I was struck by the ideas, not because I consider myself an angry person (I am usually quite the opposite) but for what these thoughts mean for someone who lives with the focus of anger. Yes, labels are really awful, especially when they are not given with a charitable mind. I root for the underdog so when I see people rallying against some real or perceived injustice, I tend to call them on it. People don’t like that and they tend to get angrier or more upset. That is a part of the human condition. We want our worlds to be peaceful streams of consciousness. And in my times of anger, I fight against that like mad. Unless, of course, the principal object is to be the proverbial devils advocate (which can be cruel, and unfair because you don’t do that to friends, it is not gentle).
However, I am generally not an angry person. I have learned to vent and let my thinking processes run me through the gamut of emotions entailed therein. There are exceptions, but they are able to be counted on one hand with fingers left over.
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
See, the one thing that I have learnt is that anger comes from fear. And fear is not an ideal thing, it produces a stress response, it can cause delusions, it creates anger, it starts up the flight or flight response… which are fine and dandy if you are being chased by a predator, but not if you are navigating a world you want to be filled with gentleness. Angry people are averse to gentleness, and I think that I can say that based on how I can be towards those who anger me. I am not gentle, I can be cruel, I fight them, and ridicule them. I admit that this response of mine most likely comes from a place of fear. I venture to guess that they cause me to feel vulnerable, and I may not trust them to take care of me there. Or I think they are crazy and need to be put on medication.
“Most hatred is based on fear, one way or another. Yeah. I wrapped myself in anger, with a dash of hate, and at the bottom of it all was an icy center of pure terror.”
~ Laurell K. Hamilton, Guilty Pleasures
The one thing that I have noticed with angry people is that they tend to find comfort in being a victim or feeling victimized. Such comfort that it must become addictive, I would guess. The thing that struck me in the second link above was that the author was searching for the naivete that she had when she was younger and, I am guessing, the world seemed so much more open and the shades that were not black or white were making themselves known and it was exciting and waiting to be discovered. I have had those same feelings, though I call that wish to return to that time as searching for a state of grace.
“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers – not excuses.”
~ William Arthur Ward
But, anger is not a state of grace. It is almost its opposite. And because it is such a destructive force, theologians (I am sure) included it in its pantheon of the most vile of human behaviours… yes, it is built in to the ideas that gave us the more modern notions of the deadly sins… and were thankfully complemented by the seven virtues.
“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”
~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Another thought on anger that I have is that is inflamed by cowardice. When I hear that someone is angry at me, I try to confront the issue and manage it accordingly. However, there are folks out there that are such that they refuse, they set up specifications that are almost impossible to arrange, or cancel (repeatedly) appointments made at my request to discuss things. In the face of these, I have to find that they are cowardly and that they are living in such desperate fear that they are incapable of listening to the other side of the story, or even of allowing me to hear theirs… selfishness?
“The fiercest anger of all, the most incurable,
Is that which rages in the place of dearest love.”
~ Euripides, Medea and Other Plays
How sad to be that angry, I can’t think of a single person that I would not give the opportunity to should it be requested of me… but to live in that kind of anger, just breaks my heart because I might venture that, as Euripides suggests, the anger is taking up the space that could be occupied by love. Even for others that might not be the source of the anger. My mother often reminds me when I rail at anything, why waste your energy on that when there is so much else you could spend your energy on.
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
~ Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
So, there is letting go. What does that mean? Is there any one answer? Is it an easy step? is it a process? I think it is all of those. One of the things most people don’t understand is how I came to peace with my father. After all, I railed enough that I changed my name (something I still would not change if I could do something over)… my answer, and it is often completely misunderstood is that I let go. I let go of the anger and resentment (not that they don’t raise their ugly head on occasion, but I am aware and I try to curb it) and focused on what was between us. I would not call myself close to him, but I try to read through the actions to find the languages he uses to communicate with others. In the process, I have learned so much… and mostly because my mother made me…
“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.”
~ Shannon L. Alder, 300 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It’s Too Late
So where did I learn to try to manage my anger? My mother, who has had enough chaos in her life that if she were the most bitter and angry person on earth I would think it was with good reason. My mother, whenever I would have fits of anger at my father or any other perceived injustice would gently say to me:
“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!
~ Edwin Markham, From the poem ” Outwitted”
Now, I can say that being angry is easy, drawing that circle of love… that’s hard! Another lesson I learned at my mothers wise and gentle side. How lucky I am to have her as a guide.
NaBloPoMo 30 (I did it!)