This is our truth, tell us yours
When I read this post by Carter yesterday, on the danger and utility of anger I had one of those strange moments when you recognise something in an very personal post. Perhaps,ultimately, this is the point of blogging in the way we do. The content is so much ephemera, digital fish and chip wrappers stored in a cloud of words, but the emotions, the feeling of recognition, the “thank you for writing this” can change lives.
Whilst our experiences are very different I instantly recognised where some of my own fear of anger comes from, summed up perhaps by the line
what if those angry men, the ones who called me cocksucker and fucked me as if they were striking blows were using anger to silence their conscience,
That experience, of sex, anger, violence,confused and confusing is one many share. It is unsurprising, since the very act of sexually abusing children is an act of objectification, of ignoring their needs and wants and replacing them with the abusers own. Its othering, often in part to silence that conscience, or that small boy buggered in turn by the priest. In therapy they speak of transference, of the projection of an emotional reaction from one object to another. Classically it was the patient seeing the analyst as Daddy, and given that they all believed in the Oedipus complex this was not seen as a good thing.
Transference isnt about Freud (even though he named it) or even therapy, its a blindingly obvious process. We recognise it all around us, the boss who winds us up because they remind us of our old head mistress, the woman who marries a man “just like her father” even the TV character who makes us uncountably sad, until we draw the line from our own childhood experiences.
The experience of evoking anger in the person abusing you, being the object on which they play out their own anger is perhaps most clearly seen in the words of blame that can be used. “You made me do it” in all its variations is something so many have heard, close perhaps to that biggest lie “You made me angry” for as Carter explored, anger is a choice. As a sub I know all to well how that flight or fight response can be resisted or given way to.
Carters experience is not my experience of course. We have a running joke, we dont analyse him, but in his post I see a congruence with rejecting the men who played out their anger on him and who he is now. For myself, in a different place, with different options, the experience of anger was always tied up with my own anger. When there can be no fight or flight anger pools, it becomes a toxic poison that you try to lock away.
Which makes me think again of transference. I am, I know, scared of anger. However it occurs, whose anger am I really scared of? If I look honestly I think the answer is, my own. Those years where anger had to be pushed down, ignored at all costs, still affect me. Anger is dangerous when fighting leads to being hurt, and fleeing is impossible. Anger burns inside, and so you learn to swallow the bile. Those of us on the left tend to speak of righteous anger, and those of us on the Christian left often use the example of Jesus in the temple. Look people say, at how he swept away the money changers, anger can be strong and important. However as Carter pointed out in the comments on his post this righteous anger is all in the eye of the beholder. One of the most confusing stories in the Bible is one where, frankly Jesus seems petulant.
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it
Perhaps there is some great deeper meaning here, there is certainly enough commentary which frames it as symbolic. What occurs to me is that the desire to frame is as something other than simply anger at being hungry is so strong. Perhaps I am not alone in struggling with the idea of someone being loving and angry. Perhaps many before me have had to ask for the reassurance that the anger is not directed at them?
As for my own anger? Its something I have come to terms with, but am not comfortable with, like a sleeping lion you might observe in the zoo, fooling yourself it is tamed, but aware, should it be fully free its capacity to harm is huge. Perhaps that’s where my road leads, and when I have walked that road I will no longer fear the anger of others.