Crafting Gentleness

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I had been intending to write about anger here, even before the latest posts from Jim and Anthony.

I am currently - though not for much longer - working as a local radio journalist. The week before last, on the sixth consecutive day of working unpleasantly early shifts and not sleeping enough, I went to an ATM at 6am and found I hadn't been paid. Since I've been at the hand-to-mouth phase of my economic cycle, this meant walking to work instead of taking the bus. I was already feeling burned out by work which, despite its other satisfactions, I wouldn't do if it wasn't for the money. Then there was the ninety minutes in total of phone calls to various offices and call centres it took to clear up the situation and its knock-on effects. In between which, I had to deal with a colleague whose lack of commitment to his work had, for the second day in a row, sabotaged good stories which I had found and set up for him. Finally, I went out to do the story he'd failed to do - and it turned out to be a story of a bureaucratic nightmare that seemed the mirror image of the maze of call centres in which I was stuck.

The result of this cocktail was a virtuoso performance of sustained anger, directed at faceless people on the other ends of phones, witnessed by my colleagues. It was skilfully measured, in as much as I never quite overstepped the legalistic boundaries of my being "in the right". And it was at once satisfying and toxic - an anger bender, binge fury. I went home, slept for two hours and woke feeling hungover and ashamed.

In the conceptual toolkit of Transactional Analysis, there is the idea that different people (and families) collect different "trading stamps", which can be cashed in for the right to a particular behaviour. As a child, I learned to collect "anger" stamps. It's a habit, a kind of addiction - and if I go on putting myself through days like that, one which will damage my health.

So, how to handle this? Clearly, I have a lot to figure out! But, reading Anthony's last post, I wonder if I'm drawn to others who have had a similar relationship to anger? Because "anger" is also an important subject for several people whose writing and thinking matters to me. Here is Alan Garner, writing about the source and use of his own anger:

The trouble was that within me were two people. One was the son of a family of rural craftsmen. They had shaped the place in which I had grown; everywhere I turned, their hands showed me their skills; yet my hands had no cunning; with them I could make nothing, and my family despaired of me. The other...was the first to be taught...and had long had one ambition: the Chair of Greek at Oxford...

I had left the Army swearing never again to oblige anybody to do anything against their will...

...I felt an anger, at once personal, social, political, philosophical and linguistic. I knew...that to express that anger directly would be negative and destructive; and I came from a family of makers, not breakers. The anger had to be a creative act.

What can we make out of our anger?


  • Hi Jim,

    You wrote: I think you will have to admit that there are certain answers that are correct. My car broke down last week - stopped running on the road. What's up? Out of gas? Threw a rod? No - the serpentine belt broke. That was the answer to that question. And now the question changes to "What do I do about it?" Possible answers are: "take it to a mechanic" or "get a belt and do it myself" or "get a belt, try to do it myself, and then take it to a mechanic." One of those answers will be right. We get into trouble when we want eternity - one answer for all time. That doesn't happen.

    And I have to say that kind of thinking bothers me. I think it bothers me because I agree that for you that answer is correct... for me I wonder "what is serpentine belt" is "the mechanic trying to rip me off because I'm a woman" ie. often I see on my invoice 'pollen filter' and I don't have air conditioning and that kind of thing.

    Also as an environmentalist, is a serpentine durable, why did it break and make the whole car run down, why didn't I maintain it earlier so it could be roadworthy, what else is close to breaking, do I need to walk or catch public transport so I don't spend money on something I don't even know what it does...

    And so it goes - I'm a pain in the butt really...*g*. I'm just saying I hear you but I'm not great with absolutes... bit of a rebel really. Was always the odd one out with allergies, an independent working mother and a stay at home dad in a conservative white middle class right wing town (and my parents are also as left as they come). I learned that different is not WRONG, just different. At school I led the infantry platoon of our cadet (army group) first female to do so, and first female to win first class honours... proud of it and still recall with pride being accepted as leader (not just doing the paces!!!)...

    Change of tack....Have you ever stood at a really busy place and realised that every person there is seing the situation differently, that perhaps what you take for grated as the colour blue, is not really blue at all, more of an agreed definition of blue... I try to imagine the world as others see it, sometimes I feel quite overwhelmed for it.

    Sometimes when I walk a mile in another persons shoes I get blisters....*g*

    Ok so I"m rambling. I guess I really am not good with absolutes... I'll rationalise with Einsteins "you can't use the same thinking that got you into the problem to get you out of it".

    Also, pleased to meetcha!


    By Blogger Soooz, at Monday, 11 September, 2006  

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