Anger Management

(When I first started writng this particular piece on anger, I trashed it. I was afraid it was both too real and also not real enough. I became concerned about how I would be viewed. I also realized that I needed to think more deeply about this topic. I have done so.)

I don’t remember much what people have asked me or told me, certainly not word-for-word, and most certainly not after a year has gone by.  But, I remember, with absolute clarity, what one person asked me 20 years ago.

“You have a raging murderer inside of you, don’t you?”

I was shocked. Now to understand this question, here is some context. I was dealing with some depression, lots of it actually, and it was getting pretty bad…very bad, actually. So, with lots support and loving and firm prompting, I found a therapist that I could relate to and I spent about two years relating to him… once a week.  I had no problem in presenting myself as someone who needed some help, but I was careful not to present myself as anything but your normal, depressed person. I wasn’t crazy, for God’s sake.

One day during a session, I told him about a recent incident where I was rocking my grandson to sleep in our living room and 15 feet away someone was stealing the wheels off of my car, which was parked just beyond our front door. When my daughter came to pick up her baby and told me about my car being up on blocks, I got angry, very angry. Not only did someone steal from me, but they did it just a few feet away while I was rocking my grandson.

I had a number one suspect, or I think today they would say ‘a person of interest’ and he lived just down the street.  I marched off, in the dark, down the street, and surprised my suspect with a  direct confrontation. I was furious. This was the story that I shared with the therapist.  He listened carefully, and then asked the question I have never forgotten.

At first I tried to demonstrate how my anger was justified. I left his office still convinced that I was justified in my anger. Yet, his question continued to echo in my mind. Did I have a murderous rage inside of me? He said that he had one too. When he said that I thought, “Well, you’re screwed up. I am just depressed a little.”

It took some time, but I reluctantly, finally had to admit, “Yes, I do.”  I continue to think about that question. I have thought about anger, rage and hatred. I know anger can be a very appropriate response and nothing to be ashamed of. Even Jesus got really pissed off at the money changers outside the Temple as he took a whip to them. (Actually I don’t know if he used a whip or just turned their tables upside down. I wasn’t there.) But, did he hate them? Was he near an uncontrollable rage?

I am not the only one who in a rage confronts other’s words or actions. I see it all the time. I saw it yesterday at Home Depot. I see it on social media platforms. I see it with mothers and fathers, and children. I see it in politics. I see it in religion.  I see it in sports. I see it on the road. There is an incredible amount of anger being shared, regardless of one’s opinion or perspective, that has morphed to a rage and a form of hatred. In a verbal or literary context, people are demonstrating a “murderous rage” exists within them too, even by those who present themselves as  enlightened, highly thoughtful, artistic, peaceful,and loving people. It is disturbing. When I lose my temper – and I don’t as often anymore, but when I do…oh boy – I can see the look on the faces of the people physically close to me. It disturbs them, even if I have a so-called right to be angry – you can see that I have deeply disturbed their spirits. Where does anger stop and rage begin? I don’t know, but the ones around me do.

This anger thing is really tricky to manage.  I’ve gotten so angry that it actually  used up all my energy to correct a situation before – well, honestly, many times before. Anger is really helpful in standing up for oneself, although on social media it seems like such a small response to complex issues that require so much more than an angry little emoji response… and many folks seem to be raging beyond anger.  I’ve wondered how Gandhi would have handled his independence movement in the age of Facebook? Would Martin Luther King have marched as much? Would his speeches even have been given? Would Jesus have still gone with the 12 disciples strategy or chosen the 200 million social media followers? Would Jesus have posted his Sermon on the Mount and then sat back and waited for those blue thumbs pointing upward to start coming in?

I don’t know much about anything. Shit, I don’t even know why I blog. I’m basically an idiot. Yet, I know if I can still remember my therapist’s question from 20 years ago, it was a damn good question. Do some of us have raging murderers inside of us?  Is that a good thing? That I don’t know, but I am certain it can be a very bad thing.  I have tried to remember one single situation where my anger has improved the situation. I can’t.

By the way, I came out the bushes and I surprised my number one suspect of stealing my wheels that long ago night. He had a history of distributing drugs throughout our town. He was a smart ass, a bully, and he was destroying young people’s lives simply because he was too fucking lazy to work at a legitimate job. He’d rather sell drugs. I had known him for a long time and he had crossed my line. I indeed was in a blind rage, saw him as nothing but a piece of shit and if things had gone differently, non-premeditated murder was a possibility, perhaps even my own.

I often wonder if I have been able to diminish the rage my therapist recognized in me? Will the right circumstances bring it out again?  I have worked at learning to breathe. I have sought to recognize God’s love in hope of transforming my thinking, to become more loving of myself and others.  I read. I think. I observe. Still, deep inside of me…what lives there? Is it better, safer, to acknowledge the possibility that I am a lunatic? Ever been around an aggressive dog that seems to hate your guts for some reason and the owner says, “Oh, don’t pay attention to him. He won’t bite.” But, both you and the dog know that just ain’t so. Given the right situation, that dog will indeed bite your ass off.  I think it might be better to recognize that than to trust in the potential saintly nature of the dog. I really do have to manage my anger. Maybe in doing so, I will have more emotional energy left to actually deal with what is pissing me off?

Oh yes, guess what? That punk didn’t steal my wheels. Someone else did. My anger was justified. My rage was not. My hatred overwhelmed me and I targeted the wrong person. Whoops, my bad.