This issue originally published as A Course for Teachers
Few people associate the term rage with the animal that over the ages has befriended and protected them. Yet, it is the dog from which the word rage comes. According to the Brittanica Dictionary, rage has its roots in the Latin word rabies, which means madness, violent and uncontrolled anger, fury, to be in a tumult, insanity. A rabid dog is insane. It is raging.
Children, especially young infants, use rage as a simple expression to get first their needs met, then their wants satisfied. Who can ignore the shrieks due to hunger or thirst, or want of affection, emanating from a single-minded baby? The child's life literally depends upon its raging. Its rage leads to our sympathy and empathy.
As adults, we seem to possess multi-mindedness. Our minds are seldom at rest. When we are hungry, we may think about food at the same time we concentrate on work. We may forego thoughts of eating in favor of thoughts of work. We might set aside our vocational activities for closeness, comfort or love. Frequently, we are occupied with one task while engaged in other mental activity. There seem to be never-ending ideas vying for attention.
Multi-mindedness is capable of preoccupation with negative thoughts or emotions while performing satisfactorily in our daily obligations. We may stew inside while balancing a checkbook outside. Multi-mindedness can get out of control.
Sages throughout the ages have told us that being mindful of what is happening in the mind, letting this and that activity come and go without attachment, is a step to enlightenment. Many of us practice techniques of producing calmness, peace and serenity. We meditate, exercise, attempt to eat right, etc.
Yet, each of us as adults is familiar with behaving like the raging infant. We know what it is like setting aside all our multi-mindedness for the seemingly survival-related activity of drawing attention, sympathy and empathy from others through our uncontrollable yelling, crying, stomping, and sometimes aggressive behavior.Observation
Is rage necessary? One need only listen to the news for a few moments to recognize that human rage is a daily occurrence: Bosnia, Rwanda, Ireland, Los Angeles. Even the seemingly calmest people sometimes rage.
Parents, at wits end over the awesome task and responsibility of raising children, may rage. What is the connection between frequency and intensity of rage and our personal history of having our early childhood needs met when we raged to get our way? Do people who have had all or most of their child needs met rage less? Is it even possible or desirable to have all of a child's needs met?
It is my observation that I am most prone to rage, to losing it, when I am extremely frustrated. After thinking I have exhausted all options in a given situation, not getting my way, I revert back to the crib. I rage for attention and demand that my needs get met. I suggest that adult rage is anger turned inward toward oneself. In exasperation we project on another the disappointment we have in ourselves at not being able to get, to be, or to control what we want. We allow the ego to cry out for attention. It is not easily ignored. Our rage lets everyone know that our egos are in control.
Rage (aggressive and possibly violent) is the ultimate expression of anger. Since anger is never justified, neither is rage. If, as A Course in Miracles says, anger is an attempt at making another feel guilty, then rage is the ultimate, infantile guilt-tripping. Making someone else feel guilty in order to get what we want is useless.The Continuum of Anger
Some form of anger may manifest itself daily. Psychiatry textbooks reveal that anger runs from annoyance to frustration, then to passivity, aggression and finally rage. The Third Edition of Principles and Practices of Psychiatric Nursing states that, "Rage may result from a long series of frustrating experiences that have depleted the person's coping abilities." In many ways, we are, as a consequence of well-intentioned human providers, damaged goods. To some degree, each of us has a diminished ability to cope with frustration. The extent of the diminution depends upon the frequency, quantity, and quality of our frustrating life experiences.
Our son Dylan's episodes of rage are a concern to us. If we see his behavior as fear, as a response to his medical trauma, we can only sympathize with his frustrating life experiences. Matt Groenig said, "Childhood is hell." We consciously forget or unconsciously sublimate how hellish it was. (This in no way negates the wonders of childhood.)
Regardless of our childhood hell, we are responsible for what happens now. Our parents may have been responsible for some of our problems. We are responsible for all the solutions. Rage is a maladaptive response to life's frustrations including those of childhood.
When we recognize rage about to happen, we may intervene and channel the energy constructively. We find another expression for our anger, one that offers alternatives.
Anger is a complicated issue. We need to accept the right to be angry as well as the right of others to be angry even though anger is never justified. We have a right to be what we are. Wherever we are on our journey we can see it as the continuing first step of our travel. That being said, we can see rage as a maladaptive response and attempt to make others responsible for how we feel while expressing our unmet childhood needs.Angry Me
I am often amazed at the truth in the statement, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." While putting notes together for this issue of A Course for Teachers, and visiting friends, we came across Hiawyn Oram's children's book, Angry Arthur, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura. In the story a child, Arthur, became mad when he was unable to stay up late and watch TV. He became progressively madder. His anger went from a dark cloud and lightning, to hurricane force, typhoon, earthquake and finally universe quake. In the end, Arthur is left alone floating on a chunk of Mars, very far away from everyone. He could not recall why he was angry. Often, neither do we.
As a child, stories were not told to me. Fairy tales were not read. I missed hearing lessons and solutions at an early age. Arthur inevitably recognized his own feelings in his rage. He thought about what happened. He felt the separation from everybody and everything. He chose insanity over peace. He also recognized the calm that follows. As adults we can remind ourselves that this is the case. Sometimes, we do not forget quickly the way Arthur did, as to what made us angry. We can recall that in our previous encounters with rage, with time, we too forget. Often, in the light of calm after the storm, we do not remember the stimulus. Our rage seems like such a dumb response, in retrospect..
Rage is an error. We create insanity when we indulge in self-righteous anger. Because rage is our ego-creation we have difficulty recognizing it as a mistake. We do not easily find error in that which we create. The Course says you love your recreations. "Every response you make to everything you perceive is up to you, because your mind determines your perception of it."
Rage is an ego construct. "The ego arose from the separation, and its continued existence depends on your continuing belief in the separation." Rage is a separation technique. When out of control we, like Arthur, place ourselves on a piece of Mars. Out of sheer exhaustion we may come out of rage only to realize that we don't know why or how we got there. It is as if there is a built-in disassociation from the event as we fall back to the first instinct, survival. However, we cannot rage forever
Another example of the teacher appearing occurred a few days later. While driving home in the rain from a dental appointment, I heard The Speakers Corner on National Public Radio. Vermont being what it is, I struggled to hear the program amidst deep signal fading. The speaker, a woman, was giving a talk to the National Press Club. I listened as she spoke about the four basic instincts: survival, assertiveness, sexuality, return to God. . I am still trying to find out who the speaker was.Time Out
The fourth instinct was described as the return to God. The speaker stated that she teaches her children to recognize "The Will of God." Seen from the context of A Course in Miracles, we let go. We let God. We give ourselves a time out. We catch our breath in order to return to the peace, calm and love that is inherently what we are.
When children are upset, many parents and teachers have them sit in a time-out chair to sort things out. We can give ourselves a time-out when anger accelerates toward rage. It might be useful in preparation for the ego's indulgence in rage to have a plan. We might consider saying a phrase or sentence that we precondition ourselves with. This phrase works well if we are especially prone to raging with people close to us or have family members who rage. A nonsense phrase works well, because it snaps one out of context. In our family, we use a phrase from an old science fiction movie. When one of us is enraged, the other might remind us to take a time-out by whispering or recalling the phrase.Power
No force except your own will is strong enough or worthy enough to guide you." Our will is not the will of the ego. Yet, the ego would have us believe that its will is our own. Its existence, and that of rage, is temporary. While enraged, the ego thrives on that which created it, our willingness to indulge in separation. The Course tells us that, "Its continued existence depends on your continuing belief in the separation.
The Will of God, as many people call it, is the same as the Course's Kingdom of Heaven. In those moments when our phrase might prove useful we can say a short prayer from A Course in Miracles. Page T54 describes this prayer as a declaration of independence:
The power of the ego is directly proportional to our investment in separation from others. True power is freeing. Our ego equates rage with power. The child learns early on that rage brings rewards. By raging, it gets what it wants. We can accept an infant's rage on instinctual grounds. The infant knows no other way.
Attack by anger and rage is a decision to accept the ego's definition of power. It is an insane decision to destroy our peace of mind. We mortgage our peace of mind in return for what we think we want. What we really desire is peace of mind a.k.a. the Kingdom of Heaven, the Return to God.
Many people pray. Prayer is a form of vigilance. We are mindful of the ego's never-ending attempts to influence us. It is as the Course says, desperate. The desperation comes from its recognition that when one is mindful, ego has no chance of existence. If the fourth instinct exists, then it is the return to the Kingdom. Our natural state is the Kingdom of Heaven. It is our inheritance as creations of the universe to naturally dwell there.Life Saving
Sometimes we find ourselves in incredible, drowning suffering, pain or rage. One technique to help return to internal peace is to use Ken Keyes' techniques of consciousness focusing. A Life Saver is a detailed step by step technique involving breathing, mentally and emotionally recreating the events, touching upon basic insecurities, using the idea of key phrases, and reprogramming the mind. It is too extensive to go into detail here. The main points however, are --
Step 1: Exploring the suffering.
We long ago outgrew the need to rage in order to survive. Our multi-mindedness achieved through passage into adulthood provides us with the means to circumvent rage, anger and hostility. Though our thoughts might occasionally revert to rage, another mental activity may recognize that love is what we are. "Love cannot suffer, because it cannot attack. The remembrance of love therefore brings invulnerability with it." Invulnerability is coincidental with completeness. We know nothing unreal can be threatened and that nothing unreal exists. We are not lacking in anything as we have the Peace of the Kingdom within. We are in need of nothing. Thus, there is no reason to rage in order to get what we want. We already have it.
As to the question whether having our childhood needs met influences the frequency and the intensity of adult rage, one can only speculate. Humans run the gamut of childhood needs met and unmet just as they do in frequency and intensity of rage. I believe the question to be a non sequitor. What good does it do to live in the past?
As far as raising children is concerned, much more calm can come to their lives (and ours) if we teach them to return to the Kingdom of Inner Peace rather than dwell on meeting all or most of their needs. In the movie, The Princess Bride, Wesley responds to Buttercup telling her that, "Anyone who tries to tell you that life is fair is trying to sell you something." Life is most fair when we remember to dwell in calmness that is the core within our being.
We can teach children to be wholly joyous. We can show them that anger and rage are illusions in the Kingdom of Inner Peace. We are after all home when we are at peace.Meditation
So when the shoe fits
© 1994 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski