There seems to be a great deal of anger circulating these days, whether in the form of “road rage,” destructive actions involving armed individuals, bullying that makes the news, and more. The majority of video games and even the comics and illustrated books for young people are very violent in nature. Furthermore, this country has been at war with some nation, group or another for a very long time. Anger is all around us, yet it is also a band aid over grief.
I am reminded of the fifties, a time for bleak news, back yard bomb shelters, and dark tales on TV and in the movies. The climate then was one of fear and to some extent, existential responses to dire circumstances. “Die young and make a good looking corpse,” was a popular saying. Although people were more polite on the surface, anger and fighting were also a common reaction. Bullying was almost acceptable–considered normal, many thought it would toughen someone up for the “real world.”
When I was in grade school I was often the object of bullying. One of the reasons may have been because I was slow to anger, yet when I did finally respond, I would explode into a fit of rage. Toward this end my classmates would taunt me, snatch my hat or my eyeglasses and do whatever they could to get me to that breaking point. Most likely they enjoyed the show. When my parents complained they were always told I had started it.
My father and mother were both rather fiery and temperamental, which might be why I disliked getting angry. I was uncomfortable with their arguments, which frightened me. Although they loved each other dearly, they disagreed about a lot of things. Being as young as I was I didn’t really understand much about this, I only knew I felt uneasy and afraid when their voices rose. This in turn made me want to avoid that kind of behavior.
Often it has been my job to try to get people who disagree to come to some kind of understanding. Yet each person has a point of view based on his or her experience and perhaps his or her beliefs. It is almost impossible to argue with someone’s beliefs. By their nature these are not based on logic but have an emotional base. What we feel generates and supports our beliefs. Perhaps the best that can be done may be to agree to disagree.
However, anger is a conditioned response that can be controlled and then changed to a different one. With practice, a compassionate response can be substituted. To me anger seems a waste of energy. When I encounter senseless violence or cruelty, I have taught myself to feel my sadness, and then to say a prayer for the afflicted. For my part, to counter the disturbing news items I read in the papers or see on TV I make an effort to be kind when and where I am given the opportunity. It might be only a drop in the ocean, however, it’s something I can do.
Photo and Text by Tasha Halpert