As I strive to walk a journey towards grace and peace, I've found myself thinking about anger, both from an objective place, but also from a personal one.
From a more clinical or distant perspective, anger is the opposite of reconciliation and forgiveness. Anger is the opposite of peace. Anger often stems from fear, and it can lead to hate. Often anger is a stand in for different feelings: sorrow, grief, hurt, shame, embarrasment, humiliation. As such it has often been called a "secondary emotion". It's the one we see, but it is often the symptom of something else. At the same time, sometimes anger itself is illusive in the sense that we don't realize we are angry until we have snapped out at someone. Often in those cases, the snapping happens at people other than the ones with whom we are most angry or hurt. Sometimes when we are angry, we can have trouble sleeping, but again, the anger that keeps us awake is often not felt towards the real person with whom we have the deep anger, and often it is a cover for these other feelings of hurt, of betrayal, of grief. For many of us anger is "unacceptable" and so we don't acknowledge our own anger, we don't see it, we don't own it until we are either called on it or it explodes out of us in some inappropriate way. Sometimes it's subtle and festers so deeply that it doesn't explode but just creeps out in hurtful ways.
I can see this happen in other people. I can think of several people in my life who just say mean things. They do it under the guise of being "real" and "honest", but the truth is they are angry. They have been hurt by life, they are deeply angry about it and so these attacks on the rest of the world just happen. And again, the anger is expressed in inappropriate proportion to what is actually going on because the anger being expressed is not what the real anger is about, and it's not being expressed to the one with whom we are most angry, and it is not expressing the deeper pain and hurt felt. Does it feel better to say hurtful or attacking things? I doubt it. But until the underlying anger and underlying pain is seen, is named, is owned, is dealt with, I doubt very much that this sideways expression of it will stop. Therefore people will continue to get hurt. People will continue to suffer the blows that this unnamed anger deals, often without awareness on the part of the ones expressing that anger.
Despite being able to see it in other people, I missed it in myself. I just plain missed it. There are many reasons for this. I want to be a person of peace, so I deny anger. Anger hasn't been safe for me in the past - when I express it I lose people I love, so it has been better to not express it. While feeling it is different than expressing it, it has been hard for me to know how to deal with it or express it, so I chose not to feel it either. I just denied it mostly. While I, too, have been woken in the night by anger, it too usually has been over little events or at least at things that should not carry so much weight with me. But when it comes to the bigger things? "I'm not angry. I've worked it all through." I've told myself over and over again. Those closest to me saw otherwise. I've been called on it before with words such as "calm down" or more helpfully, "You seem so very angry!" It has manifested in depression at times, which I've also been called on. "This isn't depression, this is anger. You are angry." Yes. But it was hard to see, still. What am I angry about? At whom am I angry? And even if I can name it, tell you, admit that there really are reasons to be angry and hurts that just haven't healed yet, there is nothing I can do about these things that have happened. If there is nothing to be done about it, what can I possibly do with that anger that will move it through?
A spiritual director said to me that I could move it through creativity. Well, I've been writing, but it's not working. "No. Create something...a picture, a dance, a piece of music. Don't use your brain trying to work this through...just create." So then all of these stories came to me. I used to write stories as a child, lots and lots of stories. But it has been a long time. I took most of one of my weekend days this last week to write a story. It wasn't about anything real. It was about heaven, a place I don't actually believe in...or not in this way certainly. I posted it on my new blog, which is impossible to access, apparently, but that's okay. It's okay because I wrote it for myself. And as I've sat with the story, as I've worked through the details, written and rewritten and read and re-read parts of it, something within me shifted. That's the best way I can put it, but something truly shifted - just enough for me to see - just enough for me to become aware of some of the times that I have allowed this inner boiling anger to slip out. It has come out in some of my writing here on this blog. It has come out at my son who should never have to carry my anger.
So this long winded post is actually an apology. I am sorry if you got hit in the cross fire of this anger within me. I will keep writing, and I hope that the creative movements within will allow me to become more aware and then, I hope, to find ways to release more of the anger. But I've taken the first steps. And the very first step has been to simply see, to notice. The second then is writing this...an apology to any who got blasted by that anger in direct or indirect ways. I've thought about going back over old blog posts and editing out any sideways anger (which can also, I've found, sometimes look like arrogance - ugh!!). But instead I am going to let those things stand. The past is the past and it informs who we are now, too. I hope I can grow and learn from my mistakes.
This blog post is also a request. There will be times when I'm still not seeing my own anger. But I know some of you do. I am asking you to call me on it, if you are comfortable. I don't want to be an angry person, but I know the first step really is in seeing it, owning it. I can't work it through if I remain unaware. And you can help me to become more aware as well. I know it takes courage to say to someone, "you seem really angry right now". But I ask you to have that courage.
I strive to be a person of peace. I can't do that without working through this anger and letting it go. I ask for your forgiveness for any anger that came your way. And I accept with deep gratitude the grace that is those of you hanging in there with me through all of this. Peace to you all.