Have you noticed how almost any anger management book or therapist will open up a conversation with “Anger is a normal and healthy emotion?” Seriously, almost anything you read starts with this phrase and then a minute later they start telling you how unhealthy it actually is. So which is it? Is normal or not normal? What about other things… Is violence normal? Is greed normal? Is cancer normal? After all, if it’s a common occurrence then it must be normal, isn’t it?
So like good and prudent “scholars” that you and I are, let’s look up Uncle Webster’s definition to see if it can give us some more clarity on the issue. No, not anger, the normal part. What does it mean anyways?
Webster’s definition of normal:
1. According with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle; conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.
2. Occurring naturally.
3. Relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development; free from mental disorder; sane.
So simply put, according to this, “Anger is a regularly occurring pattern of behavior for sane people with average intelligence who are free from mental disorders.” There you go, we have our definition, spread the word, it’s all good, anger is normal, shut down the website, we’re done here.
Come to think of it, we can clearly see that almost none of it is true. We all know a simple fact of life – just because most people “do it” that doesn’t make it “normal.” Anger is certainly not reserved for sane people with average intelligence.
This word “normal” is often used by therapists or simply the ignorant types to pacify you when you start learning about anger. They are basically saying, “It’s OK honey, what you’re are feeling is completely normal.” They are telling you what you want to hear – that YOU are normal but what they are really trying to say is that “don’t worry so much because other people feel this too.”
Perhaps “normal” should be the standard in life for happiness, wisdom, joyful effort, contribution, meaningful existence, however you want to define it. But how would you name a thief who robs you of all that? When health is hijacked by cancer we call it “disease” but what do you call an emotion that hijacks your happiness? I say – insanity.
This (fortunately – temporary) insanity is simply mind’s inability to cope with challenges of life in a cool and lucid way. Excuse me for getting a tad poetical but it is like a cloud that obscures the sun by casting an ugly shadow and making all colors look faded.
Anger and happiness are inherently incompatible.
The problem with accepting anger as “normal” is that one has no chance of breaking out of the habit. If all is well then why do anything about it, right? It’s what psychologists call – a subconscious sabotage.
Bottom line is that just because we follow a habitual pattern of destructive behavior it can not be branded as “normal.” Here is something every reasonable person out there will agree with – labeling things for what they are is a healthy start to deal with the problem.