Like any other man
I was born
with a wound
in one hand
and a knife
in the other

Gregory Orr, Gathering the Bones Together.

* * *

I AM RAGE. I am a storm, dark, heavy, omnipotent. I am unmitigated violence. I am fury, exploding, blinding lightning, roaring thunder, howling wind. I surge like the sea, uncontrollable in my rage.

I am hot, volcano spewing molten hate. I am unstoppable, she bear protecting my cubs. I am outraged, buckling earth swallowing towns and cities whole.

I am bombs guns knives kicks punches slaps insults.

I am hurt impenetrable.

I am hurt invulnerable.

I tear my victims apart with talons and beak, claws and fangs. Like a female preying mantis, I eat my lover’s head as he penetrates me with our own species’ destiny. I am concentrated death, angry rattlesnake.

DON’T TREAD ON ME.

I am mugger thief rapist. I am greed murder lust. I am arson pillage war. I am laughing whore smug don juan bully con artist. I am mean cruel unfair.

I am pain that strikes back.

I am pain that won’t cry, tears that won’t form.

I am lifetimes of being abused misused, not understood. I have been the ill fortune of countless parents. I am the victim of all their impotency and fury.

I am angry beyond comprehension. I am cancer of rage, with no control I shout curse slam kick break threaten destroy kill.

I am revenge.

I am avenger.

I am frail human being, unwilling to accept my frailty.

I am anger.

* * *

Sometimes it is easier for a young child to feel anger than to tolerate the terrible feelings of aloneness and rejection which lies under it, so he pretends his feeling of being unloved and alone is something else: hate . . . later the adult suppresses the need for love and just feels angry; he may attempt to discharge it on symbolic targets, such as the wife, children, or employees, each day of his life. Because he does not make the correct connection to the source of his anger, he may go on discharging it in unreal ways . . . Make anger real, and it will disappear. Until that happens, many angry outbursts against people in the present will be acts, and therefore, not real. Obviously, there is real anger, too, that does not emanate from the past . . . What was left unresolved in childhood will infiltrate almost anything a person does later in life until it is resolved.

Arthur Janov, The Primal Scream

What is Anger?

Anger is our reaction to feeling/being hurt, unloved, alone. Anger is our revenge on the world for mistreating us. Anger is our punishment to the injustice of life. Anger is our way of re-gaining our potency and control. Anger can be a way to re-connect with the world. Anger is, basically, a way of being separated from our enormous hurt and vulnerability.

What to do with anger. . .

Express your anger. If the anger is current, we can express it towards the person(s), circumstance, machine, institution, that we are angry at. (NOTE: I believe that no one causes our anger. Other people and situations are a catalyst or excuse for our getting in touch with that feeling which probably is already there. As anger is a way to avoid hurt, hurt can also be a way to avoid anger.)

Many people are afraid to express their anger because they believe they will destroy the victims of their anger. Many times I have heard smiling, angry people say “I can’t get angry at him/her. I’ll hurt him/her.” These people prefer to hurt themselves rather than to release that hurt by sharing it with the person that they hold responsible. Obviously, we are angry because we were not treated as we wanted. Someone did not meet our (expressed or unexpressed) expectations of them. The clearest way to express anger is in terms of our unmet needs.

The often used model for expressing anger (and other “negative” feelings) is:

I feel (emotion) when you (non-blameful description of their behavior) because (tangible effects on me).

Example: I feel angry and disappointed when you charge me $20 more to fix my car than you estimated and it’s still broken because I now neither have a car to drive to work or any money.

If we are unwilling to express the hurt that we feel as anger to the people that we hold responsible, we can still release that anger (which is psychologically and physically much healthier than holding it in). We can shout stomp curse kick punch pillow, we can get friends to be surrogates for the people we are mad at. Although non-specific anger release helps us to feel better, in order to let go of this anger we need to be aware of who we are angry with. Expressing our anger allows us to forgive. Hanging on to anger can be a way to maintain distance with a person and/or to continuously punish them. Fighting with a person can be a way to destroy the badness in a relationship . . . or to destroy the relationship.

***

I was angry with my friend.
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe.
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

William Blake, A Poison Tree

***

Physically, we can feel anger. When I’m angry, I feel intense, tight, flushed, excited. My heart beats faster, my breath is rapid. I often simultaneously feel afraid. Sometimes I don’t feel angry, but my thoughts, fantasies, or dreams are angry, violent, and/or frustrating. When this happens, I try to focus on my feelings and experience what’s going on in me. Many angry people don’t recognize their anger, but carry an anger dis-ease through their lives. These dis-eases can include: high blood pressure, ulcers, headache, allergies, asthma, chronic tension or aches, cramps, fear, anxiety, depression. Connecting anger and hurt to their source can often alleviate the dis-ease which is our organism’s reaction to overload.

My Anger

I only occasionally feel angry and usually for short periods of time. When I do, I will probably rant and rave for a few minutes or express my hurt and anger at whomever I blame for mistreating me. Almost always, I am able to observe myself being angry and I realize that I am indulging myself instead of forgiving the person who has “done me wrong.” I realize that, as part of this process, I have to forgive myself for all the wrong that I consciously and unconsciously think that I do, including my being unforgiving to others. Forgiving/accepting myself is the primary step in my forgiving others. As I stop being self-angry, I stop being other-angry.

Earlier in my life, I would frequently live for days in a state between irritation and rage. I was critical, perfectionistic, mean, uncooperative. I was quick to punish those to whom I felt vulnerable (unless I was too afraid).

At some point, I began to cognitively connect some of my anger, depression, fears, loneliness, sadness, frustration to earlier historical hurt. I began focusing on what the hurt really was and at whom I was angry. My rage began to pour out, directed, intertwined with much hurt and sadness. I often was quick to “understand” why people treated me as they had — that was much safer than exploring my pain. The pain was like a scab covering a festering sore, and I did not want to peel it back and see who was inside of me. I keep hoping that I could change without hurting, that I could become a new me without experiencing who I was.

* * *

To suffer one’s death and to be reborn is not easy.
Fritz Perls,
Gestalt Therapy Verbatim

* * *

I became aware of the insidiousness of this unexpressed anger. I felt victimized by a massive bureaucracy and incomprehensible society, I felt victimized by my parents, the slowness of my growth, the blindness of my friends. I was afraid to be intimate, to give, and yet I was intensely demanding. I wanted to be perfect and kept failing, and frustrating and disappointing myself. I was, without realizing it, outraged at myself.

I began consciously directing this anger. I expressed it in therapy groups, alone, counseling with friends. I experienced much of that ancient pain without actually confronting those people whom I blamed. They did not need to hear it, our relationship would not be improved by my being angry at them. Some were physically impossible to be with, and, most importantly, they were no longer the people they had been.

As I psychologically focused the anger that I had in me at them, I discovered much fear. If I (imaginatively) destroyed them, they would be gone . . . and I still needed/wanted their love and support. I think this is the big issue in letting out our anger towards our parents and other once-powerful adults. We fear destroying those that we still love and become guilty (in guilt, we turn the anger into ourselves). I realized that I could get angry at who they were and not destroy my love and connection with them. My relationships improved as I completed the unresolved hurt and anger.

Much sadness came out in this process (and some still is). I discovered what I had wanted, what I had not gotten, and how I had reacted to that pain. I realize that for me to let go of that anger and sadness, I must stop hoping that others will take care of me, and, instead, take care of myself.

In order for us to let go of our residual “crap,” we have to give up the hope that the world, that others, will give to us what only we are capable of giving to ourselves.

* * *

I hope that we can all be as loving and forgiving to others, and ourselves, as Life is to us.

Warmly, writing in the rich sunshine, I thank you.

— Leaf

I will respond to any questions, concerns, or comments that you send to me, Leaf, care of THE SUN, Box 732, Chapel Hill, NC 27514.