Anger is always righteous.
It is a response to perceived unfairness, injustice and wrongdoing.
It induces mental and physical changes as we gear up to challenge the misconduct or atrocity. The heart rate increases and adrenalin surges through our body.
It is a reaction designed to be immediate and temporary – mentally it will often shut down, or at least muffle, the parts of our brain that would normally think of long-term consequences, and physically it kicks open the same physiological sequences as the fight-or-flight response.
It was not designed for the long-term.
Indeed, anger that festers and smoulders over an extended period will start to damage the body and begin to lay down pathways and connections in the structure of the brain, which will make it easier and quicker to activate the higher energy, mental and physical anger reactions.
Ultimately, if it is not dealt with and let go of, over time it can lead to a whole range of destructive conditions, from high blood pressure to sleep disorders to digestion problems to heart attacks.
So where on earth did I get the idea that holding on to anger was not only a good idea, but a righteous, heroic thing to do?
I blame Batman.
In the ongoing implementation of Mickel Therapy strategies – becoming aware of symptoms of ME/CFS and tracing the underlying emotional responses to the situations they occur – periodically mini revelations will happen. Certain things I was completely unaware of, or had never questioned, reveal themselves in a forehead-smacking, “D’oh!” kind of way.
One of the more recent was the realisation of how often I have held on to senses of anger and injustice for very long periods of time – way beyond any point they could conceivably been of use.
I realised a few years ago I had to let go of righteous indignation whenever possible as it would wear me out as quickly as physical exercise. I had 10 minutes of “This isn’t fair!”, then my brain would fog over, pull the plug out and I’d keel over.
So for some time I’ve been trying to avoid taking too many new injustices on board. But what of old ones? And why should they still be there many years or even decades later?
My favourite superhero as a kid was Batman – the only one without a superpower. He was strong, athletic, intelligent and on the side of good against evil. What a great role model.
He was also dark, secretive and moody. His parents had been murdered in front of him as a child, but rather than be broken by this, he channelled all that anger, injustice and rage into instilling fear into the heart of wrongdoers.
My original favourite superhero had been Superman, but then our parents bought me and my older brother 2 large books with a collection of the best stories of Superman and Batman, and gave the Superman one to my brother.
Initially I felt I’d been handed the 2nd prize. Once again – just like clothes, bikes, toys, record players and anything else you're given as the 2nd son - my older brother got the best, and I got what was left over.
So rather than allow my brother to have the better book than me, I made Batman my own. He was MY superhero. He was BETTER than Superman because he didn’t have to rely on stupid alien superpowers. Superman was just some silly goody-two-shoes, whereas Batman lived in the dark, dealing out justice in a more visceral way. The dark heroic knight.
As a child who was bullied in primary school, the idea of taking all that anger and outrage and injustice that I felt, and channelling it in such a way that in later life I would be able to make those bastards pay, had a great appeal.
Being angry no longer needed to be followed by feeling useless and impotent – I could store it up, I could save it for the right moment, like collecting coupons and cashing them in when you really needed it.
And I knew that Batman would be a Scorpio, because I was a Scorpio, and according to The Compleat Astrologer, Scorpios were the darkest, most secretive and deeply, powerfully emotional of all the star signs. That was me, that was.
And let’s not forget Kenny Rogers song “Coward of the County”, where after years of taking abuse from the local cowboys, the young lad who’d promised his dying father he’d never fight, finally lets all those years of abuse flow out into a righteous, heroic act where he beats up all the bad guys single handedly.
The strong, silent type, with dark, brooding depths barely concealed beneath the calm exterior.
The fact I’ve never been silent in my life and have always blethered on endlessly was completely ignored or forgotten, and actually points to the fact this role model was entirely the wrong one for me.
I’ve always craved love, warmth, friendship, openness, communication and cooperation – about as far removed from Batman as you can actually get.
But growing up I thought this was the way I had to be. Storing up and holding on to anger, injustice and outrage so that one day I would be able to channel them all into saving the world.
The latest revelation, then, has been that I’ve taken this notion for granted for so long, it’s never occurred to me to question it, until now.
D’oh! (slaps forehead)