Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Monsters Reclining on a Couch

I was talking to a friend about my recent graphic dreams, telling her that I assumed the monster that grew large and menacing was my anger and that I thought it needed a serious time-out. I must train myself to stop the growth of this anger before it turns bestial.

She pointed out that in the dream I was beating it down, physically repressing it. And that my attempts to calm down and not feel the anger is what eventually made it monstrous, not the anger itself. To keep emotions manageable we have to deal with them when they are still small. It is true that I try to suppress my anger – it seems natural to me that anger is a negative feeling and one that we should repress. Better to accept whatever befalls us. Never strike back.

My friend pointed out that when it was small I didn’t trust it and tried to beat it into submission. The monster had something to tell me but I refused to listen. My refusal only made it bigger. And when the other people ignored me, dismissed what I was saying, laughed at me, it is my monster that came to my defense. That is why I was not afraid of it. When we are children, and someone laughs at us, what do we want to do? At a primal level we want to bash their face in. In my dream, that is what my dark side did. My monster became an uncontrolled, elemental force.

She said I have to stop looking at anger as negative, and think of it as something that is there for my protection, something that can warn me of danger or simply tell me that something is wrong. When the first bodily sensation of anger is felt, I need to take a deep breath and figure out why and then take an appropriate action. I need to deal with it while it is still small. After all, fire when contained provides warmth and comfort. The trick is to keep it manageable.

I was thinking about what she said and realized that I have always had an unhealthy relationship with anger. It is true that emotions themselves are not bad or good; it is how we respond to them that defines their nature. Feeling disappointed can lead to lethargy or a renewed sense of purpose. And anger can lead to great displays of aggression or be taken as an opportunity to express dissatisfaction in a situation. Since I was a young girl I have viewed anger as something raw, frightening and uncontrollable, which is why I find it very confusing that in the last few years my own anger has seemed boundless. Where is it all coming from and why can’t I rid myself of it? Perhaps now I realize that was the wrong thing to do. I shouldn’t try to rid myself of my personal monsters but rather try to figure out why they exist and what their purpose is.

And so monsters, please make yourselves comfortable and we’ll have a little talk. I’m ready to listen now.