Tag Archives: peace

Practicing intolerance

It would seem more reasonable to assume that we should be practicing tolerance, with a hearty side-order of peace, love and goodwill. When it comes to recognising that something is merely different, tolerance is a great thing. However, I’ve tried being tolerant in all things, and what it got me was a lot of trouble. So I’m now studying the methods and mechanics of intolerance.

I’m not interested in drama, in upsetting people or causing offence (outside of politics!) so I am not going to manifest my intolerance in ways that will always start fights. That said, if there’s an important cause to stand up for, if I think a person needs arguing with, I’ll pile in. I’ll say what I think needs saying and then do my best to remove myself. I’m not offended by differences of opinion, but I am deeply offended by hypocrisy, flimsy arguments and people who have nothing with which to back up their assertions. “I imagine this and therefore it must be true” is not a line of argument I have any time for.

So far as I know, I only get this one lifetime. Beyond it, there are no certainties, only ideas and beliefs. I am therefore assuming this could be a one shot deal and trying to make the most of it. Time I give to being bored, irritated, upset and frustrated to no discernible purpose, is not time well spent. Every hour that I let someone else suck up with pointless melodrama is an hour I do not get back. Every day I have ruined by dealing with someone who is dependably shitty towards me, is a day I have lost. It is around these issues that I have been carefully and quietly practicing intolerance for some months now.
I’m finding it incredibly liberating. The power to say ‘I do not have to put up with this’ gives me a sense of autonomy. It is my life, and I do have some right to choose. In giving myself the power to discard that which does not suit me, does not please me, does not interest, engage or enrich me in some way, has increased the amount of joy in my life. It’s also freed up a lot of my time. One of the things that offends me is having my time wasted. If I boot out the time wasters, I have more time to deploy where I want it – time for the people who need me, for the people doing fabulous stuff I want to support, for the people I like and whose company I enjoy.

I’ve learned to shrug, walk away and say ‘not my problem’ and that’s such a lovely feeling. Not all problems are automatically my problem. I have the right not to engage. Asserting that protects me from all manner of miserable things. Most of the time I do not formally announce my intention not to participate in something. That can be a way of continuing the problem, not solving it. Time spent telling a person that they make you really unhappy and you don’t want to have to deal with this or that, is actually time spent engaging very specifically with them and inviting more attention from them. I’ve had rounds of people who wanted to spend a lot of time telling me how they can’t cope with me and are upset by me, and who wanted to hold me in a place of being the guilty, useless albatross around their necks. It wasn’t until I realised the power of walking away as a choice I could make, that I also recognised that sticking around to complain about how much of a problem I am (or anyone else), is also a choice. They do not have to stay and I would rather people feeling that way left. Staying specifically to have a problem with me is not a choice I have to respect.

Martyrdom, real or self-constructed, is not a healthy way for anyone to go. A good dose of well-considered intolerance seems to me to be the best antidote to this.

By Peace and Love to Stand

We swear, by peace and love to stand, heart to heart and hand in hand. Mark, oh spirits and hear us now, confirming this, our sacred vow.

It’s a popular one for Druid circles, and I confess I find it ever more difficult. In a big Druid gathering, the odds are that I don’t know everyone well. Obviously I want to believe that all the other Druids around me are splendid and lovely people with whom I could easily stand heart to heart in all things… but we know how that goes. It’s a big dedication to make to a bunch of people you don’t know. More so, if you’ve experienced conflict with other Druids and are quite aware of the possibility that people can say this with you and get out the knives for a hearty backstabbing later.

I have spoken those lines in circle with a small number of people who went on to treat me really badly. Every time it comes up now, unless I know the circle, I feel that unease, and even when I do know everyone, the memory of who I have shared those words with in the past makes it uncomfortable.

I’ve stood in circles with people I am not entirely comfortable with. Again, with those big circles at Druid camp, at Avebury and the like, there’s every scope for being in circle with someone who irritates the hell out of me, or I feel uncomfortable with, or have clashed with, or just plain do not much like for some reason. In big community rituals, the choice is to either deal with the lack of peace and love some individuals may evoke, or step away from the community space.

To be part of a community is to deal with the people in that community I find abrasive and challenging. To be part of a ritual swearing to stand in peace and love, with those same people, is not easy. Is it hypocritical to even say those words when you don’t honestly suspect they will be universally upheld? Is it enough to offer them as an aspiration? We’re asking spirits to witness this as a sacred vow… that has implications.

Increasingly for me it goes… We swear by peace and love to stand, as far as is humanly possible, with some right to self-defence in emergencies and trying not to add to any pre-existing feelings of conflict. Heart to heart… because I would be open and honest and give freely of myself, really I would but on the other hand I’m very tired of doing that only to have my heart trampled over carelessly by people who do not give a shit… and hand in hand… well, there is some of that going on just now yes. Mark oh Spirits and hear us now, confirming this our sacred vow, but please don’t be too hard on us when we mess up, because someone will and I’m not sure how good a job I can do of this one.

A mix of spoken word and silent, slightly desperate appeal to the universe.

I’m also aware of the many who have honoured that pledge, heart and hand over many years, and it is a shame that experience of the few has so discoloured this for me that I find it hard these days to share it with the many. But, we keep trying, and hoping and aspiring, because these are good aims, and I’d rather fail while trying, than not try.

Peace one day after

Yesterday I started out in a place of pain and confusion. I don’t usually blog so directly from what’s going on in my life, but there are times when it seems productive to share. We spent time for Peace One Day, sitting on a hill with likeminded folk. I had about 4 hours there of walking, talking, sitting, sharing bread and ideas about both peace and conflict. Then afterwards, more talking and sharing insight. There is no peace until the pain has been addressed, but there is also, as was pointed out to me, a violence in the healing, and that’s hard to face.

Today I am actively seeking the things that leave me feeling better: Time in my lover’s arms, time on small jobs around the flat. I’ve set up some wine. There will be a walk and jam making along the way as well. Just being with my family in our little home and letting myself feel held and protected by that. It’s often the smallest and most practical things that help me feel peaceful and secure. It’s not big speeches and grand gestures, but a friend’s hand on my shoulder, a warm word online, extra time in the duvet.

I am an intensely emotional sort of person, and it is easy to let that turn into a focus on the large and dramatic stuff. Passion, inspiration, rage and rapture are attention demanding. They take over. I’m starting to see though, that while these intense things bring colour and a sense of direction into my life, they aren’t what holds me together from one day to the next. These are not sustaining forces. Far too readily overlooked, and perhaps far more critical, are the influences of kindness and liking. No one can sustain passion or lust full time. It’s exhausting. Having that in modest and manageable bursts is glorious, but what happens in between?

I started asking myself why this relationship I am in works so much better than anything else ever has for me, and I think the answer is, because we also like each other and care about each other. On the tired, scruffy, lacklustre days, care will keep a relationship warm, tender and close. A default position of kindness means that even when we disagree or misunderstand each other, we don’t end up hurting each other. It makes worlds of difference.

Liking and kindness go together well. These are sustainable things, feasible for the long term, creating threads of emotional engagement you can hang the whole rest of your life from. Equally, for me it is the spaces where that warmth and gentleness are lacking that I really suffer. I know there are people who believe in vigorous debate, in challenge, who take a combative and macho approach to all aspects of relationship, interaction and creativity. It makes me very sad. So I have come to the conclusion that if other people want to be strenuous in their debates, ruthless in their creative approaches, tough and hard-nosed in their beliefs – they’re entirely welcome to that thing but I won’t be showing up for it.

I like deep exploration of subjects. I enjoy the interplay between barely compatible ideas and exploring outlooks different to mine. I am open to being challenged, disagreed with, told I am mistaken, but I need that to be done by people who also care about me enough as a fellow human being to treat me with kindness at the same time. Or at least not actively be unkind to me. This, it turns out, is the price of peace in my life, and where I find what I need is unavailable, I’m going to move on. There is no need for anyone else to do differently, I don’t believe in asking people to change for me, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a right not to be in spaces that make me miserable and ill, and that the only answer is to quietly leave them.

My thanks to everyone who shared yesterday with me, who offered wisdom and insight, kindness and friendship. Let’s keep doing those things.

Peace One Day

Today is Peace One Day. It’s an international project and you can find out more about it at http://www.peaceoneday.org

Peace is not merely an absence of war. Many of us do not live in peace even though we’re not implicated in any kind of armed conflict. I know so many people who are caught up in fighting right now – fighting their governments and corrupt systems, fighting to save badgers, landscapes, homes, to protect rights. There are too many people whose work life is a constant battle, or whose home life is fraught with danger. We kill each other on the domestic front all the time. We die on the roads. We end our own lives in pain and despair.

Peace is about all of these things. It’s an issue of not being at war with the planet, and not practicing genocide on other species. We don’t even have a word for that, so far as I know, but we should.

We don’t get real peace by ignoring the problems, or by ceasing to fight over matters of life and death. The only kind of peace of any value, is a peace that works for everyone. While we buy into the idea of competition being preferable to co-operation, while we put the gain of the few ahead of the needs of the many and refuse to even think about the long term survival of our species, we can’t have peace.

I’m very tired today. These last ten days or so have left me bruised of heart and mind, and ill of body. I am painfully aware of a need for some personal peace right now. I’m going to take some time out today and sit in a hill with friends, and think about what we could be doing to make things better. Where to stand and fight and where to let go. When to step forward, and when to walk away. Small and finite resource that I am, how can I deploy myself to best effect? Where will my voice make most difference? I don’t know.

The last few days have brought me face to face, repeatedly, with everything I like least about myself, everything I fear may be true of me in terms of my insufficiencies. It’s funny that I get people, both online and offline, who see me as someone who needs taking down a peg or two. I’ve never figured out what it is that I do to come across as arrogant and self- important, aside from simply having this willingness to speak. I only keep doing it because there’s an ongoing stream of feedback from people who find me useful. I figure, if one person finds my words helpful, it was worth sharing them. And yes, there are indeed plenty of days when I share my latest critic’s concern that this makes me some kind of audience-hungry imposter, somehow lacking in some needful inner quality. There is no peace at all in that kind of despair and self-hatred. The only door it opens for me is the one that leads to death. There are days when that seems like the most productive contribution I could make. There are days when I write about peace because I need to believe there is some point, some reason for hope.

For those of you who find me acceptable and useful as I am, thank you. What you give, in doing that, is beyond measure for me. Peace in your hearts, peace in your homes, and may Peace One Day as an idea bring you something good.

For better or worse

Every day brings uncountable numbers of choices and opportunities, many of which we don’t even notice. It’s so easy to do things out of habit without considering the implications. I tend to wander round urban spaces in a slightly oblivious trance, especially days when I’m in a lot of pain. I don’t pay as much attention to other people as I might. That might come over as me being rude, proud, aloof or uncaring. Even without particularly doing something, I may have done something that has significant impact on another person. While its offputtingly easy to get bogged down in all of this, making a mire of inactivity out of fearing the consequences, I still think it’s worth stepping back and having a ponder now and then.

I’m actually a big believer in habits, when properly arranged. It is easier to maintain that which has become normal to us. The trick is to pick and craft the habits rather than absorbing them from external influences and pressures, or cobbling them together by accident. I try to make a habit of smiling at strangers, to break the ‘far away’ habit described above. Recently I’ve also been trying to get the boy into the habit of noticing what’s around him – with massive success, I might add. It’s nigh on impossible to take care of your things and space if you don’t first notice when it needs some attention. A habit of paying attention feeds a habit of taking care. Equally, a habit of ignoring anything that is wrong feeds a habit of inaction.

For me, paying attention is part of what it means to be a Druid. Sloughing off the conventions of apathy, disinterest and oblivion in favour of knowing and noticing; even when it isn’t comfortable to do so. Those throwaway remarks, those unconsidered actions can roll on to have unforeseen impact. I’d rather know what I’m doing, although I find I never can truly live up to that.

There are daily opportunities to put other people down, pick holes, criticise and complain. Sometimes that’s really important. Right now you might want to complain on twitter about proposed gagging laws and tweet #gagginglaw and #ldconf to encourage the Liberal Democrats to properly debate the issue at their conference. You might want to complain about the sheer insanity of the badger cull, which isn’t going to help farmers in the slightest. You could complain about fracking, about war, or any social justice or environmental issue that grabs you today. Those things are so worth challenging over. Complain to the people in power. Do it directly. Make a difference.

So often though, where we pour our energy isn’t into the big issues of the day. It’s not world peace, or saving species… its small, nitpicky grumbles with the people around this. You did this… I did not say that… you’re so unreasonable, I’m so put upon… we let the small problems seem like really big ones. Perhaps in part because we don’t want to think about the big problems. Let’s face it, most of them are terrifying. I’d rather not think about that. Or, more precisely, I’d rather not *need* to think about them. Fracking and gagging laws won’t go away just because I’d really rather they weren’t out there waiting to happen.
Every day there are chances for small acts of warmth, kindness and encouragement. Every day brings opportunities to praise and encourage, to share inspiration, to reach out in good ways to those around us. Equally, every day is full of reasons to get cross, feel put upon and lash out. I’ve been tired of the lashing out business for a long time. Let’s do less of that thing, especially on the internet where trolling and bashing are rife. Let’s not pour energy into hurting each other. Let’s try and support each other so that we can turn our energy to the big issues, the big fights.

Between us, we have an amazing amount of power. I don’t care who left the toilet seat up. I don’t care that it is up. Let’s be splendid. Let’s be proud of each other, supportive of each other, and from that, able to really challenge what’s going on out there. And to those of you who are innately splendid and weave your lives out of compassion and careful attention, please know that you are hugely appreciated and a source of much inspiration to people who encounter you. I’ve been blessed with a few such folk in my life, and you represent a standard I would very much like to live up to.

Restoring Peace

This is what I’ve got at the moment. It’s a work in progress, if you can see things to add or fine tune, please do pile in to the comments section.

1) Recognise the problem. A peace that is based on pretending all is well, is an illusion and not worth having. Name it, admit it, call it what it is. If this makes you feel hurt and angry, then let that wash over you. If possible, try not to go and vent that at someone, even if you think it was their fault. (No, my track record is not great on that score.)

2) Work out how the problem came to be. Try not to take assumptions into this process. Look for clear, verifiable evidence. When things go wrong, there is usually a process, and it is seldom all one person’s fault. Look hard at your own behaviour and thinking, if you could have done better, own it. This will help a lot with stage three…

3) Sort out the things you have got wrong. There is no point going and getting angry with people who you feel have harmed you or caused trouble. If they did not mean it, they will be needlessly hurt, if they did, they won’t give a shit, or will use it as an opportunity to hurt you again.

4) If you say ‘I got this bit wrong’ it is easier for other people to admit their mistakes, too. If you are dealing with someone who cares about you at all, or is passably sane, starting by owning the bits you got wrong (even if it’s not having been clear enough why you were upset) opens a dialogue without being too aggressive. It is possible to move forward from here.

5) Accept that other people make mistakes. If they made those mistakes honestly, not out of malice, they will want to put things right and you can progress. If they meant to hurt you, there is nothing you can do but walk away. Genuine care and love can overcome human error. Genuinely psychotic inclinations cannot be fixed. You find out who people are when you go through this process.

Of course it would have been so much cleverer if I’d sat down at the start of last week and worked this out as a logical issue, rather than finding it through a messy process of getting things wrong, losing my temper more than once and testing several relationships to near breaking point. But this is the thing, where there is real care, even this can be worked through. People get upset, flail, lose their tempers, mess up, make poor choices, get angry for the right reasons, the wrong reasons, and all of that. We all do that to some degree. Most of the time, that can be got past, with a bit of care, a bit of willingness to drop guard, lower pride. To those of you who went through the fire with me last week, my thanks. You are much loved and valued. To those of you I need to work things through with still, please note I have a better strategy in place than I did and will probably be a lot easier to work with as a consequence. To those of you who can only do blame and anger, farewell, there is simply no time and place in my life for that.

Peace can only be restored where there is genuine good will and a true desire for peace. If you’re keeping score or want to come out winning, peace is impossible, and I’m not going to play.

Peace for Syria

Let’s pause for a moment, amidst all the noise and political posturing, and ask what it would take to achieve lasting peace in Syria. Tricky, isn’t it? As soon as you step away from the rhetoric of ‘let’s rush in there and bomb some stuff’ and actually think about what it would take to fix Syria, the horrendous scale of the problems become apparent. I have a most tenuous grasp on the politics, but let’s abridge it and say ‘there’s a lot of it’. Lots of different factions, ideologies, interests from other countries, no doubt lots of history as well. All other issues aside, when there has been this much bloodshed, there are no quick fix options.

Peace is not something you readily achieve by fighting. Sure, there are times when going in to forcibly disarm may be the best way to reduce violence, but why on earth are we even getting to that stage? The answer, is that for politicians and people who want power, the ends justify the means, and the intended end is more power for them. Human life, and human suffering are valued less highly than power, control, and status. When you start from the premise that lives are expendable and the important thing is winning at any cost, violence is inevitable, and peace is impossible.

It does not help that a small number of people make a great deal on money out of war. The arms trade is a lucrative one. I would bet that’s not the only way of turning a profit during times of conflict. It does not help that history books are full of battles and politicians with a desire to be remembered will all too often see a big, ‘heroic’ war as an opportunity to have a legacy. To be the next Henry the fifth, the next Winston Churchill, or for that matter, the next Adolf Hitler does seem to be attractive.

With all due reference to Henry the fifth, there’s nothing like a war abroad to distract public attention away from troubles at home. You can get all patriotic, sing songs, all pull together, it’ll be like the 1940s all over again. Roll out the nostalgia, forget the welfare cuts, the unemployment, the economic crisis, a war will distract us. All those opportunities for big speeches and dramatic photo opportunities. Oh yes, our politicians love a good war. Not least because they will stay at home, near the bunkers, while other people are sent forth to kill and be killed.

I think we lost something when starting a war no longer meant you would be expected to ride out at the head of your army. I think if David Cameron and his cronies knew they would be expected to put their own bodies in the front line, they would take these life and death issues a bit more seriously. They wouldn’t last five minutes.

Peace is a facet of culture. It is a state of mind and an attitude. You can’t force it on people, although you can make individuals, and countries behave. A peace based on someone else having a lot of guns and missiles, is not a very dependable sort of peace at all. To mean anything, peace needs to be based on a fundamental respect for life. When we start to value life more than we do power, peace will be possible. We have a long way to go.

Peaceful protest

There’s a lot of talk on various Druid groups at the moment about both the warrior path, and the peace path. There are Druids who subscribe to both approaches. The Ancient Celts after all were not averse to a punch up, but the Druids could, it is said, step out between two armies and instruct them to stop.

I don’t think a modern Druid has much scope for stepping in front of the EDL, or other angry people, and making much progress by asking them to stop, but perhaps it would be worth a go anyway. Part of me suspects that’s a one way ticket to getting shouted at, if not thumped, but as I’ve not dealt directly with anyone from the EDL, I’m hardly in a position to comment.

I’m a rural Druid at the moment. About the closest we get to conflict within the community round here is when two tractors are trying to go in opposite directions down the same lane. This is a quiet place. No one is going to riot, or march, or do anything else. That has let me off the hook a bit, and not having a car I’m not well placed to travel to where there are problems.

What would I do if there was unrest on my doorstep? I think it would depend a lot on the nature of the unrest. There are plenty of things I think need protesting about and that I would march over, were there anyone around to influence. The sheep are pretty disinterested on this subject, although my local badgers are developing an unfortunately large degree of political awareness, I suspect.

I would not take arms, or go out expecting to fight. Partly because I am woefully out of practice, partly because a quarterstaff would draw all the wrong sort of attention in the first place, partly because I have no desire to hit anyone. I would like to think that if it came down to it, if people where I lived were marching with hatred and an intention to do violence, I would find in myself the courage to take my body into that space and simply put my flesh in their way. Not aggressively, but accepting the likelihood of violence in order to slow down, protect, discourage.

It’s one of those things. Until we are tested, all the ideas about what we *might* do are hypothetical. Would I have the courage to face being arrested if honour demanded that I put myself in opposition to the police? I think about activists who have gone to court, and sometimes won, standing up for the idea that powerful entities do not have the right to run roughshod over individuals. Would I be brave enough to do that? I think of the three women in Woolwich who tackled the psychos still holding weapons, who had killed Lee Rigby. Do I have what it takes to walk forward in such a situation?

I do not know.

We only find out whether we can truly walk our talk when we are tested to our limits and beyond. What I do know, is how grateful I am for the times when I am not being tested, when I am not overwhelmed by impossible choices or being asked to put my life on the line for honour or justice. Some people do that every day in their normal line of work, and I am deeply grateful to them for shouldering that weight for the sake of the rest of us.

Druid community

There are a lot of places online where Druids gather to talk, and there is a lot of diversity in Druidry. One of the things that depresses the hell out of me, is when debate generates into angry shouting. It does this rather a lot. As there are a number of different, well established approach to Druidry (as well as all the individual stuff) this more-druidy-than-thou attitude doesn’t seem that well founded. Even in conversations about how Druids are supposed to be peacemakers, we get it wrong. It makes me sad.

However, I’ve seen this week a Druid group over on google, where on the whole some quite strenuous discussion has happened without descending into the other stuff. This inspires me. It is important to be able to debate the hard topics, to be able to hear ideas that do not fit with our own. I think it is healthy and important to be challenged, to be required to explain your thinking, show your evidence and deal with people you don’t agree with.

It’s pretty easy to be a peaceful Druid when there’s no conflict available. That isn’t actual peace, it’s just a convenient setup. Real peace is being able to handle conflict without it getting nasty or destructive. This is where we really test ourselves, really find out if we can walk our talk. It doesn’t mean we have to agree, or like each other, or persuade everyone to think the same. It really comes down to respect, and being able to acknowledge that my truth may look different to your truth, and that we can live with this.

I get excited by challenges to my thinking and people who know stuff that I don’t. It’s part of my on-going love affair with being a student. I want to understand. That means encountering stuff that initially makes no sense to me, and rather than rejecting it, trying to engage with it. I get a real buzz out of those. So yes, I have tried to figure out why so many Druids don’t seem to get all excited when they run into someone with a different perspective. I think there are two factors. One is that we are not, as a community, taking manners seriously enough as an issue. It’s all well and good being passionate and plainly spoken, but that can be done without actually being rude to people, I think. Encountering rudeness is a big turn off when it comes to tackling alternative perspectives. The other part is more a protective/fear issue. The more you have invested in your beliefs, the more uncomfortable it may be to have them argued with.

We live in a context full of religions and politicians all claiming a monopoly on truth. Anyone who isn’t strident can seem wishy-washy, undecided, not properly dedicated to their cause. And yet, step back a moment and it should be obvious that mostly none of us have any hope of truth monopoly. The bigger the truth, the harder it will be to grasp. Is my truth really at odds with your truth? Are we in fact groping the same elephant without realising it? (I love that story). I want to know what the elephant looks like. So if I can attach your bit to my bit, I will probably still be way off the mark, but now instead of a big flappy thing, I’ve got a flappy thing attached to a ropey thing. It’s still wrong, but it is a bit less wrong, and I’ll keep looking, keep wondering.

In the meantime, if I find I’ve irritated someone online where I didn’t mean to, I don’t get cross with them, I say sorry. I find it remarkably effective. If I’m not sure I understand what they mean, I don’t get cross, I ask what they mean. If someone misreads aggression into my words, I don’t get cross with them, I apologise for not having been clear enough, assure them that I’m not hostile, and try again. Why? Because just arguing with people is dull and pointless, and I’m not interested in scoring points or proving I am more right. Actually, being less right is more interesting, it means I get to learn something.

Where people are polite, show respect, actually listen, the conversations are amazing. We really could do more of this.

The consequences of anger

Plenty of religions (and Yoda) discourage anger, but we don’t talk much beyond vague ‘bad karma’ and ‘god doesn’t like it’ ideas about the consequences of anger. There are times when rage is a good and needful thing, enabling us to change perceptions, change our lives and so forth. There are times when dramatic upheavals and huge responses are called for. The trouble is that the anger lingers on long after the moment has passed. The echoes of historical injustice, the memory of pain, can keep us trapped in a moment that has actually gone. I know because I’ve done it. Then there are the smaller things that people let themselves get angry about, and can still be bringing up years after they happened. I don’t think I do that much, but I’ve been on the receiving end of it, and yes, that makes me angry. It’s so easy to get angry with someone else’s anger, too, and escalate the thing up into something truly hideous.

I feel anger as a physical tension in my body, and there’s a definite relationship between it, and anxiety. A lot of my anxiety has to do with the things I am also angry about. I don’t want them to happen to me again. I don’t want to be a victim. I’m angry because I am afraid, and afraid because I am angry and round it goes. Live there and it will make you very, very ill. My experience of angry people suggests that a significant number (but not all) are angry defensively, trying to protect themselves from wrongs and threats, real and imagined. When the threats are real, the anger can be useful. When the threats are imagined, the anger is as dangerous to the person holding it as to anyone else. Someone who has got into the habit of feeling afraid may no longer be able to tell the difference. There are people who are determined to cast themselves in the victim role so as to justify lashing out in anger against others as well.

There are people who seem to enjoy being angry. It can, after all, feel powerful. And yes, the righteous anger that throws off the chains of slaves and brings down tyrannies is a good kind of power, but that can get addictive. Of course when we are angry we want to believe that we have the moral high ground and are entitled to hit out, with words or fists. We want to feel good about manifesting our rage. Movies are full of examples of ‘heroes’ who do just this, reinforcing our beliefs about how good it is to crush the opposition. Only it isn’t good. It leads to retaliation and feuds. It leads to broken relationships that cannot be fixed. As soon as you get into win/lose scenarios, everyone loses.
It’s not easy stepping away from what you firmly believe to be righteous indignation. That hunger for justice, that need to have your pain recognised, the desire that other people should do something about it… I’ve seen what it does. I’ve yet to see someone come out of the angry place actually happy with the outcome. It’s not about the winning, it’s about what the being angry does to you. It robs you of peace. It keeps you revisiting all the things that hurt. There comes a time to put it behind you, learn what you can and move on. Where that place is will vary depending on person and circumstance of course, it’s not for anyone else to dictate who should be ‘over it’ by now.

I’m alert to signs that people are angry because they are afraid. Sometimes those can be eased with a gentler, more careful approach. I’m not going to be angry with someone because they need me to be more careful with them – that would be pointless, and would entrench the fear. I’ve had people get angry with me on those terms, it achieves nothing good, and creates more misery. If I think someone just enjoys being angry, I’ve learned not to argue because there’s no point, it just makes them worse. Better to walk away and come back if they calm down. I’m not interested in being a whipping post.

My own anger, I am trying to turn into something else. I’m not prepared to let it keep me in an afraid place. Anger can also feed courage. It can be the motivation to stand up and say or do what is necessary – not to strike back, not to lash out or to hurt but to calmly face down and try to fix. The kind of anger that would enable me to calmly support other people who need help, and calmly not escalate things when other people are being bloody stupid. It’s not about supressing the feelings, or not experiencing anger, it’s not letting it run on and not wilfully feeding it to get to some dramatic shouty place, and not enabling the people around me to go their either. Not that I live with anyone shouty anymore, but there’s a whole world out there…