Control thy passions, lest they take vengeance on thee. – Epictetus

It’s tempting to talk about anger and sexual impulses only in dark and foreboding terms – to emphasize the negative aspects of these emotions.  But hear us clearly: These emotions can be managed so successfully that they become positive contributors to a person’s (even a society’s) emotional health.  It is our strong conviction that emotional, physical, and spiritual health require the harnessing of these nuclear-powered inner drives.  And it is undeniable that without harnessing these forces, a person cannot become unswervingly authentic.

 

The fact is, everyone has a body that automatically responds to important life events – and, therefore, everyone has anger and sexual impulses.  That’s the way we’re wired.  So if you sometimes feel “turbocharged” with these feelings, congratulations – you’re human.  There is nothing unusual about you.

 

Even though these two feelings operate in much the same way within us, they are obviously triggered quite differently.  We typically get mad when we encounter primary pain, which is nearly always related to hurt, frustration, and fear.  When we encounter these feelings, our body automatically makes energy available to us, enabling us to deal effectively with whatever is causing pain.  Anger, then, is absolutely necessary in our effort to manage distress and discomfort.  It is simply physiological preparedness, and we can learn to harness this energy so that our pain is minimized.

 

Sexual feelings are also a natural part of our biological inheritance.  If our memory were inclusive enough, we could recall having sexual feelings in some rudimentary form almost from the beginning of our lives.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with these feelings.  Sacred writings such as the Song of Solomon celebrate the pure and sensuous love of a man and a woman.  Sexual urges motivate us to engage in all sorts of constructive behaviors, produce a wide range of creative responses, and focus our attention on a person with whom we can form a long-term, meaningful partnership.  But the trouble begins when these urges are not harnessed and managed within the bounds for which they are created.

 

Whatever we don’t know about anger and sexual impulses, one thing is certain: They are unbelievably powerful!  You can do wonderful, even miraculous, things when you are motivated by them.  For example, athletes who control their angry feelings and marshal them in the service of their goals often pull off spectacular performances.  John McEnroe was a tennis player who frequently became angry, and careful research show that he almost always played more victoriously after he acknowledged and expressed his anger.  Businessmen who can manage their anger often recognize its contributions to their successes.  Lee Iacocca of Chrysler fame concluded, “I’ve come to believe that there isn’t a problem in America today that we couldn’t solve if we could become angry enough about it.”

 

But just as often, you can create mayhem in your life by managing these forces irrationally.