January 15, 2021

First Class Anger

Mental Health & Wellbeing

His name is Erik. He is approximately twelve or thirteen years of age and he possesses a special gift. At one point in time, he is separated from his mother and she is locked behind gates. Erik uses his gift of manipulating metal to open the gate until he is subdued by a troop of men and ultimately knocked unconscious. Sometime thereafter, he is brought before a leader, Charles Shaw, and commanded to display his miraculous powers by moving a coin across the desk, which he attempts to do, but to no avail.

When faced with the threat of losing his mother, he tries yet again but is still unable to fulfill the request of the man who would eventually become his nemesis. Erik’s failure results in an act of cruelty as his mother’s life is taken in his presence. Where he was unable to manipulate the coin before, Erik now wreaks havoc on his surroundings, unleashing rage and fury in response to the pain of his loss. Broken and overcome with grief, he is left holding the coin he struggled to move across the desk while evil mocks him. This is a defining moment and one that sets the trajectory for Erik’s life.

Acknowledging Anger

For those who are Marvel Comic fans, you might remember this storyline from the movie, X-Men: First Class. As in Erik’s world, we are presented with both, systemic and personal reasons to feel anger often and various points throughout our lives. Even now some of us may be struggling with unresolved anger from real or perceived injustices or threats that occurred in childhood. Others of us may be battling with some level of anger as a result of a recent or present situation. Still others of us may be dealing with residual anger left over from 2020 in which there was no shortage of opportunities to have our emotions hijacked. Whichever the case, one thing to note is that to feel anger is natural and in order to deal with it, we have to acknowledge that it’s there. If you were given an anger thermometer today, what would your temperature read?

Dealing with Anger

Erik’s anger became a filter for how he saw the world and he allowed it to drive him down the path of revenge. As he focused on getting even with the one who was the source of his pain, others became casualties in his wake. In addition to manipulating metal he became divisive, attracting to himself those whose hearts were similar to his own. Those who were interested in waging war rather than seeking unity. And then, Erik turned against a true and genuine friend. The person who saved his life when his anger almost drowned him, who showed him empathy and helped him hone his gift by remembering some good in his life. However, Erik’s pain was buried deep. What we do with our anger or allow our anger to do to us can set the trajectory for the rest of our lives. What might the path you are on say about how you have handled anger?

Anger Below

Two diagrams that come to mind as I talk about anger are the feelings wheel and the anger iceberg. Anger, among an array of other emotions, is listed on the feelings wheel and as with those which are listed as core emotions, anger has various shades ranging from irritable and annoyed to rage and hostile. Without question, I would say Erik was filled with rage and hate. A look at the anger iceberg helps us to realize that oftentimes, anger is the outward expression of hidden unresolved pain. In addition to the anger and hatred that drove Erik were the hidden emotions of sadness, pain, and grief.

What does your anger meter read today? Are you struggling with unresolved anger from situations that happened in your childhood? Are you feeling angry as a result of being treated unfairly or feeling threatened? Or, on a different note are you one of those people who says, “oh I don’t ever get angry,” or have difficulty feeling anger at all?

Anger unrecognized, unaccepted and unresolved can lead you down a path that might end up being more painful than the pain that started the journey. If you would like help unpacking your anger or working through reasons why you experience no anger at all, let us help. Call today.

Written by therapist Roslyn Jordan

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