The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things
by Hieronymus Bosch
with anger at bottom of circle.
Last week, I shared with you what an exceptional listener the second Dayton psychiatrist was. I also wrote about my feelings toward my mother. I plan on writing more about that, but for today, let’s stay with Dr. C. I remember four things he said that startled me and yet continue to help me. Here’s number one.
Sometime in the fall of 1967, after I’d talked about how I’d responded with a silent treatment when someone criticized me, Dr. C said, “Dee, you’re the angriest woman I’ve ever had as a client.”
Angry? Me? I never shouted. I never even raised my voice. I never told anyone what I felt when something had been said that hurt my feelings. And I'd been very rational, very reasonable when talking about my mom and dad. Surely these were traits of a peace-loving person. Maybe a saint.
I mention saint because upon entering the convent, I set out to become one. Throughout life, I’d sought love so no one would ever again desert me. If others saw me as a saint, they’d surely love me. Who could resist loving a saint? Who’d abandon a saint?
I protested. “I’m not angry. I don’t yell.”
“You are angry. You’ve suppressed it for years.”
“Pushed it down inside yourself. When we suppress anger, we dam it up.”
“You think I’ve done that?”
“What do I do that’s so angry? I don’t hit people or say unkind things.”
“It’s more passive than that, Dee. You walk away from confrontation. You avoid people who’ve displeased you or criticized you. You hold it in, afraid of losing others’ respect and love. It’s passive, but it’s still anger.”
“No one's ever said I was angry.”
“You’re a great suppressor, Dee. You’ve dammed your anger all your life. But ultimately, it’s going to swamp you if you don’t learn to channel it.”
“Anger’s one of the seven deadly sins.”
“Yes,” he agreed, “anger can be deadly. But it’s all in the way we express and use our anger.”
“I don't get it.”
“Think about it. There’s a righteous anger about injustice. But even that needs to be channeled.”
“I don’t understand this ‘channeling.’ I’ve been taught that feeling and expressing anger is wrong.”
“Emotions aren’t right or wrong, Dee. They just are. We get into right and wrong when we talk about the way we express them. Whether we do it hurtfully. And when we suppress as you have, we end up hurting ourselves pretty deeply. I see before me a time bomb.”
“You’re saying I’m so angry I could explode?”
“Yes. One day you won’t be able to suppress the anger any longer. You’ll either explode at someone or your health will suffer. You need to deal with this.”
“What do I do?”
“It’s what we can do.” I must have looked confused, for he continued. “Together we’ll find ways for you to channel your anger. To express it in a way that won’t hurt someone else or yourself.”
So we began. I came to understand that feeling anger wasn’t wrong and wasn’t hurtful. That expressing it in an unhealthy way by word or deed was.
He helped me realize that letting people know what I was feeling was a more honest way to live.
It took years for me to learn how to channel anger and how to be honest with others when something they said or did hurt my feelings or seemed out of line or invaded my boundaries.
And the truth is that my journey toward embracing peace within and without continues. Peace.
Visiting with a friend with whom I've always tried to be honest.
Two years before beginning this blog.