• David Flowers

The Role of Anger in the Spiral of Violence


From Rage game, developed by id software.

Right now in politics, as it usually is in relationships (both personal and international), it’s not about seeking truth, and it’s not even so much about being right. It’s about the other guy being wrong. Tempers flare and people go to greater and greater lengths to convince the other guy he’s wrong. It starts with dismissal of the other person, then moves into exaggerating his/her offenses, then moves into lying, shouting and anger, then into pushing and shoving. From there it moves to throwing punches, and eventually to murder. That’s the progression (the spiral of violence) and whether it goes as far as murder or not, its starting point is false. Preoccupation with the wrongdoing of others, instead of honesty with ourselves ourselves about our own role in the word’s badness can never lead to a true place. The root is bad, so you can count on the tree being bad.

The mere presence of strong emotion (intensity, anger, outrage, bitterness, profound frustration, wanting to commit violence) is a sign that a person has “identified” with their emotion. They now see the emotion as part of their identity. (This strong identification with negative emotions and thoughts) is what religion and Carl Jung have called “the false self.”) They have a “right” to it because they have been so wronged. They clinch it tightly to their chest and refuse to let go. They justify it, defend it, nurture it, protect it, excuse it. They spend time feeding it daily. They become angrier and angrier at those who disagree with them because their attachment to their opinion, rightness, worldview, and perceptions is so powerful that it actually owns them. They think they have this anger, but the anger has them. They no longer know who they would be without it, and they deeply fear anyone, anything, and any idea that threatens to remove from them this great love.

From this position, a person is almost incapable of seeing clearly. While it seems obvious that the person who angrily points out someone else’s anger is part of the problem with anger in the world, it feels completely justified to the one who feels it. The hardest thing we ever have to do in this world is realize that those strong emotions and our tendency to embrace them, feed them, make love to them, even to baptize them in religion, is what is most deeply wrong with the world. I have those tendencies. Everyone does. Until I see that fact clearly in myself and learn to identify it and start separating from those strong emotions, so that they no longer control me, I am what is wrong with the world. What’s even worse is that until I learn to identify myself as the source of what is wrong with the world, I will identify you as that source. And you probably won’t appreciate that.

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