Many people believe the myth of “accumulating anger:” if they don’t express their anger, somehow it will “build up” and they will develop high blood pressure, have a heart attack or a stroke. There are many terms to describe this belief. We speak of “pent up,” anger that can “boil over,” or “leak out.” Moreover, we can “explode” – thus somehow “releasing” the anger and freeing us. (I hereby offer $10,000 for a quart of anger!) Expressing anger in an angry way, however, makes nearly any situation worse! Others often react to our anger, rather than the message we wish to impart. While we may hope that another individual will see the light and the error of their ways, this rarely occurs. When was the last time you expressed your anger in an angry way and were met with a response like, “please accept my apology, I am so sorry?”
The “hook” is a metaphor for avoiding the temptation to directly express anger. While there is nothing wrong with anger – it signals some kind of unhappiness or unmet need or goal. Gaining control of your anger and expressing it in a calm and collected way can help a great deal. The intelligent fish realizes that injustice and incompetence are good reasons for our anger. However, biting the hook can result in a loss of freedom and even life. Our first reactions are often not as effective as our considered responses. And about 1½ percent of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths are triggered by anger. The emotionally intelligent fish swims on by and returns to the subject later on. As the Sixteenth Century philosopher Montaigne said, "there is no passion that so shakes the clarity of our judgment as anger. Things truly seem different to us once we have quieted and cooled down."