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ABC's of Anger by Susun Weed

What? Anger is important and useful? Yes, yes, yes. In my lifetime I have seen the creative fire of anger used to shine a light on racial injustice (I grew up in Dallas, Texas in the 1950s and saw the daily results of racism), war crimes (yes, I was there for the Vietnam protests, too), and sexual discrimination (I identify as a lesbian and was, in fact, a lesbian separatist for over four years).

Women's anger is fierce and as penetrating as a laser. When women acknowledge and direct the fire of anger, they change the world (I am too young to have helped the suffragists). When women deny their anger -- or when society deems anger inappropriate for women -- we become shrewish and nagging, scolders and harpies .

If you grew up in a household where your anger was suppressed and others used their anger to control and harm you, then you may be afraid of all anger. If you were brought up in a family where anger was allowed, then you may have more idea of the value of anger.

Several teachers and teachings have helped me deal with the my anger, and with the anger -- both expressed and unexpressed -- that is often directed at me. They helped me learn to deal with my sense of rejection and hurt, and to value and treasure the energy and intimacy of anger.

I believe that any woman who dares to "distinguish herself from a bath mat" (that is, to take an active part in public life) will be the object of anger and vilification, no matter how "nice" she is (or tries to be). I watched my mentor Elizabeth Kubler Ross deal with nasty, baseless rumors about her personal life, and I observed as my mentor Jean Houston was sneered at, and asked to account for herself on national television for having a "seance" with (future president) Hillary Clinton (alive) and Jean's mentor Margaret Mead (dead). I expect, accept, and even feel a sense of pride when mud is slung at me. Wow! I am making a difference.

I know that I have intentionally put myself in the way of your rage. How? By choosing to be a public figure. By stripping away my "modesty" and revealing myself as a complex person who is not "perfect." By allowing women to come and live with me and work with me and see for themselves that a less-than-perfect being can nonetheless help others. By acknowledging and letting others, yes, even my daughter, speak about my faults.

So many women never even attempt to tackle the big issues because they believe they must be perfect before they can do good in the world. Men do not seem to tie themselves up this way. I want women to value themselves, and their anger. I want women's creative angry fire to help make the world a better, safer place for all life. I urge you to get angry. And if you start by being angry at me, that's just fine.


The ABC's of Anger

with thanks to my teacher Gordon Cook
c. 2006, Susun S Weed

Anger: At the moment.

I am angry right now. A anger is expressed and gone within minutes. Elizabeth Kubler Ross taught us that this is the only "true" anger. A anger is the anger that I am most "famous" for: A loud-voiced urging of my helpers to get their jobs done quickly and attentively. A anger is short, sharp, and removes obstacles. It is directed at actions, not at people. It forges intimate connections and, like a thunderstorm, clears the skies. A anger is "instinctive."

Anger: Before, in the past.

I am angry not just now, but for all the times this has happened. B anger is the "tip of the iceberg." It seems to go on and on, relentlessly striking out, but despairing of being heard or of having effect. B anger is the anger of a victim; it can be destructive to relationships. B anger is "remembered." Personal work with a therapist, or recapitulation as taught by Carlos Castanada's teacher Don Juan, or Pathwork with a guide (all of which I have done and continue to do) are excellent allies for finding and resolving B anger. Until this is done, it is almost impossible to allow yourself A anger.

Anger: Childhood

As a child I was angry about this and couldn't do anything about it. Mommy/daddy didn't make me feel precious enough, important enough, loved enough, attended to enough, and I am pissed about it. Any authority figure, any person with more power than I have is the target of my C anger. I am the victim and they are to blame. I hope to gain self-worth through attacking those with power, but it never seems to work out. C anger is held in the large muscles and can be activated by intense physical effort. Again, some form of therapy which helps to uncover and recover the pain and rage of childhood is critical to stilling C anger and allowing A anger to emerge. "The Compulsion to Recreate and Overcome Childhood Hurts" by Eva Pierrakos, in The Pathwork of Self Transformation is the single best writing I have found on C anger.

Anger: Deflected, Destructive

I am angry at something done by someone who has power over me right now, not in the past. I cannot let them know, for they could hurt me more than I could hurt them. My life, or my livelihood, or my self-respect is at stake, and I dare not say a word. Instead, I deflect my anger onto someone less powerful than myself. The boss upset me, so I take it out on someone under me. The mean-looking driver of a big truck cut me off, so I speak sharply to my family. I feel like shit, so I spread shit all over everything I touch. D anger is destructive in part because it arises from intense self-hatred. We judge ourselves harshly for not responding with A anger, but we are (usually correctly) afraid to let go and say how we feel. D anger is often associated with substance abuse such as drug addiction or alcoholism. D anger is mental. It is the most confusing anger to receive, because it is (often immediately) followed by intense apologies and efforts to make it up to one we were angry at. After expressing D anger, we are filled with remorse, contrition, and repentance. But there is no real easing of our pain, and the remorse makes us feel even worse about ourselves, so the cycle of D anger repeats and repeats. Only the creative fire of A anger can really feed self-worth and make society more caring. Resolving D anger requires decades of intense work on self. Anyone who even tries is to be honored and lauded.

Anger: Existential

As in, what is the point of it all? Why am I here? Why is my life so difficult? Why bother?

E anger is preferable to depression, which is another way to deal with the horrible truth that we each live a little while and then we are gone. "The universe, and your personal life, is filled with chaos," Elizabeth taught us. Blaming ourselves, blaming others, these are just ways to pretend that we are in control. E anger turns into laughter when it is not ballasted by B, C, and/or D Anger. Life is pointless. Grrr. Haha.

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