My Relationship With Anger.
Please note : all opinions expressed are my own and if you don’t like them then, well, tough!
One of the things that I found most difficult in my childhood was my Mother’s propensity to start very loud and shouty arguments, at the drop of a hat. I hated them. One of the reasons I love the sound of the hoover so much is that when I would be in bed at night, my Mother would hoover. It was when she was hoovering that I felt most secure, because I knew that whilst she was occupied in this way, then she wasn’t arguing or raising her voice. I dreaded getting home from school and finding her sat in the kitchen with a look of thunder on her face. As I became older, if she started to shout at me then, I would just walk out of the house and usually end up staying with a friend for a few days until she would calm down.
I had a partner once who used to shout frequently and it would really upset me. He would shout all the time about anything. He’d be angry if I had mayonnaise on my chips, he’d be angry if I drank Diet Coke, he’d be angry if I didn’t want to watch television with him. You get the gist. It used to send shivers down my spine and force me to curl up in a ball to protect myself.
I hate confrontation. I hate arguments. I think I have rarely shouted at my children. In fact, I cannot even remember doing so. Anger is an anathema to me. Yet since I have reached the menopause, things have changed within my psyche and I am finding that anger is starting to develop within me more and more. In the past week I have been extremely angry on three occasions. That is probably more than in the last ten years. It has started to make me question though, why do we see anger as such a negative emotion?
A few weeks ago, I came to the end of a very long period of time spent in the family courts. I don’t mind admitting that when my solicitor told me that it was over, I cried huge tears of relief. The Family Court process, for those fortunate not to have ever been through it, is incredibly stressful and above all else, frightening by its solemnity. No one enjoys going there. CAFCASS are supposedly an organisation that look after the interests of children in family courts. However, like most Government agencies they are chronically underfunded and understaffed. They make huge errors, because it is not always possible for them to spend enough time with families. After ten years in the family courts, CAFCASS made a huge mistake. To put it in simple terms, they decided that it would be a good idea for myself and my ex-husband to go on a course that we had already completed many years ago and that explains how the court system works. In short, it is for recently separated parents to enable them to work together in agreeing access and financial arrangements for their children. So, to go on that course would be akin to redoing your GCSEs after you have completed your final degree.
I was shocked by this monumental error and consulted my solicitor for advice. My solicitor explained that it was an error and that no one would follow up if I went on the course or not. However, I am very much someone who does not like to go against an official decision and so I contacted CAFCASS and said that I would do the course but that I would prefer to do it online as I have work commitments and I am about to have major reconstructive dental work. Despite this agreement, over the Christmas period I was bombarded with text messages warning me that I had to complete this course within twenty working days or else face a heavy penalty such as a fine. I then received an email which began in the ominous tone of, ‘Whilst I appreciate your work and medical commitments, this course must be completed before the end of January. The next online course is in February.“ In the past, I would have given in and agreed to do as they said. However, things are different now and I could feel the anger at such inflexibility rising within me. I rang and left a curt message asking to refer this to a line manager and I also emailed them with the somewhat angry tone of ‘I await your immediate response.’
Within a very short time, I received a phone call. The caller began with an apologetic tone and then tried to explain why I had to complete this course in January. My anger was not about to subside. I wasn’t rude, but I did make it very clear how angry I was. ‘I can hear the anger in your voice, Madam and I apologise for our error.” By the end of the conversation, they had agreed to my request to complete the course online in February. I felt triumphant that my anger had led to such a successful outcome.
Then there was the Brontë television programme by Lily Cole about Emily Brontë and Lily’s partnership with the Brontë Parsonage Museum. The red mist really came down quickly with that one. To give a brief background. I have been a member of the Brontë Society since I was small. In 2017, the Brontë Parsonage had a literary partnership with Simon Armitage to celebrate Branwell Brontë’s bicentenary. Simon Armitage contributed an amazing exhibition and as a writer, he held many excellent creative workshops. His year was immensely successful and led to a resurgence of interest in the Brontë family. We were all waiting for the next literary partner with much excitement. By calling someone a literary partner then one must presume that person has a literary background or is in short, a writer. Yet with no consultation of their members, the Brontë Parsonage Museum decided to partner with Lily Cole, who is known as being a fashion model. She is not known for being a writer. She may have a double-first from Cambridge and she may be into feminism and sustainability, but she is not a writer.
A member of the Brontë Society, who has written several excellent books on the Brontës, and who is very much a writer, expressed his disappointment that the new literary partner was not a writer. He was right, and I agree with him. He decided to leave the Brontë Society because he was angered, as I also was, by the distinct lack of consultation and transparency in The Society. You only need to google The Brontë Society to see there have been many problems over the decades with a lack of consultation. The newspapers became aware of this story and made it out to be a question of misogyny and race. This was echoed by Lily Cole in her programme on television in which a full ten minutes was spent bashing someone who dared to question her suitability. She made much of the fact it was a white male who questioned her and yet strangely didn’t mention anything about not being a writer. The sheer unfairness of this made my blood boil. It still does. People should get their facts right before they start laying into people. I was very much tempted to express my anger on Twitter. However, I was relieved to see that many others were distinctly underwhelmed by Lily Cole’s contribution to Emily Brontë’s year. I did write to express my disappointment and to ask for more transparency in the Society. I hesitated to do this, as I do not want to upset anyone. However, I regularly pay my membership subscription, and just because I love the Brontes and the Bronte Parsonage Museum, does not make me immune from disliking something that they have done. I felt entitled to express my own point of view.
The last thing that has really angered me is something that I find so disgusting and outdated that I am amazed that this still exists. That is the continued illegal practice of fox-hunting. I saw some pictures of Boxing Day hunts that are going ahead in the Twenty-First Century. How in an age of animal conservation and increased animal protection, can we allow these to happen? I fully support Chris Packham, who recently posted on Twitter that it is time that this outdated and horrific way of abusing animals was stopped. I can not get over that anyone could be so arrogant to believe that this is a sport or a necessary way of life in the countryside. Fortunately, there are many ways in which I can channel the energy of my anger and become involved in once and for all, finally relegating this outdated tradition to the past.
I think as a society we tend to believe, as I did until I reached this period of enlightenment, that anger is bad. We shouldn’t show anger and to do so betrays a lack of upbringing and manners. Yet in some ways anger is a very positive emotion, since it shows how strongly we may feel about a cause such as foxhunting or an injustice such as someone misinterpreting someone’s words, or even of an outright incompetency in administrative errors. There is something so liberating about being able to control one’s anger and channel it into something positive. It is also hugely cathartic. When I consider the nature of anger I am always reminded of that poem by William Blake, ‘A Poison Tree.’
I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
Anger needs to be free to express itself. If it is suppressed, and festers within the self, then we risk anger growing into a more terrifying monster, capable of destroying everything in its path such as human love and relationships.
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” said Mark Twain and he is so right in this assumption. There is, however, a distinct difference between anger and losing your temper. Losing one’s temper suggests a lack of control whereas being angry shows passion and commitment. There is a great saying by the frequently quoted writer, William Arthur Ward.
“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers—not excuses.”
I might be experiencing more anger than ever before, but I prefer to see it as a necessary part of becoming older. Like everything in life, moderation of anger is preferable to being permanently angry, as that can only lead to mental health issues and possibly even stress related illnesses. But just a small amount of anger reminds us that we have passion and channelling one’s anger in the right way can, I believe, lead to greater inner strength. If nothing else, it reminds us that we are still very much alive… But whatever you do, then don’t get me started on how the name Brontë is pronounced. What is it with the trend to say Brontay, rather than the correct Brontë? Do people not realise that there is a diaeresis over the ‘e’! Grrrrrrrr!