© Dianne Lancaster | Written June 23, 2016
Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.
~Anonymous Greek Quotation
One is the loneliest number
~Harry Nilsson, 1968
Those Whom the Gods Would Destroy They First Make Mad
In the global psyche, the smell of blood and bullets remains. Although numbers more staggering than 49 have regularly brought together heartbreak and headlines – planes brought down, towns blown up, mass graves discovered, fleeing immigrants drowned – Orlando was a message to our souls. “Surely this is the last before we do something to stop it all,” we thought, hoped, pleaded, and prayed.
That night in June, a mad man – a madman – rampaged in a manner and for a reason that few of us can even comprehend. We do know, however, that the previous killings of children, churchgoers, students, and co-workers have come from the minds of the serially unloved: alone in their reality, their thoughts, their plans, and their being, they keep all that hidden, lest what? They get help? Healing? They discover an option to join humankind, which, in their deranged state, they have only contempt for?
From Norway to Newtown, hindsight has seen the clues. We do not yet know how to sort out the typical loners from the pathological loners; the uninterested from the detached plotters; the unsocial from those too hurting to care and too damaged to plan for anything except destroying. And now, as the world asks again, “Why?” and “How?” without having a solution again, it is to that sad, scary reality – that we do not know what to do – that this writing is dedicated. It may help us recognize, it may help us intervene, it may help us prevent, and it may help us heal.
The Mad, Mad World Is Not A Movie Anymore
Anger is everywhere in our nation, our society and our world. The mass shootings get attention and headlines, but what about the killing streets of Chicago and gang violence across this country every day? What about the babies and children killed by boyfriends, stepmothers, biological parents, and caregivers? What about the children who lie about and hide what happens in their homes? What about the spousal and partner abuse? Elder abuse? The abusive relationships of young people? The sexual assaults we hear about… and the ones we don’t.
Rage is a sickness, a disease, a spiritual crisis, an extreme indication of the extreme experience of UnLove (a Transforming Anger Into Love™ term). It is a buildup of anguish and torment many of us thankfully cannot imagine. But at this point we must at least hold in our consciousness the truth of what IS happening; and then, we must engage our individual and collective thoughts and caring to get something to change. Orlando says “Enough!” But why weren’t Newtown and San Bernardino “enough”? Indeed, what does it take for us as a nation, a humanity, a global community, to change the world for our kids and grandkids if not ourselves?
This writing offers an examination of how and why the buildup of anger into rage occurs and how it can be stopped. More than these few words will be necessary to implement something effective and sustainable, but if enough caring, committed people read enough words and say enough words and take enough actions and inspire enough change… well, it is to that end that this writing speaks, because seriously: “If not us, who? And if not now, when?”
Columbine: A Personal Experience
As I prepared to offer workshops for the Columbine community, I knew the grieving families and community wanted to know how, in a seemingly average, quiet suburb, such a calculated atrocity could occur. And why? By two fellow students who were not particularly noticeable miscreants. They were students who came from families that seemed to fit in; students who themselves seemed to blend with the rites of passage of teenagers typically experimenting with boundaries and changeable self-images.
In my decades of working with clients, offering workshops, presenting at professional conferences, and regularly writing and teaching about managing anger, I had stayed away from the word “rage.” It was difficult enough to get people to talk about and use the word “anger.” But the Columbine shooters were cold calculating killers. Something had stripped away their capacity to care, replacing it with intent and capacity to destroy. “How could that be?” I and many others asked. And thankfully, before the workshops commenced, I had an answer I wanted to offer: that rage can produce the unthinkable because it wholly lacks emotional conscience.
Rage Has No Emotional Conscience
There are significant differences between anger and rage. Anger is a purposeful emotion. The purpose of anger is to create change, principally in the amount of love that is available because anger challenges love to expand. In addition, anger is a proportional emotion. A raised tone of voice is all that is needed sometimes. But if someone is abused or accused, much more anger will emerge to match the incident.
Often in early life, however, a child may use anger as a healthy emotional response and be punished or threatened as a result. In fact, there are many disincentives to expressing anger in early life if the emotional patterns in the family are unloving and abusive. But the child in that type of environment has to do something to survive. So he does whatever it takes to not feel the pain, which requires some type of extreme manipulation of his natural emotions… usually defiantly administered and honed with experiments to test his unfeeling “progress.”
It is rare that a child in such condition matures and is able to replace that intentionally-constructed protective mechanism with an emotional repertoire more functional and authentic: one that attracts love because there is love inside; one that disburses anger because it is appropriate; feels sad when there is loss; and experiences fear when security is at risk.
Emotions that were deemed too vulnerable, so they were walled off in early life, usually remain so. The person matures physically and mentally, but emotions that were sealed for self-protection remain sealed, thus the origin of a crucial component of rage: arrested, unintegrated emotional development… which produces severe emotional immaturity. Even though the person is no longer at the mercy of the original hurtful environment, the need to not feel stays with him. Having experienced emotions as only painful, his mind fiercely clamps onto that reality and overrides his needs for emotional experiences… like love. Love is an unknown, anyway, in his world; and, because any emotion is linked to pain, it is not worth the risk to try to find love (whatever that is).
The maturing emotional person must fit in with the dynamics of life, however, so he watches and memorizes what others do and say and then copies them. With no emotional authenticity underneath, however, the adaptive behaviors are never spontaneous. The rote-like behaviors only follow certain split-second observations and conclusions as to what to say or do. As a result, others’ experiences and descriptions of the person are consistent. “There is something ‘off’,” they realize, and they decide to keep a distance. As a result, the attempt to “fit in” fails.
Emotional Purgatory | Then Rage
Because love is humanity’s emotional response when its needs are met – and because love is humanity’s principal emotional need – a person without love inside can neither attract nor experience love. That produces an emotional purgatory as well as a psychological one.
The stress of having to manipulate oneself every moment of every day in order to figure out what is acceptable to whom and when; the default calculation of having to avoid certain people and situations altogether; all while recovering from a number of ruined interactions and dreading where the next one might appear… it becomes too much.
The person can only guess about what is real, and true. The mind frantically tries to “figure out” how to function, but with no emotional clues resonating from within, the person misjudges frequently: violating others’ boundaries, exceeding ordinary reality, and breaching the limits of what is considered reasonable and “normal.”
The guaranteed frequent rejection is hard to take even though the person pretends otherwise. Time after time, the person’s uncalibrated frustration is unstoppable and undisguisable. The blame is boundless. The twisted thoughts are maddening. The urge for revenge grows palpable. But even if others notice and alarm, no one knows what to do.
There is no 1-800 number to call. No urgent care to walk into for “treatment.” No practitioner on call to capably intervene. No safe way to call attention to the one who is troubled without worrying about the trouble the call might bring upon oneself.
There could be help. There should be help. There should be something inside each parent or friend or co-worker that overrides shame or fear and takes action to help the distressed human. There should be a fierce willing-to-take-a-risk commitment to individual and collective safety and well-being. But that would require significant caring. And courage.
To adequately address the flamethrower-type fury that is now spread across oceans and borders would require several quantum steps, including quantum values shifts and quantum dollars. It would include, for example, a shift in thinking about “mental” health treatment, acknowledging the obvious: that anger as an emotion has not and will not be healed with a mental health approach. In addition, because anger is not a behavior, behavior modification has been and will continue to be inadequate in reaching and healing the depths of anger and abuse.
Because those two most-common approaches are tragically inadequate in treating the causes and prevention of violence and rage, this author suggests that Emotion Modification is needed, as the Transforming Anger Into Love™ model in this book describes.
And Now to Love
This book is, therefore, specifically dedicated to the 49 and the 53 and the countless loved ones impacted by Orlando in hopes of healing the rage. Those of us on the periphery of the Orlando event can do only so much to help what has already happened. But all of us can and must do something to transform the anger, stop the rage, and learn more about how to love. Education isn’t teaching love, religion isn’t creating it, science isn’t replicating it, and pharmaceuticals don’t have a pill for it.
Besides, there are different types of love. Eros love brings unions together; but more marriages is not an answer. Filial is love for family, but learning to love everyone in the supermarket line or rush hour traffic the way we love our family is not an answer. Even agape love, the kind we feel for friends, can’t be uniformly imposed or taught; nor can we teach transpersonal love: the love that wells up for someone we don’t even know, but their hardship or heroism brings forth our love-inspired response… as Orlando has.
As a humanity, we have the capacity to experience and express lots of love. As a citizen, in a nation that is killing its own and has reason to fear more such consequences of its own making – we simply must generate more love. That not only is all we can do. It is actually the most we can do.
For example, we can start by monitoring ourselves, asking: Do I love what I am saying right now? Do I love how I am saying it? Am I in touch with love (which includes respect, patience, compassion, forgiveness) for the person I am interacting with? Those actions are simple and do-able for everyone. We also can focus on healing those situations in our lives that have become unloving, such as:
Love and Family
The hardest healing might be with family members whom we haven’t spoken to in years because of some type of argument, misunderstanding or slight. Yes, the words may have been untruthful. And back then they hurt… for a long time. Back then the betrayal may have seemed unforgivable. But since then, you have changed, grown, matured, and been through a lot that has given you a better understanding of the mistakes people make when angry. Your heart has expanded with the love of friends and family since then, too. And mostly, you have thought about the family, missed them, given thought to getting in touch with them… only to fear you might be rejected. Or be hurt again. Or your anger might flare up all over again.
With your life getting shorter and the world getting messier, isn’t it worth a bit of risk to fill that emotional vacancy in your heart? Aren’t you confident you can be much more mature and understanding and conciliatory now? Wouldn’t you rather reminisce next month on how happy the healing feels, rather than entering the umpteenth month of adjusting your memory to ensure you are “right”?
The love you have forfeited used to be strong. It was protective. It was sincere. And in some ways you knew it was enduring. If it was genuine love (and most family love IS, whether we admit it or not), it still is enduring. It is located right under the ego, hidden a bit behind the personality, and ready to burst forth at the sound of a loving voice from the past. So start the process that brings forth that conversation. BE that loving voice. Bring that loving connection back. It is family. It was the first love you felt, and it is the best love to heal.
Love and Friends
Some of our oldest friends we knew in grade school. Others, high school and college. Then there are the neighbors, co-workers, carpool parents, volunteer partners and fellow workshop participants. Whether there was a falling out or a squeeze in time and priorities, it was important love that we let drift away. It was valuable love. Supportive and understanding perhaps. “Always up for a good lunch and a good laugh” kind of love… hard to forget, and even harder to replace.
You surely have thought about them. You have wondered about their kids and careers, and no doubt they have had the same interest in you and yours. Who else can bring up such warm memories? Where else can you get the full story of what was going on with mutual friends back then? When could there possibly be a better time to reach out and reconnect? And why wouldn’t you? Fear of rejection? Oh, no! Then re-read the previous section. Love doesn’t reject. It longs to expand. That is its purpose!
After all, these are challenging times. Earth is a difficult planet to navigate even when we have a lot of love in our life. When there is more love to add – which is the topic of this writing – we create a new emptiness in our heart if we only think about lost love, remember it, and then cast it aside like we do so many other positive opportunities. We all need all the love we can possibly experience. Love remembered, so that it can be rekindled, brings new joy to the heart. It’s time. The love is waiting.
Love and Co-workers, Acquaintances and Others Not So Close
Why these folks, you ask? Because the people who added to your experience of love and helped you learn about love during developmental times served an important role. You watched and learned how to navigate someone who was nice but they talked too much… a valuable skill as you moved up the corporate ranks. When you became a parent, you recognized certain wisdom you had learned from the barber. The patience of the manager at a tire store inspired an apology to your spouse as soon as you got home. The guilt you felt after berating a customer service representative made you realize you do that too often… and thanks to that person, you pay better attention when your impatience begins to rise. Now you work on being more understanding… even with those for whom English seems to be a fourth language. “After all, it’s a tough job,” you say to yourself in place of spewing abusive, condescending words.
You could thank these kinds of folks for their teaching, their friendship, and maybe even find out how much you contributed to them, too. The neighbor who always had the right tools and the right fix-it skills… you may have later realized he was a dad-substitute at a difficult time in your life. It will feel good to reach out and let him know he was important, he was helpful, he was a role model, and you are a much better parent and partner as a result.
The elderly woman who brought way-too-sweet fruitcake for the holidays; the mom who helped with playdates when you were desperately looking for a job; the seamstress who worked on Sunday just to get your child’s dress ready for a wedding…. These are types of people who mattered, people you were grateful for, people who had love and kindness to offer unconditionally.
To increase your experience of love, you don’t necessarily have to locate them. That is ideal, but it also works to set aside special moments to recall the love, and to review all the components of such special, meaningful interactions… with gratitude.
Gratitude is an automatic outcome of love. It can’t be forced, but neither must it be denied. It is part of healing, and maturing, and it is celebrated most when it is expressed. As you contemplate the guidelines this writing suggests, allow your own self-love to recall the ways your own unconditional love has made a difference in others’ lives. Rejoice in that love. And then, look for new ways to be loving right now. Tell others of your new “be loving” plan, encourage them to plan the same, and exchange your creative ideas and successes.
If you want to stretch yourself, create a way to interact with types of people you don’t know very well: minorities, people with disabilities, families in safe houses, homeless people who used to hold jobs instead of cardboard signs, veterans left with IEDs (implosive emotional devices) due to battlefield IEDs. All of those individuals are part of our culture. They are part of our nation. They are part of our humanity. They can teach us a lot and offer a lot if we simply let them expand our relationship with love.
But I Can’t Stand…
Gay people? Black people? Asians? Latinos? Muslims? Hindus? Bikers? Republicans? Volvo drivers? Jews? Gamers? Homeless people? Body-pierced people? Texans? Hillary? Car salespeople? Astrologers? Immigrants? 1%-ers? Baptists? Fitness buffs? Trump? Scientologists? Cat Owners? Lawyers? Food stamp users? Gun owners? Vegetarians? Seniors? 7-Eleven employees? Hunters? Bernie? Obese people? Foreigners? Disabled people? Police? Unattractive people? Renters? Tattooed people? Native Americans? Unmarried parents? Bodybuilders? And ( ? fill in the blank ? ) people?
And With That Much Hate…
If any such hate and judgment and bias resides inside you, do all you can – for yourself and the world – to reflect on what you feel and why, and then apply that same amount of energy to examining why and how to relate to people as individuals instead of as categories. If you know very few (or no) people in the categories you reject, you not only live with a painful “Me versus Them” divide continually roiling within you; you also are adding to a nation-wide divide: one that is pulled between love and peaceful, inclusive, supportive co-existence – and anger, divisiveness, suspicion, and revenge.
This book is written to inspire change, to summon courage, to release untapped potential, and to dismantle rage… all with the power and principles of Transforming Anger Into Love™.
The future is in our hands.
Let’s do something with it.
©Dianne Lancaster, June 23, 2016
- One is the Loneliest Number
- Those Whom the Gods Would Destroy They First Make Mad
- The Mad, Mad World Is Not A Movie Anymore
- Columbine: A Personal Experience
- Rage Has No Emotional Conscience
- Emotional Purgatory | Then Rage
- And Now To Love
- Love and Family
- Love and Friends
- Love and Co-workers, Acquaintances and Others Not So Close
- But I Can’t Stand…
- And With That Much Hate
- The Future Is In Our Hands
- To Help Us Heal: Transforming Anger Into Love™
- Emotional Wellness Creed
- How These Guidelines Can Help
- Twelve Principles of Anger Management
- Overview of the Four Basic Emotions
- Love: The Enduring Emotion
- Anger: Misunderstood and Misused
- Fear: What We Fear and Why
- Sadness: It Has a Message
- Stages and Progressions of Emotional Dysfunction
- Return to Love
- Seduction, Exploitation and Abandonment: Why Relationships Fail
- Love and Needs
- You Can Get What You Want When You Have What You Need
- Hidden Symptoms of Anger
- The Hidden Power of Love
- Symptoms and Causes of Anger in the Workplace
- Identifying and Reducing Anger in the Workplace
- 82 Ways To Show Kids You Care
- To Love Your Kids | Love Your Self
- About the Author