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.
Any form of personal distress warrants an attentive and honest review of our lives. Perhaps, there is something in our character that has been put off for so long that we’re unable to make the connection between a defective trait and a present situation. Perhaps, the tendency to ignore the elephant in the room is the root cause of chronic anxiety. One thing is certain- our problems grow in proportion to the degree we ignore or suppress them. Whether we try to suppress or medicate reality, the shadows remain and they lurk between the realm of the unconscious, feeding and growing off their neglect until they have grown to the point of inevitable crisis. When investigating sudden mental breakdowns or intense crisis in individuals we find that they are rarely abrupt and random. They are the byproducts of an accumulation of piled up suppressed and unattended problems in the individual. The infant shadows that were thrown into the basement of the mind have now grown into gigantic beasts. They break out of the hidden parts of a person, seeking validation and expression, only by now they are much harder to control and wreak havoc in the outer and inner life. This reality plays itself in the idiom “what we fail to bring to the light, multiples in the dark.”
The founder of depth analytical psychology, Carl Jung proposed the idea that the unconscious and conscious function as a regulatory system, much like the human body. If the body becomes too cold, given it is in decent health, its regulatory system will work to raise the temperature at attempts of bringing it back to balance. The mind will function in like manner, in which the contents of both the conscious and unconscious function as complimentary and compensating systems. An avoidance and ignorance of who we are, the suppression of difficult truths, will always create a breakout of the ignored content- often times in undesirable and hideous ways. For example, a consciously persistent tendency to look at oneself and the world in a one-sided manner of perfection often produces feelings of terror and anxiety stemming from the hidden parts of the mind, many times so overwhelmingly powerful that it results in destructive behaviors such as eating disorders and substance abuse. There are many examples of this sort in people that have grown up in “perfectionistic” families or in homes where open communication was not encouraged. One-sidedness, where the shadowy and unfavored parts of our reality are ignored can lead to the involuntary emancipation of their exaggerated opposites. It is not difficult to understand this concept, once we examine our fears and anxieties and line them up with the more formidable and essential truths we consciously avoid. The trait of seeking control, for example, may play itself out in the irrational and disproportionate phobia of ants.
So, what are we to do about such a problem? How do we know what we may not even be aware of if chronic avoidance has led to genuine forgetting? The first step is going beyond any form of political correctness and gentle honesty. It is a willing commitment to confront the undesirable reality of our darkest parts in order to appropriately integrate them into our conscious waking lives. It is the daunting and necessary step of being brutally honest with the “inner dragons” and “demons” of our nature and the willingness to fight hand in sword and seeing what or who emerges on the other side. It’s through this journey where we find who we really are, a journey that parts from the light into the deepest trenches of our defects. It’s the place where we take off the masks, stop looking at the atrocities of the world with such astonishment because we understand the horrors live inside of us as well. It’s knowing that history and the present with its most ingenious occurrences as well as its malevolence has a home in the human heart. It’s “Know Thyself and To Thine Own Self Be True” and emerging from such a reality fully awakened.
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.
I love two boys dearly. One of them I had to leave behind in order to give the other a better life. One is a lighthearted, inquisitive, and affectionate soul. The other, while quite loving, can be rebellious, fearful, self-destructive, hyper vigilant, and unstable. One is my son. The other my inner child. I stood at a turning point where most men find themselves who are able to reflect and take inventory of personal defects and impediments to growth. There I found all the hindrances and shortcomings embodied in my inner psychological youth. It was here in the personification of my inner child that all sources of irrational beliefs lived. I had to make a decision to part ways with the boy I had intimately known for decades.
The boy within men must be outgrown, tamed, or carefully integrated into adulthood if we are to properly function in the world. However, when most men find themselves stuck at a crossroad, repeating destructive patterns, or unable to realize their full potential, most times they will find a restless inner child consuming and sabotaging their present realities. The boy in us may manifest himself in the form of seeking power and control, general mistrust, and a debilitating apprehension to take on new challenges. Many times, the boy will not adhere to manipulative tactics of persuasion or compromise. The boy is adamant in getting what it wants and unless effectively confronted will destroy the man he inhabits. In this case, the inner child must be subdued, bound, and given up for the liberation of a man’s psychological imprisonment. It is no wonder that biblical stories such as “the binding of Issac” or the crucifixion of Christ resonate well with many of us. A man must sacrifice faulty beliefs and dysfunctional familial patterns before he can receive the “blessing.” Subconsciously, we understand that the most primitive and infantile aspects of our psyche must be (or at least one must be willing to) put to rest. However, the stark difference lies in the fact that our inner child will not comply and lie quietly as Isaac or the Christian Messiah. The binding, giving up, and the mourning of the inner boy (false and destructive beliefs) is a necessary process, a journey by which we eventually reach complete psychological and spiritual manhood.