by P. Braithwaite
Once upon a time, I was in a support group (not for anger), and a woman got so angry that she started to convulse. Then she started to scream and had to be physically restrained.
The following week she was gone.
The remaining members of the group were told that she wasn’t ready for the work we were doing. Not everyone can handle what we’re doing. We all nodded and agreed. Our group leader told us the woman needed further assistance, and maybe that was true, but I was secretly unsettled. See, underneath my smile and ridiculous jokes, there was (is??) a woman who was (is??) screaming; there is a woman who is convulsing; there is a woman who wants to grab sticks and matches and burn villages to the ground.
And so I was angry with our group leader. Angry for reasons I couldn’t explain, but only now understand: when she dismissed the woman who was expressing her anger, she dismissed a very real and honest part of me. She unwittingly created a boundary of acceptable behavior. I understood then what I’d understood all my life – if I’m going to be angry, I’ve got to do it quietly and alone.
Sometimes, I am feel so angry it scares me. It seems to be an irrevocable part of who I am. I’m attached to it. And terrified by it. And, overall intrigued. Anger is the reason for my radiance. It’s the reason there is a glimmer in my eyes. It is the reason I can run for miles without getting tired. There is anger in the food I eat ( crunchy salty potato chips or medium-rare steak). Anger is the reason some folks call me witty — intertwined with every word I utter and every word I write. Anger, and my unwillingness to dance with it, is the reason I was so depressed at 19 years old (and 20, and 24). It is the reason I was so exhausted I couldn’t get out of bed. Depression, Freud said, is anger turned inward.
A tug-of-war with repressed emotions takes a lot out of a person.
There is only one person in the history of my entire life who has ever accused me of having an anger problem. I still don’t know how he knew. Maybe it was because he was angry too; I’m not sure. Sometimes he’d look at me with squinted eyes as if he could see it on my skin (like a blemish behind the wrong shade of concealer).
“You’re so angry,” he’d say.
“No I’m not.”
“No really,” he’d counter. “You are.”
With the absence of a story to lean on or someone else to blame, I’m coming face-to-face with my ever-present anger. And I’m working on trying to let it go (or at the very least, using it to my advantage). I am re-learning that it is impossible to release what you never truly face. I’m going to repeat that: You cannot release what you never face. Whether, anger, sadness, repression or loss…you must acknowledge and face what you want to transcend.
Otherwise you’re just painting over whatever it is you don’t want to feel.
And so, I’m learning to make peace with the anger and understand its energy. It’s that shadow place in The Lion King, beyond the pride, where Simba isn’t ever supposed to go.
I have to make friends with my hyenas.
And so do you.
What are you trying to understand and make peace with?