The Angry Book


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I've recently come across The Angry Book, which was written in 1969 by Dr. Theodore Isaac Rubin. I found it really eye-opening, with many aha-moments, in regards to shining light on and putting into clearer context my own theme with suppressed/distorted anger, as well as the manifestations of it in others in my social environment. Again, I've come to see, how being able to name a thing and thus putting it in proper context is the key to the putting together of pieces in regards to understanding oneself and others, as well as being reminded yet again how personal 'emotional slush' adds yet another powerful layer of distortion to our already very limited perception of the world as a whole.

Especially in light of doing the EE breathing program, which can bring up a load of unpleasant suppressed emotions (anger being one of them), I find this book to be a very helpful addition to other book recommendations here in regards to healing oneself, because the author goes into the various unhealthy forms of how anger is being distorted, and how these distortions of anger (instead of healthily expressing it) build up a 'slush-fund', as the author calls it, which keeps building up and up, and produces all sorts of poisonous symptoms, both for oneself and others.

One thing that seems to be an issue among some (?) people on the spiritual path is to regard anger as something 'bad', both in its very existence and even more so in expressing anger. It is being morally judged perhaps as a sign of giving in to a 'hostile emotion' and thus contributing to an 'unharmonious atmosphere', and it certainly goes against the 'make nice program' or 'not-making-waves'. But of course, taking the topic of anger away from oneself and forming a 'philosophy' concerning a peaceful, unthreatening world (i.e. projecting one's own subjective view on the world outside) is evading the core of the subject (and one example is the vegan/vegetarian creed); as usual, one's own wounding puts on blinders specific to the wounding experienced and in turn represents another hindrance to seeing the world - and ourselves - as it is / as we are.

With about 220 pages this book is a fast read, and in the following I'm sharing some excerpts, which speak for themselves. As you will see, he writes in a very simple, easy-to-understand and also entertaining way. While concisely covering the various faces of twisted anger and touching on ways of untwisting, he gives examples throughout the book from his anger work with his patients, and how working through their various anger issues elicited a whole cascade of insights into the hidden dynamics, which in turn made possible changes in behaviour. All this makes it easy to recognize traits/relate them back to one's own experience, and provides food for thought in examining one's own dynamics, and he closes with an exercise of 103 questions designed to further work on it.

The Angry Book said:
This book is about a basic human emotion - anger. Too often anger is not seen as basic or human. Anger is easily the most maligned and perverted of feelings and responses. Although there is an enormous range of "angry problems", nearly all people have some difficulty handling anger. The price paid for the distortion of a basic emotion is incalculable. Poor mental health, poor physical health, damage to relationships - especially to parent-child relationships - and even that most malignant of human diseases - war- are the wages of distorted anger.

Therefore it behooves us to understand and to work through our feelings of anger. As you read, you will see that insight into these feelings can free and make available many other feelings, talents, and potentials. A healthier angry outlook must lead to greater health, to improved parent-child relating, to a fuller life, and to success and happiness. Indeed, it can even be lifesaving.

So many of us are afraid to feel, afraid to express feelings, and afraid to have other people feel toward us. This is especially true when the feeling is anger. There are many of us in whom much emotional crippling has taken place. We can allow only so-called acceptable feelings to come through and then only with great care, constriction, and trepidation. For many of us the potential amplitude of feelings—the vitality, depth, richness, and intensity—is poor. For many of us our emotional displays are either very shallow (or utterly flat) or inappropriate or both. Those of us who suffer in this way are almost certainly former (and present) inhabitants of “sick” emotional climates. Blaming parents or relatives will not help. We are the victims of victims, and we, too, shall produce victims unless we choose to change ourselves and the immediate emotional climate through understanding.

What about a sick emotional climate?

This is an environment in which people often feel one way but act another way. When they are angry, they smile sweetly or freeze and do nothing at all. In any case, there is a paucity of straight, honest, simply and readily definable expressions of feelings. In this environment, there is sometimes a serious dearth of strong feelings, often to the point of emotional vacuum. Usually what look like appropriate, strong emotional responses are actually superficial, hysterical manipulative outbursts turned on and off like summer showers. These serve to confuse further and to subvert real feelings. This is an environment in which hysteria may suddenly give way to inhibition and even to paralysis of emotional expression. In this atmosphere small issues will evoke large displays and large issues will evoke nothing. This atmosphere will be marked by many intricate inconsistencies that the child can't possibly understand. This will be particularly so with anger and may result in an avoidance of anger and subsequent crippling in this very important emotional area. In effect, the victim will be told the following: "It is all right for me to get angry in this circumstance but not you." "Sometimes it is all right for you to get angry, but sometimes you can't, even though the circumstances are identical. It all depends on my mood - which there is no way of knowing." "Why can't you be like me - I never get angry, but when I do, I don't show it. All I do is get cold and sullen and withdraw my attention and affection from you." "If you get angry, I'll know you don't live me." "Nice boys and girls don't get angry - especially at adults." "If you must get angry, at least be polite." "If you get angry, you will not be liked." "If you continue to get angry, you will surely get into trouble." "Civilized people don't get angry, but if you get angry I'll have to tell Daddy, and he will get angry and will have to punish you when he gets home."

Parents in this environment will very often produce what is known as a double-bind situation which goes like this: "Don't hold it in - I can't stand you when you do - let it out! But when you let it out, I will hit you for being disrespectful." This damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't appraoch promotes severe conflict, much anxiety, great angry problems, and emotional paralysis.

Anger is not a black-or-white, all-or-nothing feeling or response. This sounds obvious, but many people feel otherwise. They feel that any feeling or show of anger is tantamount to loss of control and is the same as a huge, uncontrollable temper tantrum. They regard this as a sinful and dangerous misdeed - a strike against one's self - and as potentially dangerous, to say the least. Of course this isn't true. Intensity of anger may vary from the mildest irritation to very powerful feelings and transmissions. There are inumerable shades and nuances. Mild feelings of irritation are hardly the equivalents of uncontrollable rage. Indeed, angry responses very, very seldom reach uncontrollable levels. When they do, they are invariably slush-fund hemorrhages and have little or nothing to do with the immediate irritating situation onhand. People can and do get mildly, moderately, and even intensely angry without loss of control. Actually, the greater their awareness - that is, the closer they are to what they really feel - the less chance there is to lose control. Please remember that loss of control or rationale is due mainly to slush-fund explosions. This kind of response is due mainly to perverted and unconscious anger and has little or nothing to do with the healthy product (regardless of intensity), of which there is always full awareness and possession. To put it another way: our feelings control us when we subvert them and are no longer aware they exist. They then have an autonomy of their own. When we know what we feel, when our feelings are integrated as parts of the whole of us, then regardless of their intensity, we remain completely in charge of ourselves and of all our feelings - as part of a central autonomy.

When we use energy to put down anger, we must also continue to expend energy to keep it down - to keep guard, as it were. This use of energy depletes the free flow and tapping of energy needed to feel other feelings. It is as if we use a major part of ourselves to sit on a particular feeling. If we sit, we can't stand up to experience other feelings. Sitting on a feeling effects a freeze-up, which gradually encroaches on all feelings, causing a paralysis of feelings and even obliteration. This energy tie-up must be freed and melted so that the free feel and expression of all feelings can take place.

The subject here is quality. There are many subtle differences and nuances in the quality of anger. There are many in-betweens and combinations, but if we discuss the extreme poles - warm and cold - I think we will adequately cover ample ground.

Warm anger is the healthy stuff we spoke of in defining anger. With warm anger there is little or no time lapse between stimulus and feeling - between feeling it and expressing it. The expression of anger is warm, open, direct, and easy to understand. This is so because its principal purpose is is to communicate how one feels and to make the other person aware of a need for greater understanding. Words and intensity may be strong, but they are usually appropriate to the issue in question, and there is little or no evidence of vindictiveness, sadism, or vengeful purpose. There is ample confidence and respect for the other person and what he feels. This is demonstrated by a willingness to stay put and to receive his affective message openly. Thus in warm anger there is always a warm emotional exchange. Words and gestures are not used flippantly or casually; they are not used as dissection tools either. Strong language is the poetry of anger, and we should expect poetry. But poetry does not include sarcastic biting, tearing, and stabbing. Obviously, the words and expressions will vary from culture to culture and from background to background (educational, familial, etc.). But they will always be words and will in no way involve physical force, coercion, or brutality. All expressions of warm anger will be short, finite; they will not go on and on and become chronic. There will be no grudge-carrying or slush accumulations. Angry feelings will be short-lived - finished and over with - and will be followed by forgiving and forgetting if approproate. The expression of warm anger will have a cleansing effect on the relationship. It will clear the air of cobwebs of confusion, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings. There will always be at least two people involved, and they will always feel better for having had their exchange. Their mutual respect will have increased, and their mutual frame of reference (common ground) will be extended so that better and further understanding will ensue. Thus angry responses in the future will probably be reduced in frequency and intensity. There will be increased confidence and closeness in the relationship. Protagonists will have demonstrated that they care enough to feel and to invest and to exchange feelings, thus substantiating that warm anger's closest relative is love.

Cold anger is often an internalized, unexpressed (through regular means), autistic slush-fund product, in which there is usually aberrated awareness. Any expression that takes place is accomplished through poisons. The purpose of any expression is too often vindictive triumph and the creation of sadistic pain. There is no interest in augmenting mutual understanding, and no constructive emotional exchange takes place as one loses the ability to invest emotions in hostility. For our purposes here, we may say that this hostility is a state of sullen, chronic, corrosive anger sustained beyond ordinary self-limiting boundaries and always connected to old hates and slush. Cold anger feeds upon itself and its victim and tends to become more and more grotesque. It undermines self-esteem and one's confidence in others and the ability to relate to them. Differences grow and grow as it feeds paranoid feelings, cynicism, bitterness, and hopelessness. Any satisfaction derived from outward manifestation is almost always connected to one or another form of vindictive triumph. This kind of "gloating" satisfaction is usually short-lived and requires larger and larger sadisitic enterprises in order to be felt at all. These gloating experiences always leave their victims feeling still more hopeless, depressed, and empty, and augment the feeling of inner deadness.

Cold anger is used in the service of magnifying faults and destroying relationships. It is, therefore, a powerful influence in isolating and encapsulating one from one's fellows and ultimately from oneself. This takes place as one loses the ability to invest emotions in others - blocked largely by a frozen tundra of slush - and to experience other feelings. In short, the victim becomes a prisoner of his rage, trapped in a frozen waste, preoccupied with slush, leaving no energy, time, or room for other feelings. As time goes on, he loses the ability to extricate himself and to reach out and touch his fellows. Cold anger is obviously the antithesis and enemy of love.

Irene learned something else, too. She realized that we generally get angry at people who have some meaning for us. This applies especially to people who have the capacity to remind us of ourselves and our problems. These are often people who have the same or similar problems. These are almost invariably people who know us and whom we know. We are more likely to get angry at people with whom we relate than those we have nothing to do with. She also learned that an expression of anger to a person really demonstrated caring enough to tell. This means that one cares enough to want to see remedial action take place so that a relationship can continue and grow. An expression of anger also demonstrates respect for the individual in question.

This is so because in expressing anger one is investing emotion—showing how one feels and saying in effect, “I respect you enough to want to share this part of myself with you.” This kind of expression also shows considerable confidence in the strength of the relationship. The feeling here is that the relationship is important and strong enough to withstand bumps in the road. It will not come irreparably apart at the first gust of strong feelings. If anything, it will be strengthened as a result of increased understanding between the people involved as well as the increased feelings of reality that always follow clearing of the air.

A healthy emotional climate is first one in which all the emotions—especially anger—are given ample play and freedom. This is an atmosphere in which there is no dearth of emotional output or exchange. There is no emotional vacuum, nor does one kind of emotional display exist to the exclusion of others. In this atmosphere emotional output is appropriate and consistent. In this atmosphere it is easy to know what people feel. It is especially easy to know when they are angry. This is so because feelings—all kinds—are accepted and the conveying of how one feels is accepted openly and freely without threat of dire reprisal. In this environment no feeling or its expression is labeled “good” or “bad.”

This climate is not designed for the manufacture of saints or sinners. It is meant for human beings who have ordinary emotional responses and the need to express them freely. In this climate a child readily picks up the prevalence of consistency, openness, and warmth regarding all feelings. In effect, this atmosphere says to the child: “It is all right to feel love, and it is all right to feel anger. It is all right to express love, and it is all right to express anger. Your feelings are welcome here, and we would like to know what they are. You are loved and accepted and safe with all your feelings. You needn’t stifle any of them to please us.

I believe that you feel either all your feelings or eventually none at all. You cannot select which feelings you will feel and which you won't. People attempt to do this in order to admit only those feelings that fit in with the particular ways in which they want to see themselves. This is of course especially true of "nice guys". They pay a very large price for this attempted selection. I say "attempted" because it never really works. They may think it works, but the slush fund grows and grows, and poisons are produced that are inevitably very destructive. Perverted anger is also converted to anxiety, which produces myriad defenses or symptoms comprising destructive neurosis and even psychosis. But the price paid in terms of other feelings is even greater. The fact is that you can't have one feeling without the other. Negate anger and you must also negate love. Love requires a real self and a real exchange between real selves. People who are not themselves, who are acting a part, cannot make a real exchange. They can only act. Additionally, when the air is not cleared, however peaceful the climate looks, the blocks and barriers to exchange become insurmountable, making feelings of love (caring about the other individual at least as much as one cares about one's self) impossible.


FOTCM Member
Thank you for posting this and sharing some excerpts. The bit about expressing anger in a healthy way makes a lot of sense, and in a way also reminds me about ''respectful adult communication" or RAC, as mentioned in the Narcissistic Family. I will definitely be getting this one once I finished with my current book.
I also have been noticing lately that I'm better able to express my anger. For example, when my mum does something with some of my stuff when I didn't ask her to do so, I honestly do get a bit angry, but when I do, I try to explain to her why what she did bothers me, and I also tell her that I understand she did it to be caring and helpful. When I explain it this way and express my anger this way, she tells me she understands and tells me she won't do it anymore (and once she told me rather happy that my reasoning makes sense!). So perhaps this could be a way of expressing anger in a more productive way, rather than blaring unnecessary words that leave both bitter in the end. Hopefully this book will put more light on this, thanks again for sharing.

Jeremy F Kreuz

Dagobah Resident
Thanks Puzzle. You recommended this book to me about two weeks ago in another thread. I have read in the meantime and it is a real eye opener and I would recommend it all to read.


Dagobah Resident
Thanks for that Puzzle, the description of warm anger as opposed to cold anger was really helpful. I've heard too that "The roots of violence" by Alice Miller is good on this topic, but I'm yet to read this myself. On a similar note I subscribe to Arthur Janov's posts on Primal therapy and thought it very interesting on today's post how he describes the dynamic between the left and right hemispheres while we suppress emotion but act out from it. For me, it's the acting out that is mechanical because we're not at that moment altogether conscious of how we feel, and so we get driven by that built up slush-fund of emotions which is basically unconscious. And so our angered outbursts for example might have little context to our present situation because they're feeding from a well of suppressed feelings of our past.

Anyhow, here's the post from Dr Janov, which may be of interest:

Edit: clarity

Connection has neurologic roots. The Swedish neuroscientist, David Ingvar, using a CAT scan of the brain, found that a perception of pain involved both sides of the prefrontal area working in tandem. When emotional pain is repressed, I would assume the right side is more involved. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the right amygdala tends to swell when there is feeling (Primal Healing, 2006). Thus, disconnected pain is more active on the right side than the left.

It is as though there is a secret underground in the brain where messages are passed back and forth, but on the side that should be aware there is no recognition of them. So the right side “tells” the left side, sotto voce, “Look, I can’t take any more criticism. It means I am not loved.” And the left side says, “OK. I’ll defend you against having to feel so bad. Just don’t tell me too much. Anyway, I’ll twist the criticism by the other person, and make them wrong.” And the left side jumps in immediately and automatically as soon as there is a hint of criticism. “Don’t worry, my right-wing friend, I’ll keep those feelings of feeling unloved and criticized under control even though you haven’t told me what they are.” So the left side acts out the feeling; the act-out is unconscious because the right side feeling is not connected. The left is not yet consciously-aware.

We see this clearly in split-brain surgery (the surgical split of the left and right brains) where the surgeon will feed input into the right brain, but because of the lack of inter-hemispheric connection, the left is forced to rationalize a feeling it doesn’t even recognize. The doctor will feed something funny to the right side while the left laughs and concocts a strange explanation for his laughter: “That white coat you are wearing is very funny.” The fact that the left frontal area doesn’t recognize the feeling doesn’t stop it from manufacturing all sorts of rationales. In brief, the right side input is forcing it to create rationales, as it does in both meditation and neurosis where the disconnection is enhanced. Studies show that in practiced meditators there is a thickening of the nerve tissue in the prefrontal cortex (Lazar, et al., 2005). What this means to me is that meditation is essentially enlisting the thinking/intellectual area to help in repression. The subjective feeling may be relaxation but in actuality it is the result of effective repression. In other words, meditation is a defensive operation to keep feelings down. That is why taking a patient’s word is not always the best way to measure progress in psychotherapy.

When someone says, “You are wrong about this,” or, “You made a mistake there,” the left brain quickly says, “Yes, but the reason I did that was....” The feeling is, “If I’m wrong I won’t be loved by my parents. I must defend.” It is defending against the feelings on the right. “If I’m wrong I will feel useless, like a nothing, not deserving of anything. Not worth being loved.” That feeling of being unloved, I must underline, is already there! The trigger in the present lights it up and swirls the feelings again. One rationalizes because one cannot stand one more bit of criticism and the terrible feeling that it sets off. The left accommodates and does the defending without even knowing why.

Neurosis, in many respects, is a split-brain state. The essence of neurosis seems to be to concoct rationales for one’s behavior, which is driven by unrecognized forces. That is why one cannot penetrate elaborate rationales and explanations for other’s behavior. “Why should I give up drink when it always makes me feel warm and cozy?” said an acquaintance. He had no recognition of the constant tension he suffered. So long as feelings are hidden and repressed, the defenses must remain intact. When the insight/cognitive therapist attacks this defense, trying to dissuade the person from her ideas, it is a vain cause; he has neglected the split-brain effect, which tends to be literal.

Rush Limbaugh, the radio commentator, admits to taking strong painkillers over many years. His ideational brain and rather strange philosophies are anchored to feelings he’s not aware of. There’s no more use in talking him out of those feelings than it would be to try and change his whole history. It isn’t just that he has “unreal ideas,” it’s that his disconnected system forces him to both quell his pain on the physical level with drugs and to dampen his pain with a philosophy that may be at odds with his feelings.

In any effective therapy, it is the connection between the deep right limbic to orbitofrontal areas that will resolve so many of our problems, from anxiety, which is pain leaking through a faulty gating system, to depression, which is pain butting up against rigid, unyielding gates. Why? Because many of our later problems derive from experiences in the lower right areas that never make it to higher level connections. Rather, they continually do their damage on lower levels; chronic high blood pressure is one of many examples. Feelings of hopelessness in depression markedly raise a person’s likelihood of suffering a stroke. Bruce Jonas and Michael Mussolino report that depression is equivalent to suffering from high blood pressure, in terms of risk of stroke (Jonas & Mussolino, 2000). I have found that depression is often accompanied by deviations in blood pressure. They form an ensemble.

Preverbal pains are sequestered like an unwanted guest that we keep in the garage where we store undesirable items we’d rather not look at. What does get through is a vague sense of discomfort and malaise—the suffering part. The undesirable is knocking at the gates (almost literally) saying, “Can’t I come in from the cold and join you?” The system, however, keeps the gates high, implying, “Sorry, but I can’t tolerate all you’ve got to say. Let’s wait for a better day.”

That better day is when we are older, when the critical period is long gone, and we are able to tolerate the previously unacceptable. As adults we have a stable environment, are no longer dependent on neurotic parents, perhaps have love in the present, elements that allow us now to face our childhood. Meanwhile, the brain has done its best to block the feeling, providing detours from the right-limbic information highway heading upwards and leftwards. The blockage is not complete, however, because the feeling drives act-outs. “No one wants me,” becomes trying to get everyone to want her—being helpful, kind, unobtrusive, etc. The feeling becomes transmuted into physical behavior. The energy, which needs connection, has gone to our stomach and created colitis, to our cardiac and vascular system with palpitations or migraines, and to our muscles, making us tense. It may make us act meek and diffident as if no one wants us around. It causes an inability for males to become erect. What we try to do in our therapy is to allow feelings to go straight up the feeling highway to the right orbitofrontal cortex and then to make a left turn to reach their destination.

Connection is always the brain’s prime destination. If we only turn left and never go right, we will never make the connection. I believe the system is always trying for connection, but it gets blocked by gating. Because of the constant push to connect, feelings tend to intrude and disrupt our thinking—hence, the inability to concentrate or focus. Once connected, those diversions will no longer be necessary to drain the energy. The energy always spreads to the weakest link. “Weakest” means a vulnerable area or organ either due to heredity or to damage done earlier in life; a blow to the head in infancy may end up as epilepsy. A history of allergies in the family may result in asthma later on.


The Living Force
Thank you for this recommendation.
In certain instances I have issues with expressing anger, or feelings in general, as it was thought to be venom whilst growing up & would be frequently silenced as that wasn't how obedient little girls were supposed to act. What I try to do nowadays is express it as soon as it occurs, warm anger within context, as I know how susceptible I am to cold internalized anger [sitting on it to save face in arrogance] & how my meandering thoughts will attempt to paint it into something else - outright lies out of habit.

The Narcissism books have really helped also.
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