For me, the journey of recent years has involved claiming my own anger and letting myself feel entitled to it. Anger is not a socially accepted emotion – especially not in women and many of us learn that we are to be quiet, grateful, biddable and co-operative and that we must never, ever cause offence by being furious. Never mind what’s done to us to provoke the fury.
I’m also only too aware that there are a second set of people who feel entitled to anger over anything that displeases them or makes them uncomfortable. There are a small number of people for whom the experience of anger is understood as an excuse for violence, as though to be angry is to have no choice but to lash out.
Getting the balance of needful, healthy, protective anger without falling into the anger that is deaf to all negative feedback, is tricky. It’s not what we feel that’s in issue here, it’s what we choose to do with it. How and when we express anger, is a choice. This is very much a work in progress for me, and as ever, alternative stories and perspectives are exceedingly welcome.
I’ve identified two different anger inducing situations for me. The first is impersonal – a response to sexism, casual or deliberate, to things that enable rape culture, racism, pedalling misinformation, hypocrisy and the such. The vast majority of anything said by anyone from UKIP and quite a lot of other political stuff too, in fact. I wade in and I comment. I make a point of being as polite as I can with this, because feeling entitled to be rude is a lot of what enables the other side in these fights. I’m not doing it with any hope of winning, but some possibility that others, getting to compare me being polite and rational with the hateful raving, might decide they don’t want to support the haters. It’s worth a try. While the clashes I get into are often wearing, I know what I’m doing and why and I feel fairly confident about it.
The personal stuff is a lot harder. I don’t feel confident about my entitlement to personal anger. If someone seems rude, unkind or aggressive in their treatment of me, my default is still to step back, and the urge is still to apologise and assume blame and responsibility. That’s been a big problem for me historically and has left me vulnerable, so I’m trying not to do it. Where possible, what I do is step away to explore my responses without the source of emotion present. If I can get a second opinion, I will. A wider context can help establish what is fair, reasonable, normal, etc. That enables me to make more informed judgements about how I’m handling things. I will talk to people I trust to see if it looks likely that I’m in the wrong. If it is necessary to go back and say anything, it will be calm and considered.
I’ve never said anything in anger that I didn’t mean and later had to retract. I have a great deal of difficulty with people who use ‘I was angry’ to excuse this. If honour is central to Druidry, then your word is everything, and if you speak carelessly, or say things in rage that are not meant, where does that leave your honour? I find I’m more comfortable with people who own what they do in anger, who meant what they said and are not ashamed to own it in hindsight. That’s a good deal easier to respect, even if I do choose to step away from them, than the person who lashes out, and in a desire to seem nice, later puts the lie to their own words.
I am convinced that it is possible to feel, express and honour anger- our own and other people’s – without falling into a shouty, aggressive, dysfunctional and dishonourable state.