“Where there is anger, there is always fear.” This was the theme of an episode of the PBS long running series Call the Midwife. It is an observation about human life echoed by other observers. Ekhart Tolle says: “Where there is anger there is always pain underneath.” Clinical psychologist, Dr. Deborah Koshaba notes that there is a strong connection between anger and fear, so these observations of a spiritual sort seem well grounded in the clinical findings of modern psychology.
My own reaction when I was younger, to angry people (and to be honest, even now often enough) was to move away, to recoil, to stay away, to run! Those reactions might be followed with some personal judgments about the angry person: that one is bad; unfair; a problem; unfriendly.
When I have had encounters with people who are afraid, my reactions have been to move toward them. I find myself wanting to comfort, to embrace, to reassure, to listen, to empathize.
The challenge now of course is this: when I encounter an angry fellow human being, can I breathe into the experience, and recall that where there is anger, there is always fear? Caution: probably best not to try and hug an angry person–at least not right away! And, sometimes people are too angry to remain present with them. Giving them space and coming back later might be the best thing. But, what if we replace the ordinary response to anger with the ordinary responses to fear?
Don’t run away.
If I can bring myself to this sort of response when confronted with an angry person, it strikes me that this would be a personal example of Rumi’s sort of justice: bestowing bounty in its proper place.