How to. How not to.

We all sublimate.

It’s just something that we as adults do.

We sublimate our feelings, our emotions, and our actions.

We neither emote nor lash out when we want to.

There is a reason for this. There is a reason we all sublimate.

We have to.

We have to because we are rational adults living in society.

Small children don’t have to. Children are able to be much more honest. A two-year old who doesn’t like the food he or she is being served will dump it on the floor.

We, on the other hand, have to control ourselves and not react naturally and instinctively like we want to. We have to fit into society.

However, we all get frustrated. Hundreds of times a day, things don’t go like we want them to. Hundreds of times a day, we don’t get what we want. Hundreds of times a day, we get what we don’t want. And, hundreds of times a day, we sublimate our frustration.

I think about The Incredible Hulk.  After all of our frustration gets sublimated, we wind up with deep pockets of anger somewhere below the surface. We stuff down our hundreds and hundreds of annoyances. And, then, finally, BOOM. The accumulated anger below the surface can’t be contained, and we explode.

This is why I see people “over-reacting” to small things all the time.

They aren’t angry about that little thing that just happened. They are just fed up with the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of annoyances, and they allow that one annoyance to be the excuse for venting their pent-up frustration.

I think we all secretly welcome the well-timed small annoyance as they often give us an excuse to express our stockpiled anger. For example, when someone accidentally bangs their shopping cart into ours, we have the chance to let him or her have it, and, depending on how much we have recently stuffed down or how conscious we are and other factors, we let it out.

Aristotle said:

Anyone can be ANGRY, that is easy.
But to be angry at the right person or place,
To be angry at the right time,
To be angry in the right amount,
And, to be angry for the right reason,
That is not EASY, and that is not something that everyone can do.



When I teach this, I usually draw a little stick figure, a clock, a $, and a raisin. And then I ask people to draw those info-graphics as a way to learn the four ways in which we often get angry badly. (The raisin is a symbolic homonym for reason. The rest are pretty self-explanatory.)

We all have witnessed people getting angry at the wrong person or place.

We all have witnessed people getting angry at the wrong time.

We all have witnessed people getting angry in the wrong amount.

We all have witnessed people getting angry for the wrong reason.

It is not easy, nor is it something that everyone can do, to get angry at the right person or place, at the right time, in the right amount, and for the right reason.

But that doesn’t mean that we oughtn’t try.

We all ought to make a goal of getting angry at the right person, at the right place, at the right time, in the right amount, and for the right reason.

Let me make this very clear: you aren’t supposed to NOT get angry.

You are a human being. You will get frustrated.

You will get angry.

I often hear people imply that they oughn’t get rubbed the wrong way. They tell me that if they were more Zen or more spiritual they wouldn’t have this problem. This is simply ridiculous. We haven’t much control over getting frustrated, but we have control over how we react to our frustration. The better we are at processing the frustrations as they happen, the less that gets built up, and the less we will do anger in the ‘wrong’ way.

bb6836b294475ea2f4fafdc619640b6dJiddu Krishnamurti explained, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

I pray that we do not hold so strongly to our attachments, to what we think is right, and that we allow ourselves to go with the flow. I pray that we all become more able to be more like the cork at the top of the water that goes up and down with the waves but doesn’t take on the wave’s trajectory. I pray we are less like the Hulk.

I pray that we are all able to care for ourselves enough to unpack our frustrations so we do not do it at the wrong person. Not at the wrong place. Not at the wrong time. Not in the wrong amount. And not for the wrong reason.

May our greatest and highest sense of purpose, our notion of God, our sense of love help us realize that we need to forgive others for their anger, too. Those other people probably don’t want to have all that anger that comes out when their shopping cart gets banged. Let us be more compassionate and forgiving of them and of ourselves.

#wisdom_biscuit: Be aware of the effects of sublimated anger. And forgive.

Share with a Friend


Also by Rabbi Brian

77% Weekly
Rabbi Brian

A Story of Humanity

A Story of Humanity   I’m the 30-year-old assistant rabbi of Temple Judea — a congregation of a few thousand in Tarzana, California.   It’s my

Read More »