I’m really struggling with anger – I guess my own personal brand of anger that is actually part of a cycle of thoughts & feelings I’ve churned and repeated most of my life. My counselor of the past 12 years – who is one of the most dear friends I have – taught me long ago the bit about anger being a secondary emotion, and that before we feel anger first we feel something else, however briefly. Usually the primary emotion is fear, though it can also be sadness, disappointment, anxiety, or some cocktail of all of these.
Of course, there’s the kind of anger that flashes in life-or-death, fight-or-flight situations, which is an evolutionary advantage & survival skill, but that’s not the kind of anger I’m talking about. I’m talking about walking around, day by day, doing good work at my job, being a good parent (mostly), and spending way too much time feeling worried, afraid, and anxious about the future – and after a while, that swirl of discomfort blossoms into anger. An anger that I carry around and then do things with that probably aren’t helpful.
Fortunately, the kinds of stupid things I do with this anger aren’t the kinds of things that involve physical violence or wanton destruction. They’re more along the lines of posting FB responses in an angry tone to total strangers I disagree with on political issues. Yeah, I know – ooh, very scary.
In the Talmud, ancient rabbis compare the act of dwelling in anger as a form of idolatry. (For those who like to look stuff like this up, visit BT Shabbat 105b). Then there’s this oft-quoted passage:
Resh Lakish said: As to every man who becomes angry, if he is a Sage, his wisdom departs from him; if he is a prophet, his prophecy departs from him. (BT Pesachim 66b)
Never mind who Resh Lakish was for the moment. Actually, Resh Lakish’s bio does have some bearing on his statement. His name was Shimon ben Lakish (Simon, son of Lakish), and before he started studying to become a rabbi, he made his living as a bandit and a Roman gladiator. So he probably knew a few things about dealing with different kinds of anger.
Side note: there’s a terrific piece by Irwin Keller, on anger, revenge, and Resh Lakish that you can find here.
Most of my bouts of anger are about politics (or maybe that’s my brain’s way of avoiding being angry about things in my more direct personal experience – I dunno). So, just to name a few things I find myself angry about:
- the hating on Obama that is a constant frenzy from right wing media and politicians, and which is often based on blatant lies
- the popularity in part of society of someone like Trump
- the fact that Hillary just doesn’t have the gifts of public communication that her husband had, and that Obama has. I’m angry that she might cost herself the election because of this limitation in her skills set. “So send money to Bernie,” some of my progressive friends would say. I’ll probably send what little money I can to both of them. But let’s be realistic. It’s overwhelmingly probable that she’s the Dems’ nominee. And it’s pretty likely that the R’s nominee will have some major strengths and weaknesses, just as she has. But not having the gift of public communication, of a winning personality, is a pretty major liability. So I’m angry about that, angry angry angry worried worried worried feeling helpless helpless helpless and have a hard time not thinking about it.
- I’m also really angry at religious leaders of all stripes who embrace fundamentalist understandings of their own religions or who literally worship the words in their sacred texts to the point of wordolatry.
Okay, enough. I have to make my daughter some pancakes.