“Recently I reacted to a situation. I started to get angry – really angry. I felt like a victim.” — Hope for Today
One of the greatest things I’ve learned about in recovery is the intrinsic relationship between anger and victimhood. This was reinforced by the enlightening book “You Can’t Make Me Angry”, written by one of our members.
Basically, I’ve discovered that it’s impossible for me to be angry without being a victim. Even in situations where nobody did something hurtful to me directly, the fact that they’ve stolen away my serenity, even temporarily, makes me their victim, empowering the person or institution that I resented in the first place!
When I’m in a state of expansive awareness, and I recognize this, I can apply that wonderful AlAnon slogan “I am responsible for my own serenity.” Remember that, I then start applying tools for serenity to my life. Deep breathing. Gratitude lists. Funny videos. Petting my dog or cat. Yoga. Meditation. Reading from my spiritual backpack. Journaling out my feelings and solutions.
I’m so lucky to have been touched by alcoholism. Without this disease, along with the affects it’s had on my life, I wouldn’t qualify to be a member in AA and AlAnon. How odd is it that? In order to be invited into the greatest program in the world, I had to be caught in the crossfire? Hopefully, one day, everyone can gain membership into a 12 step program, and benefit from our collective experiences, without necessarily having been devastated by this disease.
But until then, I’ll count myself as one of the lucky ones. Because of AA, AlAnon, the people in the programs, and having found a higher power… ILML!
Ahhhh there it is, the rub. I would have to disagree with you and your “friends” and “sponsees” here. Here there is sometimes a difference between unrighteous and righteous anger. Yes we should practice “self-control”. We should avoid allowing ourselves to fall into a victimhood mentality and state of the soul; but sometimes people hurt others and treat others horribly. Therefore righteous anger allows us to recognize that something or someone is wrong and do something about it. Righteous anger allows us to pursue justice, end unhealthy relationships, leave abusive and selfish people behind, set new boundaries. etc.
Ruef, you touch on a great point. Every emotion has a purpose, including anger. I didn’t mean to imply that anger is always a bad thing, only that victimization and anger have a contingent relationship. Anger is indeed helpful when used to increase awareness of what actions we need to take to get back to serenity and feel in love with life again.
Detachment is a great example of a positive action that can come out of anger. So is protecting oneself or loved ones.
You mentioned righteous anger as giving us this opportunity to determine what action to take. Our Big Book has something to say about this: “justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.” Why would it say that if anger can be used constructively?
In my opinion, here is why. Because many, or even most, of us alcoholics will often use anger as an excuse to react in a way that causes unnecessary pain and suffering, for us and others. In other words, we don’t pause when agitated. In fact, I find this to be one of the biggest sources of problems in my life as a sober man, not pausing when agitated.
You also mention the idea of pursuing justice. For many of us this might mean, for example, suing someone who owes us money. In many cases, the expenditure of time, energy and money needed to pursue this course of action may be advantageous. But by reviewing our options with an objective party like a sponsor or attorney, we take the emotion (anger) out of it, and may discover outlet time is of better use pursuing new opportunities rather than becoming embroiled in a lawsuit.
Another example may be spitting back at, or even punching, someone who spits on us. Many would consider this justified. But taking emotion (anger) out of it allows us to recognize how sick that person must be (compassion), an awareness of how lucky we are that we aren’t spitting on people (gratitude), and a recognition that a reaction in kind may escalate the situation to a place whereby someone may either get seriously injured (or accidentally killed), and we could possibly end up in jail and even losing our livelihood and family.
In conclusion, I agree with you in that anger can help us seek solutions to serenity WHEN and only IF we apply the tools of our program. But when we don’t, and instead are provoked by anger to react in a justifiable, defensive, and outwardly angry or violent way, except in situations of imminent danger to ourself or others, we become the victim of our own anger, and chances are, we are walking away from recovery (and our higher power), rather than towards it.
At least, that’s my experience with anger. And I can tell you from personal experience that the consequences of my unchecked anger (both prior to, and in, recovery) have be quite deleterious.
I really appreciate your comment Ruef – it was very though provoking. And I hope you don’t find my response adversarial, I only wanted to share my perspective. Have an awesome day!
Anger is just to mask our fear.