Last week, while I was pretending to be sick, I did a good bit of “serendipity surfing” on the internet. This is very different than using the internet for research and examination. It involves some elements that can lead to surf haze, but in this case, I was just wandering aimlessly, so I experienced no real disappointment or shock when I arrived at some weird destination (shock at, or a sudden realization of, arrival at an unexpected web location is a primary warning symptom of surf haze).
Here’s a thing I noticed, in many of the threads I was following: There seem to me to be a lot of people out there actively nurturing their anger.
I don’t think that this is always a bad thing. For example, I know some people that tend to live their lives in a fairly inert state, and anger sometimes seems to be the only thing that gets them motivated to take action. If anger does lead them to action, this might actually be a net-gain for them.
Many times, though, I think there can be a state where feeding anger actually becomes a recreational activity — and that this state can become habitual, even enjoyable, to the participant. In this case, taking any action to move the anger would actually become an undesirable thing, for if the anger stops, the “game” is over.
I say this because I became aware of my own attachment to “righteous wrath” in the past. In earlier periods of my life, I would patiently harbor my “little angers” in secret, waiting until someone fucked up so unambiguously that I could jump out, my hair standing on end like John Brown in the Kansas State Capitol Rotunda, and scream “Philistene! Reprobate! Sinner!”
In that moment, the experience of anger felt satisfying and potent.
Problem was, this practice rarely changed anything. The person “at” whom I was angry kept doing things that “made” me angry.
And, after a time, my hairdo started to suffer, after so much standing on end.
And — I wasted a lot of my life energy “scouting around” for stuff to get angry about.
And — people around me tended to see me as slightly dangerous (which I think was a justified conclusion, by the way).
A BRIEF PRIMER ON WHAT I NOW BELIEVE/THINK ABOUT ANGER:
- I don’t believe that “anger” is an emotion.
- I believe that “mad” is an emotion.
- I believe that mad comes first, in the moment, and is closely related to the physical experience of “irritation/inflammation” — it indicates that something is breaching the natural boundary of my Self in a way that is out of alignment with Cosmic Law. (I’m not going to go into my understanding of full-fledged Cosmic Law right now. Suffice it to say that it involves us all being connected, sovereignty/free-will being a reality, authenticity required, and equal exchange being necessary to all sustainable systems — oh damn, I just went into my understanding of Cosmic Law.)
- I believe that “mad” can be my response when someone else violates Cosmic Law, or when I violate Cosmic Law, and that I was trained to project this emotion outward onto someone else, even if I’m really mad at myself.
- I believe that if I don’t deal with “mad” in the moment, it becomes a secondary phenomenon called “anger” — an energy-generating device that says “Do something! Do something! Do something!”, and that this (anger) doesn’t go away until I address the root cause of the “mad”.
- I believe that if I don’t deal with “mad”, “anger” will result. If I don’t deal with “anger”, “frustration” will result. If I don’t deal with “frustration”, “rage” will result.
The best example I can give is this (from Carruch, as usual): “Mad is ‘You’re whistling right now and it’s bugging me’. Anger is ‘You whistled yesterday, and you whistled the day before, AND NOW YOU’RE WHISTLING AGAIN!!!’”
I don’t think that anger is necessarily bad, or wrong, or anything like that. I’m just wondering if it’s useful. I’m especially wondering if it’s useful to nurture it.
I’ve been trying to remember if any of the “political” people that I know, or read of (or the extremely political person I used to be), have ever really demonstrated some form of pure “glad” in their various speaking/writing for any length of time.
Oh, sure, among liberals, there was that five minutes when Clinton won his first term. And when G.W. Bush “took back” the White House, there was a bit of celebratory feeling among conservatives. But how long was it actively sustained?
I think people can actually become addicted to remaining angry.
Think about it. It’s high energy. Anything that can make your hair do that (just take another look at Mr. Brown up there) must be chock full ‘o ergs.
However, I have my doubts about anger as a long-term recreational drug.
Yes, it is energetic, but that energy has to come from somewhere. And in my experience, it generally comes from the person who is invested in remaining angry. Anger is a hungry beast. It requires a lot of time and attention to keep it smoldering at just the right level to provide the desired level of heat without singing the person that is pumping the bellows.
In my line of work, and in the way I live my life, I have the opportunity to hear a lot of people’s stories. In the past few years, I had the opportunity to interact with two people who were betrayed by their spouses.
Both were in long-term relationships. Both of their spouses betrayed them in blatant, overt, and similar manners. There were parallels in their stories that were spookily synchronistic as I listened to each of them, right down to the specific questions that they each asked which finally elucidated the real nature and extent of the betrayal.
It was fascinating for me to watch these two stories unfold — as if the Universe had placed me in a laboratory with two experiments to observe — both with the same root cause: dishonesty in relationship.
And each with very different outcomes.
My perspective is: One person chose to act on their anger. The other chose to nurture it.
Some years later, I see the effects of these choices. I hear the person who chose action (in my opinion, the request that anger is making) now speaks of their life with renewed direction, hope, and vigor, and rarely speaks of their ex-spouse. I hear the person who chose nurturance speak of being uncertain of which way to go, and mentioning their ex-spouse in nearly every interaction I have with them.
My “scientific” conclusions are, after observing these situations:
- If I choose to take responsibility for my anger (an abrogation and dereliction of attending to my initial “mad”), and take the action that anger requests, I will likely move through and beyond it.
- If I choose to remain angry and nurture anger, I will likely become inextricably connected to the “object” of my anger.
There is an old saw in our culture: “Don’t get mad, get even.”
I don’t care for the implications of this saying, because I do not believe that “revenge” settles anything — I believe that it simply sets me on another cycle of karma with the person I supposedly “avenging” myself on.
However, if I look at the actual words “Get Even”, I think there might be something in this statement that I want to examine. Something about anger, action and energy exchange.
I believe that dishonesty/manipulation/deceit, etc., sets up an energetic imbalance between individuals. I do not believe that relationships can thrive and remain sustainable if energetic imbalances are not brought into balance (and the sooner, the better).
In observing the person who chose action in response to their anger, I noticed that they moved fairly quickly to directly addressing the energetic imbalance that had existed throughout their relationship with their ex-spouse. I heard from them full admission of their choice to participate in a relationship that had not been satisfying for them for many years.
Yes, this person experienced moments of great anger, which they vented to me quite clearly. However, in a very short time, they seemed to come to the conclusion that remaining angry without taking any real action was exhausting. Their energy, as they moved through their process, seemed extremely variable. They seemed to move in and out of various emotional states quickly — now feeling glad that it was over, now feeling mad about the betrayal, now feeling sad at the loss, now feeling scared about what might be next, now feeling bad about their own participation and self-betrayal. These states of feeling were often entertained simultaneously, or in quick succession.
In observing the person who chose nurturance of their anger, I noticed that, while they would occasionally acknowledge that they had been unsatisfied with the relationship for many years, they seemed to talk much more frequently about the betrayal. In listening to this person, the ongoing dynamic of the relationship seemed to me to be compressed and oversimplified into this “event”, and other persons involved in the event.
This person also experienced moments of great anger, which they vented to me quite clearly. I noticed, however, that there were very few other emotional experiences expressed. I heard much more rarely about any sadness at the loss of the ex-spouse, or feeling glad that it was over, or feeling bad about any self-betrayal. In fact, simultaneous (or conflicting) states of emotion were rarely expressed.
Which cycles me back to the words “get even”. I think that there is great healing potential in the idea of re-balancing long-term energy imbalance. I think this is the essential core of the concept of “revenge” — to somehow reclaim some form of energy imbalance that was created in the process of relating.
But (and as PeeWee always says — a very big BUT) I believe that I might be skating on very thin ice if I attempt to “become even” in a long-term relationship (that hasn’t been cleaned up and attended to along the way) based on a single event within that relationship.
Yes, you may have betrayed me. You may have committed the unspeakable and socially unacceptable act, upon which I can pounce and pronounce myself the John-Brown-holy-man, and you, the sinful reprobate — and then I can be socially sanctioned to remain angry at you forever!
But . . . .
But . . . .
It doesn’t feel any better, really, to be “right”, in the end. It doesn’t remove the longing ache of my sad at the loss of you in my life, the crushing pressure of my bad at my own self-betrayals, the terrifying loneliness of my scared, or my glad relief that finally, something has happened, if only an ending. “Being right” and “staying angry” only covers these emotions with a thing that (temporarily) feels more energetic and enlivening — my mad turned to anger –
The Beast I Feed.
The beast I fed.
I’m pretty dedicated to my pets. Even those who have been given to me, unbidden, I take seriously. I feed and care for them. I consider that I invited them at some level of my being, so I will not abandon them.
But you, Oh Beast of Anger?
I’m taking you to the pound.