Updated: Apr 1, 2020
One of the more iconic moments from Marvel Studios first Avengers movie was brought to you by the Incredible Hulk. During the climactic battle, Bruce Banner shows up when things are starting to look a little grim. For those of you who don’t know, Bruce Banner is the Hulk’s normal, human form. When Bruce gets angry, he turns green, grows about 6 feet, gains tons of muscle, and becomes the guy in the picture above, which just happens to be one of the strongest characters in the Marvel-created world. It creates an interesting contrast between the savage Hulk and Bruce, who is an intelligent, thoughtful, positive, and overall good person.
As one of enemy’s massive soldiers starts to bear down on the Avengers, Captain America turns to Bruce:
“Dr. Banner, now might be a really good time to get angry.”
At which time Bruce delivers his iconic line:
“That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry.”
Bruce then turns into the Hulk, throwing one punch that stops one of the giant foes right in its tracks, the crowd goes wild, and I nearly jumped out of my theatre seat.
I was around 20 or 21 years old the first time I watched The Avengers. Of course, it’s a made-up universe. But for a guy who had spent most of his life dealing with controlling his anger? This line hit me right in the ol’ feels. This line was one of the many steps of sending me down a road of really trying to understand why I had spent some much time as a loose cannon.
Normally, I write about positive emotions. After all, the blog is titled “Strength and Happiness”. They are the stronger emotions, no doubt, and they are an important thing to strive for. But we don’t operate there all the time. We can’t. We’re humans, made up of complex experiences, emotions, and feelings. Sometimes, you need to explore the bad ones, as well.
Anger is an emotion that has served me well in the past. As I look back at my childhood and early adult life, it was filled with physical confrontations. I got in fights. Some I started, some I didn’t. And I was pretty dang good at it. So if I flew off the handle every now and then, so what? I was still, in my mind, the baddest dude around. What I didn’t have the ability to realize at the time was that anger was my defense mechanism. I spent a lot of time on guard, not knowing when the next conflict was coming. I was ready for it. I started to hope for it. When it did come, I felt like the angrier I got, the better chance I had of winning the fight. I could overpower a bigger, stronger person just by being more angry. I could get the result I wanted.
What’s interesting is that when you look at Marvel’s Incredible Hulk, he has that exact power. His power is positively correlated to his anger. The angrier he gets, the more powerful he gets. I’m certainly not blaming reading comic books or watching movies as the source of my anger issues. What I mean to point out is that these super hero stories come from reality. Many of us suffer from the same anger problem, well, because it works.
What do we often do when we start to lose an argument? We start to slowly get louder, talking over the other person, and possibly standing up. Why? We’re trying to win! It’s in our nature to use the strategies that have worked for us in the past. Acting that way has often worked for us. It certainly worked for me.
This doesn’t just happen with anger, either. Other negative emotions have, at one time, served us in a way that got us a result we wanted. Maybe you’ve used sadness to gain some attention that you had craved. Maybe you were pessimistic because you didn’t want to be let down, like before. Maybe you were lazy because you could still maintain your ego, thinking, ‘I could have done better if I had tried but I didn’t want to….’
In the same way that Bruce Banner can use his anger to make himself nearly invincible, we can, at times, use those negative thoughts and emotions to our advantage. If that’s the case, then how could they be “negative” emotions? They work, right?
The answer lies within looking at how that emotion affects others around you. While my anger served me in winning fights and helping me feel invincible, I didn’t notice the trail of emotional wreckage that I was leaving behind me. My family, my friends, the people who cared about me, were the ones who really received the damage. I didn’t realize that yelling at my little sister or brother had a terrifying effect on them. While punching a wall might intimidate someone bigger than me, causing them to back down, doing the same thing in front of someone smaller than you can be traumatizing. The Hulk ends up doing well in his fight against the enemy in the Avengers, but the movies that follow touch on the actual cost of him getting angry. And it’s not pretty. It’s usually the one’s closest to us that get damaged the most by our inability to control our negative side.
Most of us are struggling with some kind a negative emotion right now. It could be anger, guilt, sadness, jealousy, etc. Whatever it may be, take that emotion and think about a time in your life where that emotion served you. It protected you, called you to action, or helped you cope. Now ask yourself, am I still in that place? Do I still need protected? Did I take action? Do I need to cope?
What I’ve found is that, most of the time, the answer is no. At least…not to the extreme that it was previously. If that’s the truth, it’s time to move on from it. That battle is over.
Maybe now, your world needs a little less Hulk and a lot more Bruce.