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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Got rage?

     I do. Tons of it. But the thing is, I never knew it. And even now that I know, for the most part, the rage stays hidden deep in my unconscious. (I only get glimmers of it.) But just knowing it's there— even if I'm not regularly consciously aware of it— is freeing. It can even be life saving.

     I was always like, 'Oh, I'm a mellow person. Easy-going. Laid-back.' Sometimes people would even call me lethargic. (A woman once asked me to dance and I agreed, but it takes me a while to get going on the dance floor, and before I was up to speed, she said, "If you didn't want to dance, you should have just said so!") Me, mellow me, be loaded with rage? Impossible.
     But then I started getting physical symptoms that I shouldn't have been getting. Heart stuff, ulcers, IBS, dermatitis. And so with symptoms like that, it has to be stress that's causing them, right?
     Well, yes and no. Yes in that, it was indeed stress that was causing the symptoms. No, in that it was rage, that I did not know I had, that was causing the stress. And this silent disaster (of not knowing about the rage) went on for decades in my life, the symptoms intensifying, proliferating. In fact, the symptoms got so bad that I reached a point where I felt like I was on my way out of this world. Honestly. Physically dying.
     That's when I started getting glimmers of the rage that was inside me.
     Coldplay has a song that goes:

And I know I'm dead on the surface. But I'm screaming underneath.

     That was me. I started sensing this powerful rage underneath, deep inside me, that was just screaming to get out. I had a couple things happen that really opened my eyes. Peaceful, mellow, laid-back me was at the health club. The young guy attendant (maybe 19) was playing the stereo there rather loudly on this station I didn't particularly care for. Well, I had had a long, frustrating day, and I really wanted to unwind, reading a novel I'd brought, on the exercycle. Not listen to bass-pounding dance music. (Now I'm usually cool about that— I know people, generally speaking, like to work out to upbeat music.) Well, I knew there was this way the attendant could turn off the stereo in the area I would be in. (Just kind of like a "balance" control on the stereo, I suppose.) I'd had somebody do it before. So I asked him to do it.
     Then I went back to the exercycle and sat down, but the blaring music continued. The attendant looked over and I pointed to the overhead speaker to indicate that the music was still playing. And the music kept playing. I started my workout, thinking the music must surely stop soon, but it kept playing. And playing. And playing. Finally something snapped inside me and I hopped off the exercycle and marched straight at the attendant.
     He looked at me with a surprised look (the music still blaring) and said: "Are you still here?!"
     He then told me he was having trouble getting the stereo to work right. (But I could hardly hear him because all the while I was going into a rage, thinking of what he'd said to me: "Are you still here?!")
     I mean, I (peaceful, mellow, laid-back me) was ready to punch this guy. (And he was bigger than me, and in much better shape.) I said, "Why did you say that?"
     He looked at me with kind of a confused look and said, "Why did I say what?"
     I thought he was being clever and still messing with me. I was white-hot with rage and I nearly shouted: "Why did you say, 'Are you still here?'?"
     He said, "I didn't say, 'Are you still here?' I said, 'Can you still hear?'" (meaning, could I still hear the music where I had been on the exercycle)
     I walked back to the exercycle feeling like a psycho. I mean, I was on the verge of hitting this guy.
     Now if someone were to ask me if a little dispute about the music they played in a health club could ever get me into a rage, I would tell them it was an impossibility. And indeed, the music issue did not cause the rage.
     But it did trigger it.
     At that moment, my subconscious must've been particularly near the surface, and the rage already there just exploded within me. And that's a key thing— that rage was already inside me. The incident did not cause it.
     Then I had another thing happen, this time at work, where a co-worker gave me what I interpreted as a "dirty look" (implying  I was incompetent), and I wanted to kill this guy. I mean, I had to go walk around the block and tell myself to calm down.
     Again, it was the rage that was already inside me.
     And the more aware I have become of the rage, the less, much less, my physical symptoms have been. And I know now that often times when I'm feeling stress or fear (especially if the level of the stress or fear is not proportionate to what's "causing" it), what I really need to do is look inside and address the rage that's boiling like molten lava beneath the surface.

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