When you feel discredited, disrespected, dismissed, or any other of the dreaded "disses" we can face in life, and you feel your rage rising, it's important to remember the old, familiar, counseling chestnut, "It's never about what it's about." We always have to ask, "What's the thing under the thing?" or "What's the old feeling that feels like a new feeling?" In Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Ain't it the truth! Those of us who at times have to deal with anger bubbling up from deep within (and yes, I include myself), would be well-served to take a moment to look back and search for the "wrongs" we've never fully processed.
How do we process our anger- and resentment-producing history? Look back to when the old disses were first presented to you, by those with power and control, when you had none. Remember them. Feel them. Recall the "strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence" being aroused as before. Back then, you might have had to hide those feelings, or submerge them, or separate yourself from their reality, in order to get along, or to survive. But you don't have to do that now. Now, you can feel those old wrongs. You are safe.
After you've remembered those first disses, it's time to remember the next 100 times you were dissed. And the next 100. And the next. No wonder you're angry that someone cut you off on the freeway, or took credit for your work or idea, or was rude to you! These new instances are just tipping your anger scale. A scale that's been filled up and never dumped. Present circumstances and events that remind you of the extreme power and control differential you lived with for so long seem to call for extreme anger dumping measures. An outburst, a fight, an emotional explosion. but they're really calling for processing of the past. A past that is never past.
One group member was troubled when someone with a nice car took up took up two prime parking spaces (presumably to prevent damage to his or her object of desire). Who hasn't felt incensed at this kind of selfish, antisocial behavior? Why should that so-and-so get two spots, just because he wants one? But really. Isn't the real questions something more like, "Why didn't I get the space I would've liked when I was at home?" Or "Why did I get pushed around by someone who just wanted to?"
The great Reggae legend, Peter Tosh (co-founder of The Wailers, with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer), wrote a song called "Where You Gonna Run" about a world "faced with problems and many illusions." He writes about our disguises in this song, a metaphor for fear and confusion. Why is the world so unfair? so full of wrongs? so frustrating? The answer, of course, is the same for these and the other "why" questions posed earlier. The answer, sadly, is nothing more than a bumper sticker: "Shit Rolls Downhill." It also rolls on through time. People with power and control over you in the past were wronged by people with power and control over their lives in their pasts. And so it goes.
So we don disguises. Our responses to the unfairness. We withdraw into social anxiety. Or we stay in bed. Or we submerge into addictions. Or we get madder and madder. Without really acknowledging why. In the song, Tosh's recommendation as "the only solution" is love, wisdom, and understanding (he uses the patois word "overstanding," to emphasize, elevate, and promote this under-appreciated human quality). But is that really possible? To overcome the unfair wrongs with love?
Some of the people in your past, and in your present, who had the power to hurt you, didn't. They were wronged and didn't pass those wrongs on to you. Why not? Another good question. Did they contain some innate wisdom to lift them above the angry vortex? Fortunately, Mr. Tosh (who was received the ultimate wrong when he was murdered in his prime by a burglar in 1987) has an answer to this conundrum, in the form of another song: "Pick Myself Up." In it, he wants to fly away from his troubles, but he knows he can't. He chooses instead to access his childlike resilience we are all born with. Children would never learn to walk without this resilience. They bounce back. Is love the magical polymer that makes them so springy? And if it is, can we remember how to use it?