I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe. I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
(from William Blake, “A Poison Tree”)
I have known people who rise each morning to nourish their anger in resolve never to forget or forgive wrongs done to themselves.
Anger makes them feel alive, that they have significance and sovereignty over their lives. The truth is that their anger masquerades their inability to set things right again.
The sources of anger are sometimes surprising. Often we take up arms against family members, friends, and former loves. As such, anger is many times symptomatic of love’s betrayal in the hands of those we’ve esteemed most through hurtful words, favoritism, or simply their not taking us seriously.
Anger may lead to sabotaging ourselves in acquiring a doomed dependency on others in the very likeness of ghosts that wronged us long ago, often in a childhood deficient in love.
The chronically angry are easily spotted in the sheer volume of their impassioned complaints against lovers and friends, the workplace, and government, surrogates for targets embedded in the past.
Hate stokes the past, unlike love which invests in the future. Oddly, time may dull our memory of just what the hurt was or who did it, and yet we know we still feel the heat of rage.
To heal ourselves we may seek out love, only to reject it when it appears, fearful of its possibility for new hurt, or our becoming dependent on it, or its ultimate loss.
Anger can assume many shapes, among them a masochism of self-loathing; or a censuring of others; or a passive aggressiveness that denies one’s anger.
Anger has a way of becoming habit, or addiction to bookkeeping life’s liabilities; a kind of cowardice in a reluctance to confront one’s grievances, attempt their solution and, if unsuccessful, assume loss and invest one’s assets in the future. As such, it’s self-defeating. The late Merle Shain put it eloquently in her Hearts That We Broke Long Ago:
As long as you blame someone it makes the problem not yours but theirs, and allows you to keep it without taking responsibility for anything but pointing the finger. Which means you give them responsibility for your life and paralyze yourself in a place you don’t want to be.
The positive side of anger is that it can help us assert ourselves against injustice; but when it entices us into a snare from which we cannot free ourselves, when we live our lives in the narrow confines of resentment, then it makes a wrong turn. Quagmired in the past, we are unable to step into the future with its promise of new beginning