For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is not always that we give proper attention to the emotions that we feel. We just assume that they are a result of who we are. Sometimes we are happy or content, other times we feel sad, and then there are those moments of frustration which can easily spill over into rage or anger. It has not been possible for me to live a life without noticing and interrogating all emotions. These are my personal thoughts only, as I have fiercely guarded my right to have them since a child. But to give myself a little boost of confidence in order to write about them, I have looked outwards towards other cited individuals for this purpose.
As I approached my early thirties, I started to question why I would still cry in certain situations, and by this stage I really thought I should be over this behaviour. I had begun to recognise this as a pattern borne from frustration many years before but had arrived at no resolution, and really, by thirty, tears of frustration should not be an issue in any adult’s life. In later years it only cropped up as an issue in my relationship with my husband, Peter, who is really a very good man, but at that age neither of us were living life consciously. I remember the last time it happened in our relationship as clearly as if it was last year. He had a few archaic issues around jealousy, and it would raise its ugly head after a beautiful day out spent with good friends. Soon as we set off in the car it would start – attempts to pick a fight. Finally, on arriving home, having spent an hour trying to fend off the attempts to get a rise from me, I burst into tears, and as soon as I did, he wanted to put his arms around me and tell me all was good. But on this last occasion I questioned him. I said, “Why do you want to attack me until I start to cry, and then want to comfort me?” It was in acknowledging the pattern that both of us recognised together that Peter never again expressed jealousy, and I never again felt those same tears of frustration. I only cry very occasionally at remembering loved ones no longer with us, or moments when I get an overwhelming sense of love for whatever it is that has moved me.
Getting to understand the pattern on an even deeper level involved going back over memories as a child and a teenager. Memories serve us so much more than just markers in our past, as I found after my daughter died. Particularly the ones that are reactivated by something that crops up in our daily life and at random moments. They can be quite revelatory. It was my dad who would bring on my tears of frustration because my mom always left him to deliver all decisions which included the ones that thwarted my desires. And always I would revert to tears, much like the little child that has been told that she cannot have the doll of her dreams on any Saturday morning’s passing of the toy shop. In other words, those times when one can’t have one’s way—the answer is ‘no’ to whatever you want or want to do. In my case, in my teens, it would be a ‘no’ to going to a party, or going on a date with someone my parents didn’t like the sound of. In other words, control was withheld from me. These feelings don’t necessarily go away of their own accord just because you have entered the adult arena but will just be for different reasons.
Personally I struggle to use my second hand for the times of anger that I can attest to experiencing; an anger or rage that goes past frustration. But I do know what this feels like because my anger manifested as a shaking that took over my whole body. As I have gotten older, I see anger as being those moments when outrage often accompanies something someone does or says. How dare they! Outrage implies that someone has done something to you or someone else you deeply care about that you find totally unacceptable. A useful tool would be to look at who exactly within you is objecting. Usually it is the ego or one’s persona – the mask that year upon year we have been shaping and building and that now is who we believe ourselves to be. The other main reason though for anger is fear. Fear that if interrogated would tell you that your very foundations are being rocked, or equally, that you are being nudged into unknown territory, and away from a terrain that you understand as keeping you safe from harm. I would even go as far as to say that the reason for anger or rage is precipitated because it highlights something within our ‘self’ that is spreading trying to speak up; to say that our perception of safety is not safe ground for us. And it is this nudge from our inner being, our subconscious, that our ego or persona is trying to reject. It is our subconscious that is trying to help us find our way back to our souls, or if you prefer, something more akin to our authentic being. We are fortunate to have this help always at hand because there is no other way to peace than via an inner truthfulness.
Two indisputable voices on the issue of anger. First, Freud:
‘Anger as Freud’s Forgotten Defense’
“If to Freud all defence mechanisms exist to protect the personality from an intolerable attack of anxiety when the ego is under siege, it’s strange that he never considered anger as serving this pivotal psychological function. But to regard an essential human emotion as mainly designed to safeguard an individual from another, much more distressful emotion, is hardly a line of reasoning Freud might have been expected to follow. Still, in my own clinical experience, anger is almost never a primary emotion in that even when anger seems like an instantaneous, knee-jerk reaction to provocation, there’s always some other feeling that gave rise to it. And this particular feeling is precisely what the anger has contrived to camouflage or control.”
And my favourite, Jung, as explained in an article by Sharon Martin in an article called The Alchemy of Anger:
“Dr Jung wrote these words two years before he died: “God” is the name by which I designate all things which cross my wilful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions, and change the course of my life for better or for worse.” The Greek gods Dionysus and Ares are associated with anger and can be very dangerous and destructive… This rage is almost always relegated to the unconscious in childhood, so as not to displease the person who has evoked it by their failure to meet our needs, and thereby to lose what little we may have. If it is not brought to consciousness, experienced and resolved, it cannot do its work, which is usually to separate one from the parents. And by separate I do not mean to move out of the parent’s house. I mean to grow up and live one’s own life, not controlled by the parental complex…”
I don’t feel I need to look further than the two fathers of psychology who together gave us all we ever need to know about the subject. The rest is up for interpretation and development. Personally, I have long since given up all sense of resentment towards any conditionings my parents placed on me, inadvertently or not. They are heavily outweighed by the good things my parents made possible instead. My parents left me largely free to develop my own views on life and relationships by never imposing a system of discrimination on how I view the world and people. There must still be some of that particular form of conditioning left in me but it came as a result of what society projected onto me rather than them. Whatever party I couldn’t attend, or sleepover that I was refused, has long since faded into obscurity. And I face the world full face on with whatever knowledge and surprises it will bring my way until death does its business. Then I shall look for the nearest cosmic wave and ride off to my place in the great firmament—a life fully lived in my book.