I have encountered it quite a lot in the course of my life, in various people who’ve been a part of my life, as well as occasionally in myself.  I have often been very troubled by it, and I’ve devoted a lot of thought to the question of why it should be so very prevalent.  What is the purpose of it?  And I’ve been especially concerned about why I’ve found so much rage apparently directed at ME. Was there something about me in particular that catalyzed such intense anger?

My father’s rage was of a quiet and subtle kind.  It took me a long time to eventually realize that he lived with a deep, suppressed anger all of his life.  This anger expressed itself indirectly in his dealings with, and attitudes toward, other people.  Especially in his intolerant, rigid and domineering ways.  Where all of this anger of his came from I don’t know exactly, but I surmise that it was probably the product of his upbringing in an emotionally dysfunctional family in which the family members were for the most part cold and distant toward each other.

And then there were several women I was involved with who turned out to have serious problems with anger.  I got to see, up close and personal, anger in all of its many varieties, everything from petty expressions of petulance all the way up to frightening explosions of rage that were so intense as to suggest mental illness.  Most of this anger seemed to me to be symptomatic of a more fundamental problem, which was anxiety.  In fact in general it seems to me that anger is (most of the time anyway) probably an instinctive psychological defense mechanism that is the ego’s natural reaction to anxiety.  And the stronger the anxiety, the stronger will be the resulting anger.

After having struggled throughout my life to try to make sense of all my troubling experiences of too-intimate involvement with other people’s rage, I’ve finally come to a point of being able to disengage myself from it (but at the same time without being callous about people’s underlying fear and suffering of which such rage is the surface symptom) to a great extent.  It’s been helpful and clarifying to see anger as a natural process, as the natural (and in fact inevitable) result of emotional forces acting on people.  We are all caught up in these great emotional dynamical systems which originated long ago, of which we are a part for a while, and which will continue long after our individual selves are gone.  It is as aspect of our nature, our humanness.  But to cultivate more awareness of it is a worthwhile effort.  Perhaps thereby we can free ourselves a little bit from a blind obedience to our emotional dynamics, and also treat our fellows with a bit more compassion and understanding.

To my father and to all the others who have marked me, scourged me with their rage: I have taken the difficulties you’ve given me and I’ve learned much from them, though it’s taken me a long time.  All of our pain and rage is like leaves falling in autumn.

Advertisements