08 May re: Mental Illness doesn’t breed killers, anger does
Recently, the Tampa Bay Times published an article in which the author did an excellent job of explaining that anger, not mental illness, is at the root of violent acts.
She explains that it is becoming fashionable to attribute tragic, violent events to mentally ill individuals rather than focusing on the common denominator in every single case, which is the loss of control of anger. She explains that the problem of mismanaged anger is broader than mass murders, but is a part of violence toward children and spouses, and is at the foundation of rape, road rage, assault and violent robberies.
She explains that anger is not abnormal, but that our management of it is lacking. And lastly, she calls us to accept and manage the anger in ourselves, and advocates for the practice and teaching of rational techniques and mindfulness to do so.
This is the point at which I decided to respond to the article.
While rational techniques and mindfulness are good ways to teach someone how to manage anger from a young age, or good for someone who is reasonably receptive to these teachings, two problematic issues come to mind. One, how does this help someone whose anger is not apparent to them or who generally manages their anger in rational ways most of the time? And two, what is a person, including a child you are teaching from a young age, supposed to do with the energy in their body that requires expression?
Here’s the thing about anger. It is, simply, energy in the body that requires discharge. There are times and places for almost everything, including the nearly-completely out-of-control discharge of rageful anger. Unfortunately, though we are taught to control, diminish and “think away” our anger, we are never taught that there is a time and place for the expression of it. We are never taught that ranting, raving, smashing, bashing, flailing, gnashing our terrible teeth and roaring our terrible roars has a place. We are ridiculed and terrorized into containing that energy rather than taught how to express it physically in a way that does not harm us, those around us, or our stuff. We are taught that expression of it is bad, and that if we do express it we are bad, babyish, or stupid. This, then, exacerbates the problem.
So what do we do? I am by no means advocating violence toward yourself, others or things. I do believe that teaching rational control and mindfulness is a PART of anger management. However, I also believe that it is our inability to express the energy of anger physically that has created our number one mental health issue, uncontrolled anger. Instead of scapegoating minority cultures, racial groups, the mentally ill and angry teenagers who sue their parents, we need to acknowledge, accept and EXPERIENCE the anger that every one of us has, rather than just trying to rationally and mindfully make it “go away.” In this way, we will address the violence problem that is plaguing our selves, our families, and our culture.
Interested in experiencing a new way to “control” your anger? Call me. We’ll talk.