How do we deal with rage? There are have several very well known people that have turned to bombs and guns, with horrific success if their goal is to rip apart other people's lives and destroy their own. My mind first wanders to the Columbine shootings, probably because I lived in Colorado at the time, and my brother was one of the first responders. But there are many other instances in which seemingly ordinary people took their inner rage out on other people who they didn't even know. Now there's the most recent events in Arizona.
But this post is not going to be an evaluation of the most recent tragedy -- there are several people who are taking care of that for me. No, this is about inner rage and finding a more positive way to expel it. My brain thought of a new way of dealing about my own rage: picturing a monkey.
The monkey just popped into my head recently as I was fighting to keep calm and collected during an argument with Will. Keep in mind that this was a monkey. Not an ape (a pet peeve of mine, a later blog perhaps). Chimps, gorillas and humans are apes. This was a smaller monkey with a prehensile tail and sharp canine teeth. And boy, was this monkey pissed!
The monkey (no name as of yet) was screaming and hooting and swinging from something. I wasn't picturing anything from which he could swing. He was flinging bananas, tomatoes, and feces. Yes. He was flinging shit. And the angrier I felt with the situation, the louder and more frantic he became. So, I focused on him. I pictured the various fruits and shit flying through my mind. Disappearing into the darkness. The more I thought about him and his rage, the calmer I became (not a reaction that Will was looking for, by the way).
Soon, I found the burning rage wearing out as the monkey wore out from his tantrum. I began to feel better. The anger dissipated, and I could once again focus on what needed to be done at that moment in time. And every time things would start to escalate again, I told myself, "The monkey in my head is screaming," and all would become calm again.
Now, I understand that some people may find this crazy. Especially the shit part (how nasty to have shit thrown about in one's head). Perhaps one could try a different animal. Elephants have great ways of expressing their anger, too. Rampage and stomp on anything in your way! Hiss and arch your back like a cat! I find this option much better than being an ostrich and sticking your head in the sand (do they really do that?), and letting the rage build and build until you feel that you have to go postal.
As a culture, Americans are told that anger is bad, and that it must be swallowed and hidden away. No wonder we have so many problems with digestion and sleep. What if we were to take time in elementary school and let kids know that anger is normal and can be dealt without trying to kill it (or others)?
So, here's my suggestion: next time you feel rage about something, take the time to focus on the anger rather than bury it. Give it a form and let it vent. Maybe this would be a safer and saner world if we all could have screaming monkeys inside.