Being angry does not mean you’re strong.

May 5, 2019

The Inuit people don’t tolerate anger like the rest of the world. They teach their kids from a young age how to deal with anger, and the culture enforces a policy of calm and collectedness. For example:

If you are so angry that you can hardly control your feelings, you are asked to leave your home and to walk in a straight line through the landscape outside until your anger has left you. You then mark the point at which your anger is released with a stick in the snow. In this way, the length, or the strength, of one’s rage is measured.” (From Walking by Erling Kagge)

Walking away, as Erling Kagge says in his book—Walking— is the only sensible thing to do in the face of uncontrollable anger.

It goes further. The Inuit don’t yell at their kids or throw fits when things go wrong. Anger is frowned upon.

Even just showing a smidgen of frustration or irritation was considered weak and childlike, Briggs observed.

For instance, one time someone knocked a boiling pot of tea across the igloo, damaging the ice floor. No one changed their expression. Too bad,” the offender said calmly and went to refill the teapot.

In another instance, a fishing line—which had taken days to braid—immediately broke on the first use. No one flinched in anger. Sew it together,” someone said quietly. (Source)

I’ve always had a problem controlling my anger. When I play on teams, I’m very encouraging to my teammates, but if I mess anything up on my own, I immediately become angry with myself. If I’m all by myself practicing basketball, playing pool, or losing at chess, it can quickly turn into a temper tantrum.

My (flawed) thinking is that if I get angry with myself, I will motivate myself to do better. If I don’t get angry—or so my thinking goes—that means I’m being weak and tolerating mediocrity.

This has worked for me all my life, but not for the reasons I think.

The anger itself never helps me get better. I just get more frustrated. I miss more shots and make more blunders. But once I calm down and focus, I start to get better. The pattern goes: Try > Fail > Get angry > Calm down > Try (many times) > Succeed

When it should go like this:

Try > Fail > Try (many times) > Succeed

The only reason I choose to be angry is that I think it’s a sign of strength or power over my own failures. I think that I need to be angry to make progress.

Bullshit.

Being angry does not mean you’re strong. It means you’re weak and childlike. The hard thing is not to get angry and ‘show my determination to get better.’ The hard thing is to control my emotions, focus, and improve. That route will always be far more effective.