Anger is the emotion by which all life depends. Everything we create has its source in the emotions of passion and rage. The great artists of history never abandoned feelings of anger in their work. Instead, they used it as fuel-an indication that something of great importance had be created. The intensity of anger keeps the fire burning when we set out on a particulate project and, if properly embraced, ensures it is carried out to its finish. It’s common today for many of us to take on a negative view of anger, that it is something to be avoided and indicates something may be inherently wrong with us if we experience it. It is exactly this belief, of a need to suppress anger, that creates disorder and violence. Many young men I’ve worked with tend to be emotionally-repressed. They are afraid of their own anger and as a result behave in passive aggressive ways, showing their anger in subtle but destructive tendencies. They find that their avoidance of anger has deadened their quality of life and halted the creative process. Once the emotion of anger has been reintegrated, the person is able to create, to formulate, to take on the daring task of leaving one’s mark in the world.
Anger is a dualistic power. It can be used to destroy or create. For this reason, it is a primary emotion, not something underlining another emotion. An emotional state of frustration can well be telling us something must be created and you are the one chosen to do it, and it will tug at you endlessly until it its demands are obliged. We cannot afford to overlook something so natural and evident in everyday life.
Passivity can often be masked as a proud portrayal of humility or spiritual surrender. We must often take note of the origins of stagnation, disinterest, and even our rationalizations for not taking steps towards our personal goals. The greatest enemy of progress is not to be found outside of ourselves but within the ignored segments of the psyche. We may find reasons for our lack of execution of a particular task within the immediate environment, but these are only projections or excuses for our own resistances. The environment as a blockade to progress only becomes a relief, a deflection for taking responsibility for the abandonment of our life goals. It is much easier to attribute a lack of time for not working on a project than to face the suppressed reality that we fear stepping into the unknown world of creativity- it is the fear of our own potential that must be dealt with daily, many times from moment to moment.
I have often encountered people that must make a definite change for the sake of their well-being, as continuing on in a particular behavior will inevitably lead to destruction, and have found that underlining their interpretations, they are profoundly terrified of their highest potential. It is not a fear of failure that keeps us in misery but rather it’s a fear of what we can possibly become if we took initiative and pledged to set out to accomplish what we desire. We may hide behind a passive life and settle for mediocrity but in many cases this can prove fatal. People thrive from striving, competing, and improving themselves. Giving ourselves excuses to continue hiding behind messages of “accepting one’s lot” or success equates trouble and evil, is a deliberate sedation of truth and life. A patient I once treated who had a history of multiple overdoses, often victimized as a child, also victimized herself as an adult. She once decided to leave treatment, telling the staff she did not care about her recovery or her life in general. With tears in her eyes, and words that disarmed the staff with pity and shock, I looked into depths of her being and said “of course you don’t care, it serves you well… if you did care then you’d have to look honestly inside yourself and see what’s wrong, take responsibility towards improving your life and making something of your existence. It’s so much easier to not care, your addiction loves that you don’t care because if you did you’d probably become someone you’d love and care about, and in turn people would be drawn to you and love you.” She was able to digest my words without running away and thankfully continued her treatment. It’s so much easier to live a passive life but it’s also the hardest and cruelest thing we can do to ourselves. We destruct under the guise of meekness and never discover the hero inside of us. Keeping our “excuses” for not taking responsibility within our awareness can be frightening and overwhelming, but once we commit to doing so and carrying on, we will prove to ourselves we are more powerful than we could have ever imagined.
A great example of the character transformation process in the individual can best be demonstrated in the stories and movies of the superhero protagonist. I watched a trailer last week of the movie, Venom. Within the three minute peak, there was an accurate depiction of the process of the emergence that takes place during an essential change of personal character. In the trailer, the main character is a weak, plain, uptight soft spoken man in his mid 30s. He appears to be a pushover who gets lost in the overwhelming surroundings of circumstances and people. There seems to be an untold process underway that screams a necessary change must take place within the personality of the person or the character will never emancipate himself from the grips of passivity and victimization. This change manifests itself into the unexpected “repossessing of the soul” in the form of an indestructible god-like serpent that strives to take complete control of the character’s actions. In the clip, giant tentacles involuntarily break loose from the protagonist’s body, pummeling and subduing the “bad guys.” Through it all, the character demonstrates a loss of control, helplessly pleading to the entity within for a share in control, to which the monster replies something like “we do what we want, is that a deal?” I have to admit that I haven’t watched the movie, but I can take a chance of predicting that the weak character progressively comes to terms with the unknown monster within him, he learns to live with it, possibly destroying or integrating it into his weaker known traits, and utilizes “the shadow” to conquer the opposing evil in the external world.
The process of transformation often takes place in multidimensional phases, sometimes occurring with or without our knowledge- but our knowledge greatly influences the kind of path it takes. First, there is an unrecognized knowledge of the dark powerful traits of our personality. We carry through life wearing a mask (the persona) and living by shoulds or over-identifying with passivity or timidness. Then, the suppression of the powerful impulses emerge into waking consciousness seeking existence due to constant repression. These are the unidentified parts often taking a primitive form of expression and can create many disturbances and chaos in daily life. This is where destructive behaviors form. These forms have the ability to annihilate the individual without proper integration into awareness. Lastly, given the level of insight and willingness, the individual confronts the shadow, becomes knowledgeable of its tricks, intentions, and desires, and through effort and self reflection properly merges the shadow into the light of awareness. Without this awareness and work, the shadow becomes a fully independent, overpowering force calling the shots in the host’s life.
This process which takes place in the human psyche is as real and evident as the external world. A suppressed shadow will seek expression with or without consent of the individual. It is better to perceive and confront a lurking enemy than to pretend he is not there at all. Embracing these monsters inside of us enables us to properly handle the monsters without.
More often than not we will find that our discontent with outer reality is a reflection of the neglected and unresolved yearnings of our soul. Our displeasure with some aspect of our career often points to a conflict or unresolved dilemma of our life’s purpose; a pattern of problems with particular types of people mirrors a hidden and ugly quality we would rather not face in ourselves; or a preoccupation with trivial fears and phobias may be set off by failing to surrender to a greater internal battle. A failure to engage in deep psychological work to find the origin of such external distress that really arises from within tends to lead us in an illusory path of seeking relief. We may habitually change jobs, partners, places of residence, religions, friends, etc- all at an attempt to be released from the debilitating internal struggle of psychological conflicts that most times erroneously reflect external circumstances, people, and events. These attempts prove to be futile in the long run as the person may seek release through extreme escape behaviors of severe isolation and compulsive habits. When we perceive there is no where to turn to, when life gets incredibly uncomfortable to bear, the result is the beginning of addictive behavior. Addiction is a desperate attempt to find release from external and internal conflict when resolution cannot be found- it is the mind’s most resourceful way of getting free from a build up of psychological madness that threatens to obliterate the little comfort that is left.
Addiction personifies a universal problem. Society is on the go and yet so stagnant, so fast paced and yet ridden with a melancholic disposition. We are going no where fast, tending to problems erroneously or superficially, fatally ignoring the cries of our psychological lives. The end result always being a series of temporary departures from reality where our lives and structure remain unchanged. Perhaps its time to reckon that we have missed the mark, that we’ve been looking for answers in all the wrong places and as long as we continue in the same direction, we won’t find peace but a disruption, or even worse, an obliteration of life.
Healing begins when we are tired, when we stop to say there is something wrong here, and perhaps it’s within me. Facing oneself honestly is painful-the mirror doesn’t change to our opposing responses or sensibilities. However, it is only through the undertaking of swallowing hard truth about ourselves and deciding to take action is when the possibility of a better life is made apparent.
An essential kind of success-perhaps the most critical type-is psychological. Unfortunately,many people attain financial wealth and yet ignore the importance of their psychological health. We tend to frequently check our bank statements and balance our checkbooks, yet we put off reflecting on what’s happening in our minds. With the rates of anxiety and depression becoming more prevalent, it’s time to prioritize and take inventory on our thoughts, feelings, and actions. We begin by reflecting on our past and current relationships (social, personal, occupational, spiritual). What seems to be the theme? What or who is the common denominator of the problem? What are my greatest liabilities and am I ready to discard them? The initiation of such a process is probably the most daring and life changing endeavor a person will ever embark on. Psychological success requires discipline, structure, and an enduring commitment to tend to one’s inner life. A dedication to reflect, admit defects, and take on the painstaking task of breaking unhealthy patterns and cycles is by far the best form of achievement. Psychological success is the thread that holds everything together and it’s proper management pays off the greatest dividends.