Anger is as anger does

by tamarjacobson

Writing about teachers, children and anger, I cannot help but explore my own at the same time. And what a complex emotion it is! For, from a very young age we are taught (and teach) that anger is a bad, shameful emotion that one needs to get rid of, repress – anything, rather than confront it. And yet, it is a necessary feeling that rises to warn us that something is amiss, helps us take care of ourselves, fight for our rights and protect our integrity. It is not the emotion itself that is bad and shameful. It is the way we learn to express or repress it. Of course, this may not sound too new for many of us. We have gathered by now that it is not good for our bodies or souls if we hold in uncomfortable emotions for too long. Nor does it really benefit those around us whether in personal or professional relationships. Somehow, any how, anger seeps out in all sorts of ways: passively, aggressively, though illness and headaches, destructively, masochistically … on and on.

Some of you may remember Harriet Lerner’s book, The Dance of Anger? I reached for it again this past weekend because during my past illness I experienced quite a bit of anger. Constant niggling, simmering anger at my body giving in like that. It rendered me helpless and exhausted especially because mostly I internalized it into a mild kind of depression. Debilitating. There was other anger too, the details of which I will not go into here because it involves my personal relationships. Although I did not express it outwardly I was seething within. As I was re-reading Lerner’s book thinking that I needed to brush up on women’s expression of anger for the third chapter of my book, I came upon this:

Fighting and blaming is sometimes a way both to protest and protect the status quo when we are not quite ready to make a move in one direction or another.

I stopped dead in my tracks. All that simmering, seething anger (internal, silent fighting and blaming) was debilitating indeed. But serving me well as it held me down and in place. With all these years of self-alteration and awareness I had journeyed back to the very same place only to know it for the first time.

This morning I awoke much clearer than any of the days of the past two weeks. Not only did the illness really feel like it was finally dissipating, but I seemed less afraid and helpless about my future. Not a big deal revelation or anything. Just a reminder. Anger will always come and go. Sometimes I will allow it to hold me down and in place. But, perhaps, one day, I will recognize it for the helpful, warning sign it is.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Sun and life