Anger

Then an experience that perhaps no good man can ever have in our world came over him- a torrent of perfectly unmixed and lawful anger. The energy of anger, never before felt without some guilt, without some dim knowledge that he was failing fully to distinguish the sinner from the sin, rose into his arms and legs till he felt that they were pillars of burning blood… This filled Ransom not with horror but with a kind of joy. The joy came from finding at last what anger was made for… He rejoiced in the perfect congruity between his emotion and its object.

-CS Lewis, Perelandra. When I looked it up, I found he had said “hatred” rather than anger, but I feel it still works.

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil…Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice. Ephesians 4:26-27,31.

I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. Matthew 5:22

Jesus looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Mark 3:22

In that context, Lewis’s interpretation of if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also works: “In so far as you are simply an angry man who has been hurt, mortify your anger and do not hit back- [but] in so far as you are a magistrate struck by a private person, a parent struck by a child, a teacher by a scholar, a sane man by a lunatic, or a soldier by the public enemy, your duties may be very different, different because they may be then other motives than egoistic retaliation for hitting back.”

Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. James 1:19-20

Those who worship the beast and its image… will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger. Revelation 14:9-10.

I bear a great burden of anger. It seemed I was taken back to my cot under a tree before I could walk, and I felt the child’s anger. I was not conscious of my feelings, then I became aware of them and they were anger, frustration, resentment and fear; then it seemed they were rage and terror. Sometimes now I cannot admit my own anger to consciousness.

I controlled it by suppression. I held it down. I was not conscious of it. I was an obedient child, following my mother’s desires. Then I was an adult, in the world of adults, not really feeling adult, nor understanding other apparent adults. I decided my suppression was the problem, that the tension in me comes from “nursing unacted desires”, and that I would be better to be conscious of the anger and sublimate it.

Yesterday, the woman in the supermarket queue had three problems, each of which caused delay. One such problem is rare. I treated it as an exercise of patience. Sensing my anger, I could acknowledge it, accept it, see there was nothing I could do to hurry her, and let it go. Suppressing it would make it a hurt for the rest of the day.

I am in pain, and I want to reduce it. I am in tension, and it is too much effort for me. I have an idea that single-minded integrity with all my emotions, drives and desires working together is possible (though long-term and short-term goals may need reconciliation) and that my need to manage feelings out of consciousness prevents that. An immediate feeling of threat may need managed, and the threat faced, but if I cannot admit to myself the sense of threat, and my inner parent screams at me “Get on with it! What are you fussing about!” then I just give up. As I have done.

The suppressed feeling has ways of coming into consciousness. I can think of a time when I felt that way in the past, and it is as if I am still dealing with that past event- then I rebuke myself, because I should have got over it by now. But no- it is a way of showing that I feel like that now, from something happening now. Or I tense up, or shake, as if in pain, and I rebuke myself, because I should not show signs of my feeling (it would upset my mother, who is dead, whose house I left 35 years ago).

I imagine a state of calm aware acceptance, of all the feelings, of all the surroundings; of anger at actual injustices and wrongs, rather than the mere inconvenience of the supermarket queue where no-one wronged me, and instead find a sensory overwhelm, painful and terrifying, so I flee it to the place where my emotions can be managed, either by minimising my interactions with the outside world or by scrolling social media for a brain-fog of vicarious momentary emotions, dulling my sense of what is real. I avoid kneeling in meditation because it will be painful, even though it will get me in touch with my inner guide.

Of course I want to deny reality! Reality’s horrible!

Yet it will get even more horrible as I turn my face from it.

Of course I am not dangerous. I am gentle and caring- I know this from my experience of how I act and respond. Suppressing my anger inhibits me, yet I do not want to bring it to consciousness so that I lash out, but so that I can respond better.

All comments welcome.

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