The energy of anger manifests when something we desire does not happen. Or something that we desire not, happens. But what do we desire? Peace, happiness, pleasantness, joy, bliss. Even the cruelest criminals desire happiness. It’s just that due to delusion and desperation, they take shortcuts to happiness, bringing suffering to themselves and others. But the desire for happiness is there, just like the majority of people who work with patience instead of taking shortcuts.
The desire for happiness is what guides us. And when this desire is trampled, we get angry. We know anger is negative energy. But when we look at anger from this angle—that it is an indication of our desire for happiness—it can turn things around.
If we recognize anger as a product of our deep desire for happiness, it can set us on the path of transformation. And if we have the right map and the right guide—the right perspective or samyag dristi as it is called in Buddhism—we can arrive at the state of happiness. That right map would put us on an inward journey so that we can 'arrive at' rather than 'achieve' or 'get' happiness.
However, keeping tabs on our anger and using it to know ourselves seems impossible. It is one of the strongest emotions which, when active, totally engulfs us. We do things to harm ourselves and others. Modern science has proved that it generates toxins in our body and knots in our mind. When acted out, it kills or hurts others, and ultimately ourselves, in countless ways. Śāntideva, the eighth century Buddhist master, has rightly said: “There is no evil similar to anger. A single flash of it can destroy all the good works gathered in a thousand ages.”
But the good news is: there are ways of handling this evil. Buddhism offers a time-tested tool for handling our emotions: mindfulness. It is the tool with which we can turn the destructive energy of anger into constructive one. By being mindful of it in a welcoming, curious, and compassionate way, anger can be transformed into a good friend. It can help us know ourselves better, and get in touch with the inner source of happiness.
This transformation through mindfulness is not easy though. As with any other tool or method, one needs the skill. And the skill comes from learning and practicing. It's like using electricity to light a bulb. If we don't know how to handle electricity, it can kill us. But if we know electricity and are skilled in electric wiring, we can use it to light a bulb that illuminates the room. If we can get a good handle on anger, we can illuminate the inner depths of our mind. We can know ourselves better. If only we learned how to develop that skill.