“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? 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.