Thursday, August 26, 2010

“Unexpressed Anger Colonizes The Emotional Life” But Just Acting Angry Is No Substitute

People who feel superior because they are suppressing anger should read an outstanding, jam-packed little paperback entitled The Forgiving Self, by renowned psychotherapist Dr. Robert Karen.

Almost lyrical, the book is so loaded with thought-provoking insight that I had to put it down and reflect after every few sentences. Here for instance are a handful of quotes on the importance of expressing anger found on 209, 210 and 211:reality-tv1

  • “If we're not free to be angry, if we don't allow ourselves our aggression, we are not free to be, and we're certainly not free to love.

  • Unexpressed anger colonizes the emotional life. Its like a cancer, sapping our vitality, aggravating our feelings of shame, weighing us down with depression and secreting a steady stream of bitterness throughout our being.

  • The hardest thing about anger is to have the freedom to feel and express it and still hold on to our caring.

  • People need to be fully expressed, in all their feeling, positive and negative, even if they go overboard at times. Somewhere in their rage is an important message that needs to be heard and made sense of, by themselves as well as others.

  • Anger, like any other form of protest, can be expressed with an openness to the other person's point of view, in combination with other feelings, in various intensities, with an acknowledgement of one's uncertainty.

  • It's possible to say I'm angry, without acting angry. The important thing is to be able to allow ourselves the full complexity of who we are."

But Karen isn’t writing so much about the kind of “anger” that is actually more a kind of “hostility,” the subject of several books by Durham author Dr. Redford Williams who heads behavioral medicine at Duke.

Nor is he talking about the “enacted” anger or hostility fueled if not spawned by co-called “reality television shows.” I can’t stand to watch them but in surfing on an occasion or two, I’ve noticed that the people who are showing so much rage are often shown moments later hugging. They are either hypocrites or their anger wasn’t that “real” after all.

Is it just me or is “enacted” anger becoming epidemic in real life now? I’m not just referring to the fight at the end of a night of wedding anniversary celebration in which 8 were shot and 4 killed including the groom as recently happened in Buffalo, NY.

I’m talking about the young lady I witnessed acting out her anger with lots of body language when as she was turning out of Sam’s Club, she had to suddenly stop when an elderly gentleman almost pulled into traffic from the area where he had had been refueling his car.

It was though she had to go on and on and really put on a show.

Or the panhandler at Geer and Roxboro one day who, after I had politely guided her to a shelter instead, spun away in a huff and almost walked right into the car that had pulled into the left turn lane beside me. She let loose on the driver and then the driver who, also a female, had to get out of her car and make a big show of body language that she might chase the panhandler down in anger.

I know this artificially fueled strutting and chest thumping and “you can’t disrespect me” B.S. is making its way down into pre-schools across the country.

Maybe reality TV shows and even news reports of this behavior should include points illustrated by the bullets above from Dr. Karen’s book as “warnings.” Of course, this would include reality TV commentary like Boehner, Rush or Beck, no?

No comments: