Crafting Gentleness

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Anger and Rage

I think we’re talking about the difference between anger and rage. As Ant knows that my ‘bible’ is, pretty much, that wonderful book “women who run with wolves”. There’s wonderful instructive myths in there about the wild feminine archetypes (yes men you have this as well) with tales on anger, rage, love, death and dying, being reborn and the soulfulness of storytelling.

In the book there’s a story about anger and rage and the difference. In the story a very rageful man has been given guardianship of a sacred well in an oasis to make amends for his uncontrollable episodes of raging anger. His penance is to give water to all travellers who pass the oasis, and as time passes he heals his affliction and finds peace in himself.

Then one day a rude and belligerent traveller passes through. The traveller treats the well guardian with disrespect and he casts the water to the ground complaining of the foul taste, the poor service and the well guardian’s demeanour. In a state of anger as the rude man is preparing to leave, the well guardian strikes him dead.

Two minutes later the kings guard breathless comes a galloping into the oasis at breakneck pace. He sees the dead man and kneels before the well guardian. The well guardian prepares to meet his death – for his anger, but instead the horse guard says “thank goodness, you have killed the man who was on his way to kill the king”…..

To me this story speaks to me that although anger is a tough emotion. It is warranted, appropriately directed - it is instructive. In anger I feel ‘some real or supposed grievance (dictionary) and I want some sort of action to make me feel better about it.

Rage is ‘a state of violent anger’ (dictionary definition). To me the story speaks to me of appropriately selecting feelings to match the situation. Just my 2c.



  • I wonder what the dead man's wife and kids would have said ...

    I wonder what the king (a gentle man) could have said that would have made the dead man give up on his mission and become his loyal friend ...

    I wonder what the absence of the king (a nasty despot) might have led to ...

    I wonder about the guardian's sleepless nights, despite the guard's approval ...

    Anger for me is neither warranted nor otherwise. Anger is felt or experienced. Justifications and explanations and excuses for actions undertaken in anger cannot ever prove a necessary connection between feeling the anger and performing a particular action rather than another one.

    Children often think, 'I want, therefore I get'.

    I find it interesting that as adults we often think that 'I feel angry therefore I react' somehow operates at a different or more sophisticated level of logic.

    For me, feeling anger and working in gentleness are not incompatible. However, for me, feeling anger and feeding it by reacting in anger are.

    I dedicate my life to finding ways for me to contribute to the reduction of the possibilitites of coercion, violence, domination, oppression, anger, and fear in my life and in the lives of others. I don't find that contributions in anger can help when reacting in anger is one of the ways of being in the world that tends to feed relations of domination and oppression. It may not be obvious in the short term that this is happening, but in the long term, for our kids and their kids, I believe that if we react in anger we will be doing little to change the oppressive structures that they may find themselves swamped by.

    Reacting in anger may sometimes seem appropriate or helpful, but it depends on what you're aiming for in terms of consequences. If you're working with logics of blame and shame and punishment then reacting in anger will always likely seem appropriate. If you're not, and I try not to, then reacting in anger may lead to less understanding, less appropriate action, less effective politics (when it comes to reducing the possibilities of more CVDOAF in my life and the lives of those around me).

    Finding ways to justify the helpfulness of reacting in anger is quite different from respecting the experience of anger as the consequence of particular (and often unhelpful) conditions. I won't direct my energy to the former, a I've experienced too much in my life that reacting in anger provides yet more fodder for the unintended negative consequences that often come on the back on good intentions or righteous indignation.

    There are many ways to invite people to politically engage with situations in which coercion, violence, domination, oppression, anger, and fear play a significant part. But I don't find that dancing the shitty dance with the shitty dancers is going to end up with you doing anything other than shitty dancing. Personally, I prefer other dances.

    By Blogger Anthony, at Monday, 25 September, 2006  

  • I meant to say 'anger for me is neither warranted nor otherwise, but that we make it so'.

    By Blogger Anthony, at Monday, 25 September, 2006  

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