This post is the first in a series on anger: Anger that works and strengthens a person; and, that which renders one immobile. Anger seems pervasive. We are affected by it daily whether we ourselves are experiencing and expressing it, or in the presence of another’s expression. The prompt for this series occurred a few months ago when I was given great pause resulting from an epiphany: “People – you and I – are behaving with as much cruelty toward ourselves and others as at any time in human existence.” This is a sobering revelation for one who loves humanity.
The American writer Dorothy Allison wrote: “I would rather go naked than wear the cloak society has made for me.” This sentiment reflects a profound wisdom: The unique force that each of us are is not to be constrained or inure itself to the conforming intent of another. This notwithstanding, there is a profoundly life-affirming intent within all societies; it however is largely inaccessible. The fabric of our societal cloak prevents our access to this light. The fabric’s yarn is made of ignorance and naivete; the warp is of dogma and belief, and its weft, of dissonance, deprivation and fear.
In our wearing of this cloak we emulate, and thus animate the fabric’s character, falsely believing its qualities to be our own and befitting us. The worlds we then create are fraught with the angst of the circumstances of our creation.
Anger binds this cloak tightly. The bindings are specific expressions of anger. Not all anger is binding. There are at least two types that are empowering. In this post I will specify one such type. Those posts which follow will delineate those that bind; so too, they possess no life affirming function. My intent with this series is to invite, through increased awareness, the freeing of ourselves from these forms of anger.
The last in this series will be a brief piece on another form of anger that which is a positive expression: One few of us are capable of accessing. I will use German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger’s model delineating seven types of anger to catalyze my articulation of this subject.
The first type of anger in Hellinger’s model is that which is strengthening and enabling. He expressed it in the second-person and I will do the same here. It is in response to an attack or an injustice against you or those in your care. This anger is constructive and enabling. It makes you strong. It enables you to take effective and prudent action. This anger equips you to defend and assert myself with the appropriate anger and rage for the situation. It does so by rousing you energetically. This anger is goal directed. It is to the point and dissolves when the goal is achieved.
Two small examples of the expression of this anger may serve. One: I watched a brief interaction of two men and a woman in a restaurant. The woman did not seem to know the men. Considering the woman’s response to them, I assume that one or both said something inappropriate. I watched as the woman’s facial expression and body language changed. Then I overheard her loud angry and powerful voice command: “In your dreams buddy! Get away from me NOW!” The men walked away.
I love this woman for ignoring our convention of politeness and powerfully expressing herself! I applaud her!
The second example: A woman had been given a traffic citation for failing to stop for a traffic light. She was incredulous with the police officer’s actions as she believed her driving just. Her outrage impelled her to defend her actions in court. She honestly remembered seeing the traffic light as green when she entered the intersection. The officer saw the woman’s earnest congruity. He wished he had not issued the citation. Unfortunately, the court sided with the cop.
To me, it is extraordinarily important that this woman defended herself against what she deemed unjust. Bert Hellinger once said: “When someone tells you what to do, you owe it to your autonomy to tell them to go to hell.” He is correct! We each need to learn the unequivocal, yet, respectful and honorable art of telling another to go to hell.
We need do this as others constantly impose their intent on us. (We also impose ours on others. We each are unique forces of the Mystery and are to be free from such impositions. We alone are responsible for recognizing, embodying and maintaining our sovereign autonomy. So too, we are responsible for our own lives and will be well served to cease wrongful meddling.
In this regard it is irrelevant that the prosecution prevailed. Given the woman honestly believed she was in the right, it is enough that she defended herself. Decency applauds this woman’s clarity, her deployment of anger and the actions she took! I was the cop who issued the ticket. I respect her hugely!
There is a distinction I learned from the great mystic and writer Martin Prechtel: Compassion is absent of rage. It is present in outrage. Dismissing this as an issue of semantics misses the point. Hellinger’s strengthening and enabling type of anger possesses compassion. Were I to have defined this type, I would have used the word outrage where Hellinger used the word rage. Nonetheless, the women in my examples were outraged. There was no rage! There was outrage. So too, I saw compassion present in their anger.
Seldom, however, is this type anger used cleanly. Generally it is contaminated with a mixture of the various forms of anger. I will write about those in upcoming posts. When used cleanly, the type of anger that strengthens and enables is a necessary force at this stage of our expanding consciousness.
Deploying this type of anger cleanly, in legitimate contexts, will lead us to a consciousness where all forms of anger will be let go of. There will be no need for them. We will deploy only compassion in its stead. In our time, however, this strengthening and enabling anger is yet necessary; it can become an essential force for removing our contemporary and ill-fitting societal cloak. And, so too, move us forward into our task of reweaving how we organize and relate with ourselves and each other.
A few questions for you:
• What is it like for you when you have used strengthening and enabling anger?
• What is it like to be in the presence of others using this type of anger cleanly?
• How do you judge yourself in using this type of anger?
• How do you judge others using this form?
• Are you okay in the presence of constructive anger?
• Do you feel the differences between this positive anger and others?
For fun, look to this site where the Dalai Lama speaks briefly, and differently from the model I offer on anger: