I was working in Oldham, which rather than improving the technology of its cotton mills had continued with 19th century machinery and recruited cheap workers from Sylhet and poorer parts of Pakistan. I worked with a lot of clients of Asian heritage, and did a lot of good for them. Well, increasing income is good for most people, and I increased the weekly income of many people by £20 or £50-odd, sometimes much more. Yes, benefit claimants might be better off in the dignity, independence and responsibility of Work, but that was not my job.
I was walking home and I saw two BME children, playing in the street, and the thought went through my mind, “Fucking parasites”.
I was abashed at this. I was ashamed. It was a shame I could not name. I went to a counsellor, and spent forty minutes silent, psyching myself up to tell of my shame; in the end I did, and she refused to see me again. This made me feel even more unforgivable, and I imagine people now, refusing to read me again.
I thought I am so Angry! That level of anger- yet I did not, generally, express it. I was gentle with people. I suppressed my anger, and it was like a toddler, who when ignored by Mummy gets louder and louder in order to get Mummy’s attention.
More recently, the thought went across my mind, “That was completely fucking stupid and useless because you are completely fucking stupid and useless”. So I thought, Oh, I am quite upset about that. The feeling is there. The feeling is OK. I am OK too.
A month after seeing Dr Lenihan, this is how I understand it. I was compartmentalising: I suppressed those emotions I saw as negative or uncomfortable, sadness, anger, frustration, resentment and fear, because I feared acting upon them. I feared feeling them so loathed and despised myself in them, and suppressed them. My self respect series shows me grappling with this, and I am better able to permit the feeling and hear it. So the result is that it has far less power. I can choose not to act upon it, but not by suppressing it. I have been learning this for fifteen years, but I understand better. I may not have perfected it quite yet but I do it better now.
My friend imagines herself to be a bad person, because of her angry internal monologue. All the things she thinks about other people! She made us a cake. It was a pleasant sponge, and she was deprecating it as soon as she brought it out. She was sure we would not like it.
I told that story, of thinking “fucking parasites”, and my vision went black. I could not look at the others when I told it, and had no idea how they reacted, though one has told me I was generous. I wanted to help our friend, and she recognised that: I wanted her to recognise that anger, itself, is not wrong, only violent acts- and I know that they are more likely when anger is suppressed than when it is acknowledged. It was stressful and tiring to say it.
So I tell you this story, to confirm to myself that my feelings do not make me bad. What I do may be good or bad, and as a whole I am good enough. Stated like that, it is obvious.