Seriously Angry? Think about it.

I am angry every day. It’s tough to admit it — as a coun­selor cognoscente I’m sup­posed to be in charge of emo­tions. How­ev­er, all stu­dents and teach­ers; OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAelders and babies; patients and ther­a­pists alike cope with anger. How?

Damm!”, “Rats!!” “Sh- -!!” and oth­er vicious exple­tives. Stamp­ing your foot. Slap­ping, punch­ing, cut­ting, and men­ac­ing. In coun­sel­ing, we see them all. …Anggerr…Animals growl. Grrrrr. I want food. I want it my way. Fangs flare. Grrg r owl ing (not grow­ing). I want what you have. Ouuwl. Grrrr…Give it over. You are toast. Anger. An Grrrrr.

This is not a rant, so hear me out. How can I live with myself with­out admit­ting myself into a psych ward? Thank­ful­ly, many of us who are angry every day are not angry all day.

Anger is a spir­i­tu­al teacher that can be poi­so­nous. I can’t live out of anger, and I can’t live with­out anger. Anger is con­found­ing. It’s usu­al­ly a com­pos­ite like asphalt not a sim­ple ele­ment like cop­per.

I strive to cre­ate peace more than any­one I know. So every day I med­i­tate to carve myself into a ves­sel of peace. Still I’m furi­ous. I’m mad at the soda and water bot­tles that blow onto my front yard. I’m pissed that for cen­turies women are sec­ond class cit­i­zens. I’m rip-roar­ing angry that the US sub­si­dizes gas guz­zling car indus­tries instead of build­ing train tracks. So I prac­tice peace, and then I walk out­side to huge SUVs at the Exxon sta­tion. I breathe, I drop my shoul­ders back, enjoy. Then I see a child walk­ing to school eat­ing a donut and soda for break­fast. I’m sad and furi­ous. Now relax until ire ris­es again.

What can a cog­nizant ther­a­pist do with anger? Should I point the fin­ger at Mitt Rom­ney or War­ren Buf­fett? Should I blame bad par­ent­ing for trash in our streets? The kids? I had a beer last night, so should I be angry at the plas­tic cups I used? Plas­tic isn’t sus­tain­able so I’m annoyed at my care­less­ness?

Many morn­ings I see 6 or 8 rovers sleep­ing near bridges along the riv­er. My father calls them tramps. Their brown bags and dirty card­board is an eye­sore. I’m dis­gust­ed we can’t offer a home to those with­out hous­es. I’m a Medusa and a Zeus but I try not to throw thun­der­bolts. I’m angry at the extreme weath­er, at the end­less US war blitz, at the dis­crim­i­na­tion against immi­grants, the racism in US courts, and the fore­clo­sures. I’m hyper­ven­ti­lat­ing.

Gee willy-wil­lik­ers. Can rage be healthy? At the least my anger staves away depres­sion. I’m seri­ous. Women get depressed in this coun­try twice as often as men. Men are taught to get mad or aggres­sive. Jim­my Crick­et!! And me? I refuse to be aggres­sive nor will I allow myself to slip into depres­sion.

I turn to my Quak­er her­itage for help with han­dling anger?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Spir­i­tu­al prac­tices help, but going to church doesn’t always help. Pray­ing to stop anger is banal. Of course I seek to live with my anger sur­round­ed by God, or the divine, or Lov­ing Mys­tery. Anger and love must become like the inhale and exhale of the same breath.

James Nayler, an emi­nent Quak­er from 1600s, explains how to pray when angry. “Art thou in the Dark­ness?” or in oth­er words are you con­sumed with fury and con­fused by neg­a­tiv­i­ty. I’m defin­ing Dark­ness as hurt and anger. He says, “Mind it not. But stand still and act not and wait in patience, til Light aris­es out of Dark­ness and leads thee.” Anger moti­vates, anger points to injus­tice, anger is right­eous. But when it comes to how to respond to anger, Nayler says act not out of dis­tress­ing ‘Dark­ness’, but wait until you are calm before your next move. Ahh­hh.

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