What To Do With Your Rage

by Deanna Kreisel (Doctor Waffle Blog)

I assume that if your eye was drawn to this essay, then you are also troubled by feelings of rage. But I don’t want to be presumptuous—there are other reasons to read an essay that promises to tell you what to do with your anger. Maybe you think I have an agenda. Perhaps you have formed an idea of what my rage is about, and you disagree with that figment, and you are hate-reading these words right now, waiting for me to reveal the source of my own rage so that you can write a nasty comment at the end of this post or troll me on social media or try to cancel me or dox me or incite violence against me or come to my house and sneak onto my porch and stare balefully into my front windows or throw an egg at my car or trample deliberately on the ox-eye sunflowers that are bursting around my mailbox or put a bomb in my mailbox or disagree with me strenuously in your heart. There is a wide range of potential negative responses, and I don’t have time to list them all. The point here is that one must contend with them, and that is another reason to feel rage.

But to return to my opening supposition: all of these possible responses are also born of rage, so I imagine that you might benefit from an essay about what to do with your rage even if your rage is rage at my rage.

So let’s begin.

First of all, you might nurture it. This is a popular, time-honored reaction to the ticklings of inchoate anger one feels in one’s belly from time to time. You might seize upon these nascent stirrings and decide to fan them into flame. (I apologize for the overflowing wellspring of metaphors.) You may already have come to the conclusion that any flicker of emotion, even rage, is deserving of attention and care, no matter its genesis or desirability. There are people who are half in love with their own feelings, and think of them as solid objects in the world that should be recognized and honored. Or you might have a principled reason to carry around an emotion that is harmful to you, an emotion that no one—not even you—has any use for. An emotion that might injure your spirit, derail your ambitions, split you open like a soft egg under a knife. It might be part of your spiritual practice to declare all emotions valid, even if the emotion was instilled in you through an act of violence. Perhaps your guru has shown you writings that purport to be ancient writings, stories of gods stalking the forest floor who come across maidens bathing their hair in some limpid stream and singing under their breath about clouds and constellations and delicious Pilsners and the jealous gods assume the songs are not meant for them so they visit their anger on the singers and the anger blossoms inside of these singing maidens until it bursts from them in the form of new gods, and the writings are very clear that any new gods obtained in this fashion are also to be worshipped so there is really nothing a maiden can do except get out of the way of the thing inside her that is going to become a god. I suppose that is a thing that one could believe, and if you do believe that then I can see how you would be predisposed to nurture your rage. It’s best not to take any chances that it might become a god.

I hope it’s clear, just from the way I have presented this option, that I do not think it the best one.

Another possible thing you could do is try to understand your rage in order to come to some sort of peace with it. But of course this is almost always a trick—usually when people try this technique they are secretly hoping that the rage will get bored and bugger off. You know those people who are only into you if they think you’re not really into them? Like that. There’s nothing wrong with this method, but it is quite tricky to pull off: you can get tripped up by your own levels of insincerity and forget what you really feel. There’s a slight danger that you’ll start to feel real attachment to the rage and then if your rage gets wind of your new feelings it will be disgusted and want to leave but of course now you care again and are in a position to be hurt by its departure, so it can become quite a mess.

I think it’s best to be honest. If you decide to try to understand your anger then you need to be sincere in your intentions. Do not expect anything from your explorations. Approach the process with an open mind and be ready to be discomfited by what you discover. You might learn that you have been injured or traumatized; you might learn that there is no recourse; you might learn that rage is the only thing you have; you might learn that you are simply a bitch who enjoys feeling mad. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I mean, welcome to the club.

Another idea: you could just try to get rid of it. If you find yourself alone on the top of a mountain with just you and your rage, and you have come to the rational conclusion that you would be better off without it because you need to get back down the mountain somehow and it’s difficult to do so with every treacherous step shadowed by anger, then you are well within your rights to try to leave it behind somehow. If there’s no one to help you, you will need to figure out how to do this by yourself. It’s not ideal. It’s not ideal. But take comfort in knowing that many maidens have been in this position before you, and they have left you instructions somewhere. Sure, those instructions might be outdated, or faulty, or even dangerous to follow—and ha ha! there is no way to tell which until it’s too late—but at least it’s a starting point, I suppose. We all wish that you didn’t have to do this alone, that you could summon healers and friends to your mountaintop and they would surround you in a circle of care while you lay on a soft bed of pine needles in a dappled grove and then they would chant something that helped you slowly let go of your rage and as you lay there staring up at the circle of tall treetops you could watch your rage floating up toward the sky and breaking up into thousands of smudges of silvery-grey mist that faded into transparency as the wind took them away, and then the soft shining molecules of your rage would become part of the firmament and then later part of something else that someone else wanted to build, a god or a jet stream or another maiden.

But you might not get to have that whole hippie-dippie scenario. It is likely you will have to struggle with your anger more or less alone. Maybe there will be some people you love who want to help you, but they’re just accountants or software developers or lacrosse coaches so they won’t know the instructions or the chants and you will have to figure it all out together, from scratch. Maybe they’re angry too! That can help in some ways—but it can also be a hindrance. When you are biting on a bullet or a rag, you want the hand holding it to be steady. If you need to have surgery performed on you (and this is a metaphor, mind) with a rusty scalpel and no anesthesia (a metaphor! we are talking about rage, remember) with no antibiotics or morphine tablets handy, then it’s probably more efficient if the surgeon is not on point of blacking out from pain or sepsis. One possibility is to try to find someone without rage to treat you, but I have reservations about recommending this course of action. Who are they, these people who are not filled with rage? Are they not angry because of your anger? They are probably not to be trusted, and that is an understatement.

I wish I knew what to tell you what to do with your rage. I am not an ancient; I have no access to books of spells or hoary wisdoms. My belly is distended with my own fury. The title of this essay is just a dirty trick. I am trying to cast my own magic right here right now, even though the spell will not reach you for a little while. (That is funny to think about!) I think you should do what is best for you. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s okay to wait a little while. You shouldn’t have to provide an answer immediately. But it’s not your fault. The one thing I can say to you with absolute certainty is that it’s not your fault. You don’t need to feel shame about anything. Your rage is not an excrescence or a tumor or carbuncle. It is part of you, and you may do with it whatever you wish. Be patient. Be impatient. Don’t pay any attention to what you read in essays.