Hellinger’s sixth type of anger is one that is taken on, felt and expressed by someone other than the originator of the anger. This is “assumed” anger. Another carries it. Taking on another’s anger occurs when someone in the family or group has
suppressed the anger felt toward someone else. It is taken on by the weakest person in the system.
“Weakest” refers to a person who is the youngest, or least physically strong, the least intellectually facile, the one occupying the lowest professional position in the group, or the one who, in a political sense, is marginal, or possessing the least relevance, significance or standing. Taking on another’s anger is unconscious occurring outside awareness.
This anger has several expressions:
1. Groups: The weakest person in the group becomes the target and recipient of the unexpressed anger toward a superior. No one, for example, has the courage to tell the boss of their resentments, so the weak one receives the others’ anger.
2. Families or groups: When anger is not expressed, the weakest person becomes angry expressing someone else’s anger believing it to be his or her own. There is no obvious cause or reason for the weak one’s anger.
3. Families: The weakest person in the family becomes the target and recipient of the unexpressed anger that one parent is feeling toward the other. Everyone in the family is angry with this child.
4. Families: The weakest person in the family takes on the suppressed anger one parent feels toward the other. The child believes this anger to be their own. For example, a mother is angry with her spouse but says nothing. The daughter becomes and stays angry with her father. So too, a son may take on the suppressed anger of his father expressing it towards his mother.
5. Families: A son or daughter has taken on the anger one parent has suppressed towards the other. The child then expresses anger toward his or her own spouse, falsely believing this anger to be one’s own.
Anger that is taken on is easily identifiable as it is expressed with self-righteous indignation. It is a prideful anger. It renders the person expressing it ineffective and weak. Those who are victimized by it feel strongly in their righteous indignation, yet they remain weak and ineffectual; and their suffering, at the effect of this anger, is pointless. Neither they, nor those expressing this type of anger benefit from it.
In my own healing I learned that I had carried my mother’s suppressed anger toward her first husband, and toward my father. In addition, I carried the anger of the ancestors on both sides of my family. On one side the suppressed anger toward the inhumanities of Protestant Christianity – even though many were believers. On the other, the anger toward Catholicism, the constraints of which my grandparents so wanted to distance themselves. The relief of freeing oneself from carrying the weight of these angers is staggeringly palpable and freeing, for everyone.
Long before I knew Hellinger’s model I saw “assumed” anger in people in the professions around me. I intend no indictment of the persons, professions nor issues these examples reflect. Rather, I offer them to inform us about “assumed” anger.
Police and Deputy District Attorneys prosecuting defendants for crimes involving assaults on women and children often carry the anger of the victims and their families. Social workers may carry the anger of those they help. Trial lawyers can carry others’ anger regarding the institutionalized injustices of our system of justice. Public defenders too.
The anger of many environmentalists is indignant and self-righteous. “Assumed” anger is commonplace. Choose an issue arising from acts of cruelty, ignorance or oppression; note the people suppressing their anger, and we find “assumed” anger in those around them. Nurses often carry the anger of the nurses who came before them: Those whose schedules and duties have long been manipulated by the demands of administrators and physicians. Note too, that their contributions have been little acknowledged.
Look too at the Arab Spring, or to the “we and they” or “us and them” of the “ninety-nine percent and the one percent.” The peoples of the West have suppressed their anger toward those running their country’s central bank and the dominant financial institution; so too, toward the governments in support of the “one percent.” Have you been to Israel or Palestine, or Turkish or Greek Cyprus? “Assumed” anger is part of the landscape.
The examples I have given are abstractions for most of us and are the last places and issues that warrant our attention. Rather, our individual attention is best placed on our own personal, and specific, individual circumstances. In attending to the moments of our own lives, we can learn what each moment is asking of us individually. In each moment we are to ask ourselves what concrete action is this moment asking of us. In this moment ask: “What can I do? What actions can I actually take here and now?” We must state what we are going to do and do what we say. In taking these actions, not only are we changed, individually, everything changes.
By each of us taking actions individually, actions which are informed by the moments of our own lives, the world is changed. If what we are doing is not working, we must do something else. Anything else. We are to keep doing so until we get the results the moment is directing us toward. As each of us individually bring ourselves to bear in the moments of our own lives we change everything.
Hellinger Family Constellation change methods facilitated by individuated and compassionately intelligent facilitators offer a lovely approach for freeing ourselves from carrying the anger of others. This modality is available around the globe. Once you open to and learn the method for releasing this anger, you can do it without trained assistance.
•Am I self-righteous and indignant in the expression of anger?
•Have those close to me commented about my indignant and self righteous anger?
•Did, or do, my parents suppress the anger they feel toward their partner?
•Are people in my place of work angry?
•Are the weakest one’s recipients of others’ anger?