For so many years I felt no anger. I was so deeply depressed I had gone beyond sadness into a flat desert wasteland of numbness. There were no highs, no lows; if you had asked me how I was I would have said ‘fine’ and meant it. I wasn’t in anguish like I had previously been, I was just cruising along telling myself I had nothing to complain about. I wasn’t happy with any aspect of my life, but was aware it could be worse and it wasn’t too bad.
There were many reasons I was cut off from my anger, but one was my belief that anger isn’t ‘spiritual’ and therefore not an emotion I should indulge in if I want to be a ‘good person’. This was before I learned that there are no good and bad emotions, only actions and behaviours that arise from the interpretation of these emotions that may be more or less constructive.
Eventually the anger came to the surface in a most spectacular way, like striking oil, and it flowed strongly and almost continuously for about six months. I had more dummy spits in that six months than I had in the past six years.
Not everyone liked it – but I did. With the anger came a surge of energy which was a welcome change in my monotonous existence. I felt like I was careening down a hill on roller skates; it was scary but thrilling and I was getting some enjoyment from finally telling everyone to go eat a bag of dicks. If you were wondering, that was the part other people had a problem with.
Being depressed is a state of inertia and stagnation. Anger gets things done – and done right now. My house was in a state of squalor at the time as I was too depressed and overwhelmed to deal with the process of cleaning up, but also so numb that the mess didn’t bother me. I must have wanted on some level to get the house sorted though, because I had been chipping away at decluttering for about a year when my rage tornado hit. Swept along by it I got more cleaning and throwing out done in two days than I had in the past year. It was great!
While pursuing a spiritual path I had heard a constant stream of exhortations to be calm and serene and to regard all things without judgement. In my depressed state I had distorted that teaching to the point that if I saw a dirty sock on the floor, well, who am I to judge that the sock is in the wrong place. Isn’t everything in the universe exactly as it should be? I just need to accept my current reality, dirty socks and all – right?
This is one of the great balancing acts of life. When do you need to accept the way things are and realise that wishing things were different is the source of your unhappiness; and when do you stand up, make a judgement and decide things need to change and determinedly go about making those changes?
That is the message in anger. Anger says something needs to change. Anger says ‘that person is violating my boundaries and needs to stop’. Anger says ‘I don’t want to live this way any more and I don’t have to’. Also, within anger is the energy surge required to make that needed change, which is handy.
My volcano of pent-up anger eventually ran its course, much to the relief of those around me. Now that I have become reacquainted with anger and integrated it, I can use it to my advantage without harming others. The rumbling of the anger volcano tells me something needs to change. Instead of pretending everything is fine, I ask myself what that is and promptly go about bringing that change about. Sometimes it is just a matter of recognising I feel the way I do, experiencing the feeling fully and then letting it go again.
Most people know that denying anger stuffs it down where it builds up pressure to explode at a later , usually inconvenient, time. But equally undesirable is extinguishing it entirely along with your life force and any motivation to make improvements to your life. Think of anger as a powerful vehicle that can get you out of depression town. You just have to learn how to drive it and not run over other people with it.