I've recently come across The Angry Book
, which was written in 1969 by Dr. Theodore Isaac Rubin. I found it really eye-opening, with many aha-moments, in regards to shining light on and putting into clearer context my own theme with suppressed/distorted anger, as well as the manifestations of it in others in my social environment. Again, I've come to see, how being able to name a thing and thus putting it in proper context is the key to the putting together of pieces in regards to understanding oneself and others, as well as being reminded yet again how personal 'emotional slush' adds yet another powerful layer of distortion to our already very limited perception of the world as a whole.
Especially in light of doing the EE breathing program
, which can bring up a load of unpleasant suppressed emotions (anger being one of them), I find this book to be a very helpful addition to other book recommendations
here in regards to healing oneself, because the author goes into the various unhealthy forms of how anger is being distorted, and how these distortions of anger (instead of healthily expressing it) build up a 'slush-fund', as the author calls it, which keeps building up and up, and produces all sorts of poisonous symptoms, both for oneself and others.
One thing that seems to be an issue among some (?) people on the spiritual path is to regard anger as something 'bad', both in its very existence and even more so in expressing anger. It is being morally judged perhaps as a sign of giving in to a 'hostile emotion' and thus contributing to an 'unharmonious atmosphere', and it certainly goes against the 'make nice program' or 'not-making-waves'. But of course, taking the topic of anger away from oneself and forming a 'philosophy' concerning a peaceful, unthreatening world (i.e. projecting one's own subjective view on the world outside) is evading the core of the subject (and one example is the vegan/vegetarian creed); as usual, one's own wounding puts on blinders specific to the wounding experienced and in turn represents another hindrance to seeing the world - and ourselves - as it is / as we are.
With about 220 pages this book is a fast read, and in the following I'm sharing some excerpts, which speak for themselves. As you will see, he writes in a very simple, easy-to-understand and also entertaining way. While concisely covering the various faces of twisted anger and touching on ways of untwisting, he gives examples throughout the book from his anger work with his patients, and how working through their various anger issues elicited a whole cascade of insights into the hidden dynamics, which in turn made possible changes in behaviour. All this makes it easy to recognize traits/relate them back to one's own experience, and provides food for thought in examining one's own dynamics, and he closes with an exercise of 103 questions designed to further work on it.
This book is about a basic human emotion - anger. Too often anger is not seen as basic or human. Anger is easily the most maligned and perverted of feelings and responses. Although there is an enormous range of "angry problems", nearly all people have some difficulty handling anger. The price paid for the distortion of a basic emotion is incalculable. Poor mental health, poor physical health, damage to relationships - especially to parent-child relationships - and even that most malignant of human diseases - war- are the wages of distorted anger.
Therefore it behooves us to understand and to work through our feelings of anger. As you read, you will see that insight into these feelings can free and make available many other feelings, talents, and potentials. A healthier angry outlook must lead to greater health, to improved parent-child relating, to a fuller life, and to success and happiness. Indeed, it can even be lifesaving.
So many of us are afraid to feel, afraid to express feelings, and afraid to have other people feel toward us. This is especially true when the feeling is anger. There are many of us in whom much emotional crippling has taken place. We can allow only so-called acceptable feelings to come through and then only with great care, constriction, and trepidation. For many of us the potential amplitude of feelings—the vitality, depth, richness, and intensity—is poor. For many of us our emotional displays are either very shallow (or utterly flat) or inappropriate or both. Those of us who suffer in this way are almost certainly former (and present) inhabitants of “sick” emotional climates. Blaming parents or relatives will not help. We are the victims of victims, and we, too, shall produce victims unless we choose to change ourselves and the immediate emotional climate through understanding.
What about a sick emotional climate?
This is an environment in which people often feel one way but act another way. When they are angry, they smile sweetly or freeze and do nothing at all. In any case, there is a paucity of straight, honest, simply and readily definable expressions of feelings. In this environment, there is sometimes a serious dearth of strong feelings, often to the point of emotional vacuum. Usually what look like appropriate, strong emotional responses are actually superficial, hysterical manipulative outbursts turned on and off like summer showers. These serve to confuse further and to subvert real feelings. This is an environment in which hysteria may suddenly give way to inhibition and even to paralysis of emotional expression. In this atmosphere small issues will evoke large displays and large issues will evoke nothing. This atmosphere will be marked by many intricate inconsistencies that the child can't possibly understand. This will be particularly so with anger and may result in an avoidance of anger and subsequent crippling in this very important emotional area. In effect, the victim will be told the following: "It is all right for me to get angry in this circumstance but not you." "Sometimes it is all right for you to get angry, but sometimes you can't, even though the circumstances are identical. It all depends on my mood - which there is no way of knowing." "Why can't you be like me - I never get angry, but when I do, I don't show it. All I do is get cold and sullen and withdraw my attention and affection from you." "If you get angry, I'll know you don't live me." "Nice boys and girls don't get angry - especially at adults." "If you must get angry, at least be polite." "If you get angry, you will not be liked." "If you continue to get angry, you will surely get into trouble." "Civilized people don't get angry, but if you get angry I'll have to tell Daddy, and he will get angry and will have to punish you when he gets home."
Parents in this environment will very often produce what is known as a double-bind situation which goes like this: "Don't hold it in - I can't stand you when you do - let it out! But when you let it out, I will hit you for being disrespectful." This damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't appraoch promotes severe conflict, much anxiety, great angry problems, and emotional paralysis.
Anger is not a black-or-white, all-or-nothing feeling or response. This sounds obvious, but many people feel otherwise. They feel that any feeling or show of anger is tantamount to loss of control and is the same as a huge, uncontrollable temper tantrum. They regard this as a sinful and dangerous misdeed - a strike against one's self - and as potentially dangerous, to say the least. Of course this isn't true. Intensity of anger may vary from the mildest irritation to very powerful feelings and transmissions. There are inumerable shades and nuances. Mild feelings of irritation are hardly the equivalents of uncontrollable rage. Indeed, angry responses very, very seldom reach uncontrollable levels. When they do, they are invariably slush-fund hemorrhages and have little or nothing to do with the immediate irritating situation onhand. People can and do get mildly, moderately, and even intensely angry without loss of control. Actually, the greater their awareness - that is, the closer they are to what they really feel - the less chance there is to lose control. Please remember that loss of control or rationale is due mainly to slush-fund explosions. This kind of response is due mainly to perverted and unconscious anger and has little or nothing to do with the healthy product (regardless of intensity), of which there is always full awareness and possession. To put it another way: our feelings control us when we subvert them and are no longer aware they exist. They then have an autonomy of their own. When we know what we feel, when our feelings are integrated as parts of the whole of us, then regardless of their intensity, we remain completely in charge of ourselves and of all our feelings - as part of a central autonomy.
When we use energy to put down anger, we must also continue to expend energy to keep it down - to keep guard, as it were. This use of energy depletes the free flow and tapping of energy needed to feel other feelings. It is as if we use a major part of ourselves to sit on a particular feeling. If we sit, we can't stand up to experience other feelings. Sitting on a feeling effects a freeze-up, which gradually encroaches on all feelings, causing a paralysis of feelings and even obliteration. This energy tie-up must be freed and melted so that the free feel and expression of all feelings can take place.
The subject here is quality. There are many subtle differences and nuances in the quality of anger. There are many in-betweens and combinations, but if we discuss the extreme poles - warm and cold - I think we will adequately cover ample ground.
Warm anger is the healthy stuff we spoke of in defining anger. With warm anger there is little or no time lapse between stimulus and feeling - between feeling it and expressing it. The expression of anger is warm, open, direct, and easy to understand. This is so because its principal purpose is is to communicate how one feels and to make the other person aware of a need for greater understanding. Words and intensity may be strong, but they are usually appropriate to the issue in question, and there is little or no evidence of vindictiveness, sadism, or vengeful purpose. There is ample confidence and respect for the other person and what he feels. This is demonstrated by a willingness to stay put and to receive his affective message openly. Thus in warm anger there is always a warm emotional exchange. Words and gestures are not used flippantly or casually; they are not used as dissection tools either. Strong language is the poetry of anger, and we should expect poetry. But poetry does not include sarcastic biting, tearing, and stabbing. Obviously, the words and expressions will vary from culture to culture and from background to background (educational, familial, etc.). But they will always be words and will in no way involve physical force, coercion, or brutality. All expressions of warm anger will be short, finite; they will not go on and on and become chronic. There will be no grudge-carrying or slush accumulations. Angry feelings will be short-lived - finished and over with - and will be followed by forgiving and forgetting if approproate. The expression of warm anger will have a cleansing effect on the relationship. It will clear the air of cobwebs of confusion, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings. There will always be at least two people involved, and they will always feel better for having had their exchange. Their mutual respect will have increased, and their mutual frame of reference (common ground) will be extended so that better and further understanding will ensue. Thus angry responses in the future will probably be reduced in frequency and intensity. There will be increased confidence and closeness in the relationship. Protagonists will have demonstrated that they care enough to feel and to invest and to exchange feelings, thus substantiating that warm anger's closest relative is love.
Cold anger is often an internalized, unexpressed (through regular means), autistic slush-fund product, in which there is usually aberrated awareness. Any expression that takes place is accomplished through poisons. The purpose of any expression is too often vindictive triumph and the creation of sadistic pain. There is no interest in augmenting mutual understanding, and no constructive emotional exchange takes place as one loses the ability to invest emotions in hostility. For our purposes here, we may say that this hostility is a state of sullen, chronic, corrosive anger sustained beyond ordinary self-limiting boundaries and always connected to old hates and slush. Cold anger feeds upon itself and its victim and tends to become more and more grotesque. It undermines self-esteem and one's confidence in others and the ability to relate to them. Differences grow and grow as it feeds paranoid feelings, cynicism, bitterness, and hopelessness. Any satisfaction derived from outward manifestation is almost always connected to one or another form of vindictive triumph. This kind of "gloating" satisfaction is usually short-lived and requires larger and larger sadisitic enterprises in order to be felt at all. These gloating experiences always leave their victims feeling still more hopeless, depressed, and empty, and augment the feeling of inner deadness.
Cold anger is used in the service of magnifying faults and destroying relationships. It is, therefore, a powerful influence in isolating and encapsulating one from one's fellows and ultimately from oneself. This takes place as one loses the ability to invest emotions in others - blocked largely by a frozen tundra of slush - and to experience other feelings. In short, the victim becomes a prisoner of his rage, trapped in a frozen waste, preoccupied with slush, leaving no energy, time, or room for other feelings. As time goes on, he loses the ability to extricate himself and to reach out and touch his fellows. Cold anger is obviously the antithesis and enemy of love.
Irene learned something else, too. She realized that we generally get angry at people who have some meaning for us. This applies especially to people who have the capacity to remind us of ourselves and our problems. These are often people who have the same or similar problems. These are almost invariably people who know us and whom we know. We are more likely to get angry at people with whom we relate than those we have nothing to do with. She also learned that an expression of anger to a person really demonstrated caring enough to tell. This means that one cares enough to want to see remedial action take place so that a relationship can continue and grow. An expression of anger also demonstrates respect for the individual in question.
This is so because in expressing anger one is investing emotion—showing how one feels and saying in effect, “I respect you enough to want to share this part of myself with you.” This kind of expression also shows considerable confidence in the strength of the relationship. The feeling here is that the relationship is important and strong enough to withstand bumps in the road. It will not come irreparably apart at the first gust of strong feelings. If anything, it will be strengthened as a result of increased understanding between the people involved as well as the increased feelings of reality that always follow clearing of the air.
A healthy emotional climate is first one in which all the emotions—especially anger—are given ample play and freedom. This is an atmosphere in which there is no dearth of emotional output or exchange. There is no emotional vacuum, nor does one kind of emotional display exist to the exclusion of others. In this atmosphere emotional output is appropriate and consistent. In this atmosphere it is easy to know what people feel. It is especially easy to know when they are angry. This is so because feelings—all kinds—are accepted and the conveying of how one feels is accepted openly and freely without threat of dire reprisal. In this environment no feeling or its expression is labeled “good” or “bad.”
This climate is not designed for the manufacture of saints or sinners. It is meant for human beings who have ordinary emotional responses and the need to express them freely. In this climate a child readily picks up the prevalence of consistency, openness, and warmth regarding all feelings. In effect, this atmosphere says to the child: “It is all right to feel love, and it is all right to feel anger. It is all right to express love, and it is all right to express anger. Your feelings are welcome here, and we would like to know what they are. You are loved and accepted and safe with all your feelings. You needn’t stifle any of them to please us.
I believe that you feel either all your feelings or eventually none at all. You cannot select which feelings you will feel and which you won't. People attempt to do this in order to admit only those feelings that fit in with the particular ways in which they want to see themselves. This is of course especially true of "nice guys". They pay a very large price for this attempted selection. I say "attempted" because it never really works. They may think it works, but the slush fund grows and grows, and poisons are produced that are inevitably very destructive. Perverted anger is also converted to anxiety, which produces myriad defenses or symptoms comprising destructive neurosis and even psychosis. But the price paid in terms of other feelings is even greater. The fact is that you can't have one feeling without the other. Negate anger and you must also negate love. Love requires a real self and a real exchange between real selves. People who are not themselves, who are acting a part, cannot make a real exchange. They can only act. Additionally, when the air is not cleared, however peaceful the climate looks, the blocks and barriers to exchange become insurmountable, making feelings of love (caring about the other individual at least as much as one cares about one's self) impossible.