Thinking About – Rage and Contempt

Thinking About – Rage and Contempt

Over the weekend I received an email asking me to dedicate a blog about dealing with ‘excessive rage and contempt’, and I’d like to start by thanking Charlie for asking me to write about this topic. Charlie continued to say that they thought they’re not the only person dealing with this, and that a few suggestions might help many.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I write from my own perspective, and don’t pretend to have any authority or expertise in some of the topics I write about, hence the ‘Thinking About’ prefix on some of my blog titles, and this topic fits that category. But let’s dive in and see where it leads.

The causes? Internal, and external forces, maybe both, but let’s start with the internal dialogue.

‘Excessive rage and contempt’. I would suggest that the first thing would be to consider the cause and root of those feelings. There are so many events, people, conditions that can be the root of rage. Abuse, cynicism, hopelessness, fear, loss, jealously, to name just a few, and if these feelings are kept bound up, in creaking boxes within our psyche, left unopened and ignored they can fester away, until the hinges of the box just give way under pressure and that rage and contempt flies out. Or maybe the hinges remain intact, but the emotions, rather than flying out and being expressed as undirected and explosive anger, just seep out all of the time, poisoning any potential joy that might be possible, and this feeds those feelings of rage even more.

I’m not saying that opening inner boxes is easy. Those feelings are in boxes for good reasons. Often they contain things that are so painful that opening them and facing what’s inside is utterly terrifying, and it feels much safer to keep the box closed, and just deal with the rage. I’m not here to suggest which way anyone should go with that decision. I only have my own life experience and, for me, facing the demon was the right thing to do. So, have I experienced this kind of excessive rage and contempt? Yes I have. Did I keep the box closed? Yes, for too long. Did it seep out and affect my life? You bet it did. How did that reflect in my life? Well, for years I felt that I didn’t deserve to be happy. That resulted in self-sabotage. Every time I felt a spark of happiness I turned on it, dowsing it with self-disgust, until the status quo was restored, and I could continue punishing myself. This went on for about 6 years.

I hit the bottom of the pit. I looked up and saw no light. I had disappeared. Many of my friends probably knew something was wrong, but I had lost so much trust that I didn’t even talk to any of them about what was going on, and when I went out to meet them socially, I  slipped on my suit of happiness, and good old Dave was there, just a suit though, the real Dave was hidden, out of sight, and had been for years. I was simply existing, not living. I even became cynical about my spiritual path and had several crisis of faith moments. All through this time I still organised Pagan camps, ran a large open rituals for every festival, and still stood in front of people as a Druid, and my resentment even began to be aimed at those moments. As I say, it was total self-sabotage.

So what changed?

A friend had started to see a therapist, and I noticed the change in them. To me, at the time, therapy was linked to failure. If I couldn’t sort out my own shit for myself, what kind of person was I? So I resisted for years, but I also couldn’t deny the positive effect it was having on my friend. So the first thing I did was enrol on a course to become a practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), once more believing that I didn’t need anyone else to ‘fix’ myself. I enjoyed the course, and passed, but it wasn’t the right kind of therapy for me. So I surrendered, and that is the perfect word to sum up that moment. For years I had been kept in a constant battle with myself. I was on the battlefield, entrenched, and exhausted. and one day I made the decision to stop fighting, to surrender, and to actively seek out a human, professional, therapist. So I found a therapist that specialised in two areas, Transactional Analysis (TA) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). I booked an appointment.

As I walked to the door I was terrified. This lovely lady opened the door and we went to her room. She asked me questions. that was it. Just asked me questions. Very clever questions. Questions nobody had asked me, not even myself. Then she stopped. It was only about 15 minutes into the first session. I could feel the box straining, and I was desperate to keep it shut. I didn’t want all of that stuff to spill out. I didn’t want to look at it. Then she asked a series of very swift questions, one after the other, there was no time to think, no time to keep the defences up, and suddenly she said, “What do you think is the root of all of this?” And I had no fight left, I gave in and said out loud, for the first time, “BECAUSE I DON’T DESERVE TO BE HAPPY!!” And there it was, spoken, expressed, out there. the box split, and everything was exposed. I cried, I sobbed, and all she did was reach out and hand me a tissue for my tears, telling me to feel that emotion, to really feel it, to stay with it, and I did.

That moment was the turning point for me. Saying those words out loud changed everything. It sounds like such a simple act, but it wasn’t. The emotion was no longer trapped inside, it was out there, in the open, and now the healing could truly begin. It took time, a long time to be honest, and sometimes I still get that feeling, but it’s become less and less over the years, and it all started by saying those words. No, I didn’t really just say them. I shouted them.

But not all rage and contempt is linked to the baggage of life experiences. There’s a lot of shite happening in the world right now. Rage at injustice, corrupt politics, inequality, the destruction being caused to the environment, all of this and more can fill us with rage. So what to do? When the UK conservative government began the largest road building plan since the coming of the Romans, for some people it sparked them into action. They saw the approaching destruction of one of the South of England’s most beautiful spots, Twyford Down, and so they gathered there, in protest. They dug themselves into underground tunnels, making it unsafe for large machinery to come onto the site, they handcuffed themselves to fences, to trees, they lifted pallets high in tree branches and slept there. They made themselves a right pain in the arse to the authorities. It cost time and money to move the protestors, but finally they did, and the road was built. But the movement had begun, and the next target was a bypass around Newbury, and thus the Second Battle of Newbury began. More tunnels, more tree houses, more people. This time the cost of removing the protestors was so much that it became financially unviable for the Government to continue. Twyford Down and the Newbury Bypass were built, but the road building plan was shelved. Now you may or not agree with the action of the protestors, but they saw something happening that made them angry, and they used that rage and directed it with action.

So if rage is caused by external forces, although the base ‘lizard-brain’ instinct might be to express it in some form of violence, this doesn’t have to be the case. It can be effectively directed, and pointed towards something positive. Sometimes, however, there seems to be such a large amount of problems that we don’t know where to start. We are immobilised. The simple fact is that we can’t do everything, and we can’t be everywhere. If we look at the TV there are countless charities, all working for good causes, and all asking us for donations. We can’t give to them all. So what is the thing that moves you the most? Is it politics? The environment? Your local area? Children in need? Famine overseas? The refugees caused by war? Homelessness? That moment of surrender if useful here too. Know that one person can’t do everything, but we can all do our best for the cause we believe in the most. If this is the root case of your rage, ask yourself what can I do to help. Point that anger in a direction that might help do something constructive.

Wow. That was some blog post. I hope you got through it, and if you felt any kind of connection, then going into it, and tapping away for a few hours on this keyboard was worthwhile. Thank you Charlie, for helping to point my thoughts to a topic that is sometimes overlooked and avoided. It’s such a huge and deep topic that I’m sure I’ve left stuff out, but I hope there was something here that might be of help.

10 responses to “Thinking About – Rage and Contempt”

  1. Your honesty does you credit. It is always very hard to look at these things, much less open ourselves up for others to see. Sometimes it is beneficial, which it was in your case, sometimes we feel the need to run away deeper into ourselves.

    Rage and the feelings of hopelessness that sometimes comes with it. I am sat here now , feeling angry and immensely sad. News yesterday of a very dear friends death due to a stroke, yet knowing that Paul could never have lived with any inability to run free in his Welsh mountains would have eventually killed him, sort of helps soften the anger. He was far too young for this to happen.

    Worse this morning, news of the suicide of another friends young nephew because he was in his own version of Hell feeling that he was being failed by the system in which we live, even although he was supported by his family . Yes, I’m angry and need to channel this energy into something constructive.

    Due to being post-op, I cannot go stravaiging my moors and woods where I would expect to feel some comfort , I have spent hours cooking and baking … trying to do something constructive… and the freezer is full …..

    Sorry for the ramblings and if this is inappropriate, please fell free to remove.
    Meanwhile, I am waiting for the anger and sadness to pass , which it will ……

  2. Someone said to me, you wouldn’t try to fix your broken hammer with your broken hammer would you? And instantly I realized that I have I spent lots of time trying to fix my broken brain with my broken brain. My mind creates all sorts of insanity where I find justifications and rationalizations to make my perceptions and agreements about things coming at me, true. Then, I hold that agreement up and I wave it triumphantly about daring YOU people to step on itl I had to do some serious moral inventory and then share it with someone. I’d put things like I am angry at Michael because he screwed my best friend. (of course my face twisted and i sorta spit it out) and then I put how that affected me, (was harder to be honest here) and then OMG I had to put down MY part. WAHHHH…I wanted to put down THEIR part I wanted them to SUFFER!!! The person said to me oh, so you love being miserable? you love feeling sick and a victim in everything? So I aimed my angry at them. They had me put them on the list too!

    I learned I put me in situations that were not good for me thinking I could FIX everything, be master of the universe, and then I got mad when exerting MY will onto others didn’t work. I then had fear that I wasn’t enough (fear is another list). Fear that I would never get what I think I want. The process goes on like that. I learned I have expectation after expectation. As for the contempt, the place where I think i am better than you. I set these sign posts at some time and I was not able, nor willing to flex from them. I never asked myself if i still really held that agreement. I never noted if i was willing to pay the price of leaving all that didnt’ measure up so THEY couldn’t Make ME upset, angry annoyed let down betrayed and on and on. I learned after this inventory that no one can MAKE me anything! Only I can do that. Of course I tried to do it then perfectly, as perfection is another thing on my side of the street that came up. Personally so I have a name I call all the stuff on my side of the street Defects of Character.

    I used to beat me up over them. Now, I learn to accept them, to manage them or to ask for help when I seem unable to manage myself. For me, Control is a huge issue. I fear not being in control, knowing what will happen, hanging in that void between. Every day, every moment I get to stay in this one moment and watch that inventory and choose, and then choose again 🙂

    Hope that helps!

  3. Your experience, mirrors somewhat my own, I’ve done TA, CBT etc but have found no real release with them. The anger is there all of the time, but I manage to contain it by being pretty much a loner, even within my own family. Faith is an impossibility for me now, I’ve tried but it never leads anywhere.
    All I do is exist as you say and I don’t see any possible change to that, I’m just too overwhelmed by it all and it creates a continual world-weariness, a sort of all consuming lethargy; I don’t bother with the suit anymore as I have basically no friends left, only acquaintances really and seldom travel anywhere.

    It’s good that you talk of this, sometimes for people like yourself, “The Suit” can become more unbearable than what lies beneath and I’m really glad that you managed to overcome it, to take happiness and be yourself. It’s your birth-right and your due and I really hope that you never have to don it again.

  4. An insightful and very honest post Damh, as you can be relied on to write. For me I have found that regular meditation over the past 19 years has helped a lot with the capacity to limit my response to things that trigger anger. Also to notice sooner when something is beginning to go beyond annoyance and has the potential to boil over. That said, meditation isn’t a quick fix, and just like a muscle, it requires patience and effort.

    When the state of the world bothers me, I write songs, at least that way I can share my frustration with the universe.

    It concerns me that our society’s system for raising young people spends a lot of time on equations for physics, maths and money, but not many tools for coping with loss, social anxiety or fear in general. If your emotional experience doesn’t align with Neighbours (or East Enders in your part of the world), then you must be broken.

  5. Thanks for the contribution to this topic, which is one that is very misunderstood and therefore, needs to be talked about openly and with understanding and support.

  6. I have worked as a body therapist for 20 years and cannot offer any blinding or profound explanations concerning the subject matter, but there are a few things that I have l learned which have been of the ‘educational variety’, regarding the above topic.

    One of them concerns how siblings may carry the unexpressed anger or rage or even contempt of their own parents or elder siblings, which they themselves were never able to express. In other instances, anyone who has not been allowed to have their feelings as a child, to express them, which includes anger and rage, may as an adult turn to substance abuse to manage the emotional pain they carry. Likewise, it is not uncommon for persons who were also victimised as children by anger and rage to become addicted to the same emotions as adults, in a similar way to how a child who is abused or victimised by a parent who is an alcoholic may also become the same as an adult, through the internalisation processes.

    In another light, these emotions can also be related to solidified shame and guilt, and responses such as contempt, can be used as a defence mechanism to hide the pain from the wounding or abuse/traum/neglect that has caused the shame. When what I will refer to as ‘toxic shame’ becomes the master emotion, all kinds of external symptoms may present themselves that cause harm and hurt to ones self and other persons. Religious extremism would be a good example of this collectively.

    I tend to think the first step to uncovering and doing the emotional healing work is to own how bad someone actually feels. For those who were abused as children, it can be their is a need to clear out old anger and rage, which, either does not belong to them; meaning they are carrying it, or their own pain caused by not being allowed to express difficult emotions as children.

  7. In reading this post, I found the tears welling up. To the point that, when I finished reading it, I literally wept for nearly five minutes. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said I DON’T DESERVE TO BE HAPPY! I bottle my feelings as well. Lock them in boxes if you like, and seal them with heavy chains and locks. But the rage seeps out. Sometimes it forces the boxes open explosively with my friends and family having to bear the brunt of it. The stress and uncertainty of the current pandemic situation doesn’t help matters either. I do try to keep up my daily spiritual practice and ask the God, Goddess and Spirit to remind me that I don’t have to fear uncertainty. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Many many blessings to you for taking on this subject Dave. Stay safe and well. Blessed be.

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