April 24, 2020 - The Stoic Gym Blog
Tag(s): Anger Seneca Stoic Self-help Stoicism

Why is anger destructive

Seneca’s On Anger, Book 1, Chapter 2
(Plain English version by Dr. Chuck Chakrapani)

Key points
  1. Anger has done greater damage to humankind than any plague.
  2. Both individuals and communities are destroyed by it.
  3. Even a semblance of anger is enough to cause damage.
No plague has done greater harm

If you want to examine the results of anger and the damage it causes, I say that no plague has done greater harm to humankind. You will see slaughter and poisons, accusations and counteraccusations, destruction of cities, ruin of whole groups of people, auctioning of prominent people [presumably prisoners of war], torching of houses. The flames are not confined within city walls but makes the entire country glow with the enemy flame.

Individuals are destroyed by anger

Look at the foundations of the most celebrated cities. They are hardly visible now. Anger ruined them.

Look at the deserts that extend for many miles without anyone living there. They were made barren by anger.

Look at leaders who are cited as unfortunate. Anger stabbed one of them in his own bed, struck down another even though he was protected by rules of hospitality, tore another one to pieces in a court as a crowded forum watched, ordered yet another to shed to his blood as his son killed him. Anger ordered a royal to have his neck cut by a slave and another to have his limb stretch out on the cross.

Communities are destroyed by anger

So far, I have been talking only about individual cases.

What if you were to go beyond individuals destroyed by anger and consider communities cut down by the sword, people butchered by soldiers sent against them, and entire countries condemned to death through indiscriminate slaughter?

Why are people angry with a gladiator, and so unjust as to get upset if he does not die cheerfully? They think they are scorned. They show by their looks, gestures, and excitement that they have turned from being just a spectator into an adversary.

Even a semblance of anger causes destruction

Everything of this sort is not anger, but they resemble anger. Like children who want to beat upon the ground they fall upon, they often do not even know why they are angry. They are angry without any reason and without having been injured in any way. Yet they have a sense of injury and would like to exact a penalty for it.  They are deceived by the likeness of blows and are placated by the pretended tears of those who despise their anger. Thus, an unreal grief is healed by an unreal revenge.

Think about this

"If you want to examine the results of anger and the damage it causes, I say that no plague has done greater harm to humankind."

Adapted from my forthcoming Stoic Book of Anger (plain English version of Seneca’s On Anger)