Saturday, May 28, 2011

What Price Anger?

Anger comes naturally to us humans when someone causes us pain, and the
experiences of childhood and youth are replete with painful situations. As young children we want, and need, not only our parents’ love, but also their affirmation. We need to be told, and demonstrated to, that we are valued as a person. Parents often, out of their own need, do not affirm us enough; and the more we feel (consciously or unconsciously)unaffirmed, the greater our craving for it. The denial of affirmation, all the way to actual abuse, causes us pain to which we respond with anger because we have not learned that we can do or feel anything else.

Most of us, if we are spared outright abuse, learn to get affirmation by being obedient, cooperative,
 conforming, achieving, respectful and considerate of others. If we grow up in a family, or environment, which does not affirm us for these qualities, then we resort to other methods to obtain the stroking we need. Some of these are: disrupting,antagonism, and even violence. Those of us in this category become engulfed in anger,and this poisons our outlook on life as long as it exists.

A person at this stage sees life as a never ending attempt to get revenge. “I’ll show them!” Anger becomes a way of life which we justify in our own minds by blaming others. “If they had not criticized me, I would not have yelled at them (or struck them, or thrown hot coffee on them)”. The person has adopted a belief that anger (sometimes violently expressed) is the only available means of responding to pain. They are oblivious to the fact that they have other choices for handling their pain--choices which demonstrate that they are autonomous and are not victims. They have not assimilated the axiom “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” They see the world, including family, as being against them, not understanding or sympathetic. Once this attitude is adopted (mostly subconsciously), it snowballs. Every encounter is seen as proof that the attitude is correct because, at this point, no amount of affirmation is ever enough. The habit of feeling unaffirmed has become ingrained. The tragedy is that there is nothing anyone else can do to help. If such a person ever overcomes this self-fulfilling attitude, it must come from within themselves. The odds of such a victory are very slim. The price of such anger is life itself.

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