***Note: it’s likely important for me to emphasize the limits of my anger to adult interpersonal relationships and the limits of my actions to verbal comments therein. That is the full extent of my thoughts and actions, and everything written here is only understood within this context, and nothing more***
I’ve been airing some of my dirty laundry on this blog for several conscious reasons: namely increased clarity and catharsis for myself and to provide hope and commiseration for those dealing with similar problems (or those dealing with whatever problems they may have regardless of how different they may be).
This post continues along the lines of recently addressed themes of evil, pain, and suffering while providing a slightly new twist on my own issues: I’m about to tackle a problem of mine that I don’t think I have “figured out” in any variation of an adequate capacity. So this will represent some groping in the dark on my part.
Hi, I’m David, and I have an anger problem.
I’m prone to mini-fits of rage and underlying anger, resentment, and bitterness. I’m quite confident there’s a direct connection here with the depression I’ve contended with.
This isn’t a new development nor is it unique in my lineage. I’m not going to share the personal issues of others, but suffice it to say this is somewhat of a family inheritance.
I can’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t been filled with anger. I remember at an early age (and have been told by my mother) that it would do no good to punish me by spanking when I was misbehaving – I would only become more angry and disruptive, and the more sternly I was punished, the more obstinate and terrorizing I would become. Evidently my older brother was not like this so it caught my parents by surprise.
These were rare occasions as I was by-and-large well-behaved, but I surely have deep and early emotional memories of these fits.
As I’ve shared in several posts in a variety of ways, when I was six I began to suffer from panic attacks nearly every night for over a year. These are a kind of intense depression: an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, powerlessness and despair. “Panic” is not a word used lightly to describe these episodes. It is equivalent to feeling as if you are fighting or fleeing for your life; for your sanity; for any peace of mind.
It is a literal trigger of the body’s physical fight-or-flight capabilities, with the overwhelming desire to flee but with no possible recourse because one can’t flee one’s own mind. Thus severe physical pain can follow, which in my case was incredibly traumatic bouts of nausea that would exacerbate the psychological issues and in turn exacerbate the physical issues in a vicious circle.
Temporary relief was found only in vomiting to bring a brief physical respite, but it was quite common for my mind to work itself back up so much as to again cause physical symptoms and pain. Sometimes this would happen three or four times a night, with physical relief followed by the gradual return of more terror and pain to eventually culminate in more physical relief until I passed out from emotional and physical exhaustion.
I remember this time both clearly and vaguely, however that works. In some ways I can look back at it dispassionately because I think out of some level of necessity I’ve divorced myself from much of the feeling. But I can, with effort, remember what it felt like. And I remember what I thought and what I said.
I remember clearly the feeling of relief when I would vomit, thinking for several minutes that maybe I could finally go to sleep in peace. And I remember the anxiety and panic building back up before I could go to sleep, and the terror as I asked my mom, “Why is this happening? What’s wrong with me? Oh, God, not again…please, not again, God, I can’t take it. Make it stop.”
But it didn’t.
Until it did.
So my anger preexisted the visible expressions of my depression, but this experience with panic both drove the anger deeper within me and intensified it into deep-seated rage when it emerged. And this rage emerges so infrequently as to typically be ignored by me for the more pressing issues of my depression and panic. But I find myself at a time in my life where (hey, maybe) enough progress has been made in the “pressing” issues for the time being to realize and address what else I have going on inside me.
Truth be told, I haven’t appreciated until recently the depth of my anger. I haven’t realized that when I become upset or hurt by someone, dang, I become mean. Shoot, I’m a nice guy – this is who I try to be, who I naturally am, and how I identify myself. But, my Lord, I haven’t appreciated how freaking mean I become when fighting with someone. And I’m only now realizing I like this – not in the way that I consciously smile or know that I’m enjoying it, but in the way it makes me feel.
In these rare moments, I feel powerful. Me, who has subconsciously adopted an uber-victim mentality, actually feels for a short time that I control something, that I have power. Perhaps in these moments I’m like a bull seeing red – I unintentionally place the sheen of my helplessness over whatever person or thing provokes my pain or anger and I unleash on them as if they are the personification of all the injustice I have ever felt.
And because I actually do have some proclivity to being insightful and observant of people, I take these opportunities to devastate others with biting observations and truths about themselves.
This is a painful admission. One I was for the most part consciously unaware of. This is not who I want to be.
Yet my actions are so instinctual as to almost be intrinsic.
And in the instances where I am actually able to hold my tongue, it’s incredibly difficult for me to release my anger. Because I have justified it in my mind and, dangerously, tied it up with half-truths: because anger in itself is not the problem; anger is sometimes righteous and called for, and anger is indeed a legitimate and potentially healthy emotion.
But my particular anger is fueled by the darkness within me. It’s not “my” darkness, as if I own it or as if it is a part of my identity, but like a virus to a host it feeds off my experiences and my conscious and subconscious choices and agreements.
I am compelled to believe that the neutering of my rage will come with a deep realization within me that my perception of helplessness, hopelessness, and powerlessness are complete lies. That once this saturates my heart, the temptation of the power of darkness so easily snatched by anger and rage will more readily be recognized for the harlot it is.
Because there is power offered by darkness, and as Yoda said it is quicker, easier and more seductive than the power of light. But darkness only ends in domination and destruction – those are the only powers it has. The powers of victory, peace, serenity, and joy are only available through the light.
And it would be a lie not to admit that there is a strong urge on my part to grasp for domination and destruction. It is how I have understood much of my existence, as a victim of systematic domination and destruction. If I continue to buy that lie as I always have, the natural response is for me to in turn exert my will to exact balance – justice in my mind – by dominating and destroying everything that shows itself to be weaker.
If there is no God, Nietzsche is completely and utterly right.
But because there is a God, Nietzsche is catastrophically and categorically wrong.
And I think the trick is I can’t get rid of this on my own. I need God. Because to resort to my own power to rid myself of…my…own…power…is an oxymoron.
God. I give this to you. I renounce the lies I have accepted, the lies that state that I am a victim; that I am powerless; that I am without hope. I accept the truth that, no matter what appearances or feelings may imply, because of You and in You I am a victor with Your power and the ultimate hope of resurrection. This is who I am. Work it into the fiber of my being. Saturate my essence in You. Free me from the powers of darkness and the temptation to be my own god. Make me Yours and Yours alone.
In Christ’s name I humbly ask these things. Amen.