Tuesday, February 7, 2012

anger musings

"Dump no waste." I looked down and saw that on a sewer grate today and it got me thinking about anger & its toxins. A lot of what I've written on this blog over the last few years about Christianity as I experienced it has been angry. This was a safe place for me to dump some waste, but if it polluted the waters of others' hearts, I'm sorry. It's confusing, because I think many forms of anger are a healthy ("God-given" to use the tribe lingo) response to injustice and suffering. I think we can't ignore anger any more than we can ignore fire - properly contained it generates lifesaving heat; unattended it can grow into something that will burn your house down.

The reason we're afraid of all forms of it as a culture might be because it produces toxins that can seep out and hurt others. For instance, it was really hard for me to stay in a neutral place about having kids for the first two years after my divorce (and I failed at it, as my boyfriend and closest friends will tell you who listened to me vent), because so many of those toxins were filling my perspective as I looked around my dark, messy, sad house where I had experienced so much wounding. I understand how people who are abused can become abusers if they don't get help for their toxins.

Maybe there are two sides to anger, light and dark. The light side can be channeled towards things like Rosa Parks sitting up front, or you yourself standing up to a bully (even if it happens to be your spouse). The dark side is, naturally, more hidden, and if the light isn't shone on it, it grows into things like unlawful violence, or racism. My son didn't like "brown people" after an African-American neighborhood kid shoved his face into a wall. I told him there are mean white people, too, and you have to take things one person at a time, but it was eye-opening in terms of "This is how it starts, on either side, and it just keeps going."

Maybe it's: Part One, Justice / Part Two, Healing Compassion. Have to sit with this more, but I do think our culture is imbalanced in the direction of never allowing anger (sidenote - maybe because up until twenty years ago alcoholism was so widespread for centuries previous. Generations upon generations had experienced the unbridled, misplaced anger of drunk parents so they tried to become the opposite?).

A nice blessing from John O'Donohue:

Anger is a great flame of presence. Anger wants to break out; it stops us in our tracks. Much of the time we avoid conflict; we put up with things. We let things go. When the flame of anger rises, it confronts things. Anger shouts, "Stop!" It can be a great force for change.

It is so encouraging to hear the voice of righteous anger raised. It names and confronts injustice. It brings clearly to light whatever is wrong and makes it clear to the perpetrators of injustice what they are doing. It is very interesting to notice how politically incorrect anger now is. Especially in these times, there are so many issues that should warrant great anger. The psychologist James Hillmann remarks in his devastatingly incisive way that psychotherapy has managed to convert anger into anxiety.

When you really inhabit your anger, you enter into your power as a person. This should not be a permanent necessity. If you are in a situation where you are being controlled or bullied, the expression of your anger can liberate you. No one can oppress you without some anger awakening in you, even covertly. If you listen to that anger, it will call you to recognize your right to an integrity of presence. And it will bring you to act and clearly show your strength. It is astounding how each day we give away so much of our power to systems and people who are totally unworthy of it.

Ultimately anger points towards life. When your anger flames, it targers the falsity of expectation or tightness of belonging that is being inflicted on you. Anger breaks you free, suddenly.