Anger: AnggUHR n. A strong feeling of displeasure or hostility.
The best fighter is never angry.
~ Lao Tzu
Anger… it’s a paralyzing emotion… it’s helpless… it’s absence of control… I have no use for it whatsoever.
~ Toni Morrison
Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside.
~ Mitch Albom
Don’t hold to anger, hurt or pain. They steal your energy and keep you from love.
~ Leo Buscaglia
I vigorously disagree with these quotes/sentiments.
I’ve had to work hard to find the right kind of help to heal and move on from my past.
Part of the difficulty came from “common sense,” pop psychology, and inspirational speakers and philosophers with ideas like these. Being raised religious, it came naturally to me to believe and trust any adult who embodied the qualities i was taught were moral and wise. When i went to these people for help, i always did my level best. I did what they told me to do, read their books and studiously completed every workbook. I took their courses and parroted their words. I worked therapy like it was my only job. Like i was diabetic and it was my insulin.
It never “took.” Some things would land, and i would plant them in my garden. But most of it never took root, never flourished. A lot of it withered and died. I had been raised to believe that in any and all situations, if there was a problem of any stripe, it was me or because of me. So, i bore it all as my failure, not the therapist’s or their particular brand of therapy.*
As with so many other things, like education, like weight loss, like love… There is simply no one-size-fits-all for therapy, for how to fix your problems, for how to live your life.
Dozens and dozens of people, places, and things came into play to help me save my life. The loss or absence of any one of them may have resulted in me not making it. I find this perhaps the most true when it comes to anger. I’ve written about it before, but it bears repeating, i think. Over and over again, i see anger getting a bad rap. I don’t see any emotion as either negative or positive. They are just feelings. They’re indicators, they’re place markers, they’re flags, they’re storytellers. It is the actions that follow an emotion that can be good or bad. And by that metric, in my life what has flowed from me as a result of anger has been lifesaving, empowering, and actually quite wonderful.
If my abusers had permitted, had tolerated any anger from me, i might have eventually told them NO, STOP, and risen up against them. That was too great a risk for them to take. That they might not only lose their living shit receptacle, but also perhaps be caught by some authority in their twisted deeds? For others to find out how sick and selfish and psychopathic they were? Absolutely not. And why worry? Because in me they’d found the perfect victim. I was obedient, compliant, and never spoke a word about the abuse to anyone.
The first time i can remember feeling angry i was around 9, i think. It only makes sense that i’d have felt it before, but it was either mild, or i hid it away because it was against the rules. I knew i had no rights. I knew only those in power positions were permitted anger. I believed it was right for them to be angry, about whatever they were angry about. My job was to fit their narrative into my experience. They were always right and i was always wrong. I was certainly the cause of their anger often enough.
I began getting angry fairly regularly after that, but i expressed it through sarcasm and disdain. Students and teachers alike found me intimidating (i found out later), a combination of my size (where the students were concerned) and my next-level mouthiness. By the time i was in high school, no one physically threatened me anymore. They still said awful things that stick with me to this day –and that includes teachers– but no one tried to hit me. (Unless you count that 1 jerkwad of a teacher who’d throw things at me in class, including a dictionary straight at my head.)
So, my sarcasm could be caustic, and i was sometimes flat out obnoxious, but i wasn’t violent.
Once i got away from my mother and had a child of my own, my anger became a problem. No one had taught me how to handle the normal frustrations that come along with raising a child. What my mother had modeled was abusive, and at that point, thankfully, i knew that. I took parenting classes, which helped a lot, but i was desperately in need of good therapy. Having a kid had me constantly triggered. I couldn’t connect with him physically, and i was hot and cold, emotionally. He was one of the best behaved children i’ve ever known, so i wasn’t tested often, but when i was, my patience ran out quickly, and i spanked him on a number of occasions. Too hard. I was angry. I was a triggered, dissociative mess and i needed help.
To be continued…
*To be fair, i only had a few awful therapists, who shouldn’t have been practising. Most of the time they were decent, and they tried to help me. They just didn’t have the right tools for the job. I’m sure they helped other people.
IMAGE: Julien Pouplard