The dance of anger and ressentment
This weekend, there is a retreat being offered on anger and resentment. It is usually full, one of our most popular retreats. I guess I have been doing this since 06, seeking to help others who like me have an ongoing dance with anger. It is seldom a gentle dance, a tender rounding about the room, but more like a very agitated tango. The agitation comes from the knowing that this anger and resentment are not the fault of those around me, so I can’t just use the shotgun approach and blast everyone….which by the way does not work either.
Angry people who wound others and wish to share their pain are acting out of victimhood and either don’t want to, or don’t know how to take responsibility for their own emotional health. More often than not, they are caught in a whirlwind which only gets worse as they age. Some people are so angry that they actually don’t know it, but everybody else does who has to live with them. Repression is not always a bad thing, but when it affects others in a destructive manner…. then hopefully it is something that can be addressed.
I was at a meeting once giving my opinion on the subject matter of the get-together. As I was talking; giving what I thought was a rational response, I noticed that the men around me were looking at me in a manner that I did not like. At that moment, I came to the realization that I just might be angry and don’t know it. So I started to apply my emotional breaks, but it took about 30 minutes to get myself back on track. It was a revelation to me that I could have been that angry and did not feel it. That is I guess why everyone else was feeling it so much and not responding in the way I that I was hoping for.
It is easy to say that the spiritual path is simply dealing with ones recurring problems, harder in living it out. As I get older, and have less energy to deal with this kind of situation, I find myself more and more just sitting, not thinking and letting things settle down a bit…..I also pray like hell.
Anger, the experience of carrying a wound around perhaps for a lifetime, or for many, for years, until some kind of closure is found, is a time when the wound can be shared, others brought into the fold of having to deal with being treated unjustly. Angry people always have good reason for doing what they do, perhaps we all do, even when it is destructive towards others and self.
One of the avenues of healing is coming to grips with this reality. Of how we each are both the one who wound others, as well as the wounded, it comes full circle, often over and over again. When this is deeply pondered and prayed over, it can lead to actual compassion towards those who are consumed with anger and the need to blast those who are around them. For we know the pain they are experiencing and the frustration that things don’t get any better. In fact, life can steadily get worse and they can become more isolated.
While anger is something good, for it gives us the energy to deal with injustice, to seek to right the wrong that is so common in our world today, it can also be a source of actual mental illness. Anger, resentment and yes rage, the child of both, leads to a narrowing of consciousness that assumes the job of judge, jury and executioner, to fall on one man or woman. It is only in the movies where this can actually work. Perhaps that is one reason why these movies are so popular, a world wherein a man or woman can get revenge, then go home and live happily every after. Does not happen, for the fire of rage only gets bigger when fed.
I believe that this dance that I mentioned above is something that I will deal with all of my life….it is the thorn in my side that keeps me seeking deeper healing and a more profound response to grace. Death to self is a long drawn affair for me. Though there are those who do it more quickly and for them I am grateful, they give me hope.
Grace is all
Not pleasant much of the time,
our deepening love and healing,
the fruit of a loving trust
in life’s process,
even in the darkest hours.