The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Just Anger (Part 1 of 2)

Is anger ever justified?  Some suggest the notion of a Just War – does that mean there can be a Just Anger?  Working in the area of social justice we can be confronted with ideas, articles, speeches, or everyday conversation that causes our anger to rise.  If the offending speech was given by a public figure we can often react with outrage, condemning the speaker by suggesting that they are idiots, bigots, or inhumane.  We might label them racists, misogynists, war-mongers, or a number of other epithets.

In doing so, has our anger been justified?  When our anger lapses into such verbal abuse, or worse, into violence, then it is not justified.  Nor, paradoxically, have we done justice to our anger. 

When anger arises it opens up for us two possibilities, two pathways that we can take.  One pathway is the pathway just described: it includes verbal name-calling, abuse, labelling, right through to violence.  The other pathway is one where our anger is a pointer towards something deeper inside us.

Taking the First Path

Too often, in our culture, the first pathway is chosen.  This is unsurprising as it is the path that many before us have chosen.  It is the path that our “leaders” take time and time again.  We hear it in our parliaments and debating chambers: name-calling, verbal abuse, confrontation and adversarial debate.  We see it on the battlefields of the world.  Our televisions beam it into our living rooms daily.  Newspaper headlines scream it out in bold print.

Not only do we see and hear this pathway being taken, we are not taught an alternative.  If we are taught anything about dealing with anger it is to tell us to suppress it, deny it, or perhaps to vent it by beating a cushion or yelling and screaming in the middle of a forest.

Choosing this first pathway becomes habitual.  Every time we arrive at that junction we take this path, without even seeing that there is another option.  Blissfully unaware we follow this path of rising venom, abuse, or violence.  We continue down this path thinking that the person we feel anger towards “owes me.”  With our anger so justified, we think that we have a duty to teach the other person a lesson.  “I’ll show them” we say to ourselves.  This path holds out the hope that we’ll feel better if we react against our “opponent.”  By venting against our “enemy” we are appeased, we think we are justified because we are doing so from a higher, or superior, understanding or moral standpoint.

But, where has this pathway truly taken us?  We have taken our “opponent or enemy” with us down the same path.  But, we have not arrived at a peaceful, harmonious, or even mutually agreeable place.  More often than not we have arrived at a point where our “enemy” is now more entrenched than before, likely to more forcefully espouse the ideas they stated earlier.  And us?  Our “enemy” has not become contrite and has not shown a new understanding that accords with our own, so we attack them again, perhaps more vehemently than before.  And then what?  The cycle begins again.

And what a cycle it is.  It goes round and round, gaining strength and power with every revolution.  It becomes so entrenched that there appears to be no way to break out of it.  All we can do is forlornly hope that the other person or group will eventually give in, give up, withdraw, or get beaten into submission.  Any such outcome is unlikely to be lasting.  The seeds of resentment, frustration, and anger will simmer below the surface and erupt somewhere else or sometime later.  It is a false accord. 

We could, however, take the second path that lies before us.  Before exploring that pathway, a brief diversion into a discussion about the nature of anger.

Just what is Anger?

Anger is one of those emotions that is a combination of feelings and thoughts.  We all know the feelings associated with anger: tightness in our hands (clenched fists), gritting of the teeth, a quickening of the heart, a general tenseness in many of our muscles.  There is an intensity about anger that is unlike most of the other human emotions.
Our anger is fuelled also by our thoughts.  Anger can arise in us because we think we are right, because we think our way, or our understanding of the world is the correct one, the acceptable one, the just one.  We think that our morality is superior or more humane than that of others.  Anger is often coloured by our judgements – our thoughts about what others think and feel.

It is the thoughts within anger that give us the opportunity to understand our anger and respond in ways that do not follow the first path of increasing vehemence, resentment and violence.  We gain the possibility of clarity.  It seems strange to use a word like clarity when speaking of anger.  Anger is often metaphorically associated with murkiness and unfathomable depths.  Yet, by looking to anger as a signpost to something deeper within us then clarity is what emerges.

Part 2 will explore the second pathway and look further at how we can gain clarity from understanding our anger.

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