“Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.”
― Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication
How often do we become angry and, when we do, what are the most frequent causes? As
Jedi, one of the central principles of the philosophy we aim to practice deals directly with this
topic. “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate.” Of course, just as with fear, the emotion we
broadly categorize as “anger” holds importance and depth which must be understood before the
true importance of Yoda’s warning can become known.
Anger, like all emotions, is not merely confined to subconscious psychology -- the
experience of anger is a holistic one wherein the body is fully involved. Throughout our
evolution, human beings have relied heavily upon their ability to react to danger.
The amygdala, twin almond-shaped portions of our brains, provide the rough starting
ground for all of our emotions. This is important to understand especially with regards to those
extraordinarily strong emotions like anger. Because the amygdala reacts faster than our central
cortex, it serves a vital part of our survival during highly dangerous circumstances where
reaction time is more important than contemplation.
Yet our evolution is too good at its job.
The amygdala fires off warnings even in situations where the danger is not immediate --
or is an entirely different form of danger than can be dealt with through a flight or fight
mechanism. This is where the importance of practice comes into play.
How many of us have felt anger in our lives during a situation where anger proved to be
unhelpful? Who can raise their hand when asked “did you get angry at a loved one in the last
week, month, or year?” Anger overwhelms us when our spouse fails to do the dishes, when a
child ruins a piece of clothing, when the cat pees on the carpet, or when a stranger cuts us off in
traffic -- it forms an ever-present backbone to our lives and need not be attached to larger
dramatic circumstances to impact us in impressive (and generally negative) ways.
It is important to recognize angers prevalence because ignoring it and suppressing it are
not viable tactics for anyone, but even less so for those seeking to follow the philosophy of
For Jedi, reactions in all situations must be free of unconscious reactive responses -- save
those necessary for immediate wellbeing (and, even then, we must train our reactions so that they
match the best that our thinking mind is capable of). If we remain unaware of how anger
manifests itself in our lives, or if we attempt to force it to leave through sheer willpower, we are
destined only for harsh failure. Rather, it must instead be our goal to come to terms with our
anger: to acknowledge it and to understand it; we will only be free from it when we realize that
freedom is not only impossible, it is not even desirable.
Within psychology, anger of all kinds has a very specific point: at its core, no matter the
manifestation of anger, it all stems from some unmet need within the experience of the
individual. Coming to terms with this need, understanding what it is and why it is, must be the
goal of those who which to achieve a “Wu Wei” style experience of emotion. Yet, even this
deeper understanding must be preceded by something even more simple: awareness.
Our goal is to practice the experience of anger -- to become “friends” with the emotion,
in a manner of speaking, and form the sort of close relationship with it wherein we can
understand it and allow it to flow through us without mastering us. To do this, we take account of
those moments when anger arises inside of us. This can be done in the moment of anger, of
course, but will naturally be harder to deal with in these instances until our training has advanced
The best place to begin our practice is with older sources of anger.
Think back to a point when you were angry -- pick something relatively minor, if you can
-- and meditate upon it until you can picture the whole instance clearly. Then, as you begin to
feel that anger all over again, take notice of the way your body feels -- notice the physiological
changes that the anger brings up. Then, once you’ve noticed how your body responds, ask
yourself the question “what need did I have in that moment which did not get met?”
(Examples include, but are not limited to, the following needs: “acceptance,
consideration, empathy, self-respect, respect, humor, warmth, safety, to be understood, or to
Part of this process which is vital is the concentration of our awareness solely on our
selves. One of the things anger makes us believe is that we are under attack -- that is, after all, its
purpose, to respond to attacks. And yet, in so many circumstances, this is not actually the case;
we experience a moment in time as if threatened with violence, but in reality that threat is
unlikely to cause of lasting harm (the “threat” may even come from someone we love and deeply
care for). So, when we begin to consider what unmet needs we had during an experience of
anger, it is vital that we concentrate only upon ourselves.
A sure sign that we are letting our anger control us is when thoughts that have to do with
other people arise: “they should have,” “they made me,” “why didn’t they,” “what were they
thinking…” None of these actually have anything to do with our own internal process -- when
we think this way we have fallen into the trap of “me vs. them.” This is not about what the
instigating action is -- the thing that brings anger to us -- it is about the way anger grows within
our own mind, quite separate from the rest of the world.
As with all aspects of the training we do here, there is no easy path to “graduation.” Our
understanding and abilities evolve slowly, as time and circumstance allow. We cannot hope to
better ourselves through mere recitation of Jedi catechisms. Rather, it is applied and continual
practice that proves the path forward, and anger -- just like everything else, responds with time
Force be with yall!