, only worse. He is taunted for life for his indiscretion of revenge and anger.

We should avoid knee-jerk emotional reactions when confronted with anger. And take the advice of Athenodorus to recite the alphabet to gather ourselves before we do and say things we will regret rather than unleashing a maelstrom of insults and attacks that will come to haunt us for the rest of our lives.

Be well. Be safe. Be happy. Be nice. Amor fati!

Dr. Richard Cirulli is a published author, playwright and retired professor. His body of works can be viewed at www.demitasseplayers.com. He looks forward to your comments and can be reached at profcirulli@optonline.net.

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