Anger as soon as fed is dead-
’tis starving makes it fat.
~ Emily Dickinson
I’ve done a lot of thinking about anger since my post written during the weekend ILADS was holding its conference. In particular, the difference between constructive and destructive anger keeps coming up for me. I received my first hate mail after that post, in addition to many letters of agreement. The thrust of the anger directed at me had to do with my criticizing doctors who validate the illness and offer up a hope for cure. In contrast, anger in the CFS community is seen currently as a positive force for change, as it was in the days of HIV. CFS patients are more jaded due to having had a syndrome without a known etiology for years or decades, thus precluding meaningful treatment.
For me, for many of us, it will be a race to the finish to deal with all of the anger and loss. In the Lyme community they call it Lyme rage, though anger is only one of the emotions that lives closer to the surface than it used to. Anger is one of the most difficult feelings to receive constructively. It shuts people down. It is often better in terms of outcome to let it pass through without action. But anger fuels the flames of political change also. Another lesson of HIV. The trick is to turn the anger into constructive action, rather than letting it fester or become vengeful. Properly channeled, it has the potential to be redemptive, rather than destructive to the person experiencing it and those closest to them. For the sake of personal emotional and physiological health, it is essential to forgive those who deserve to be forgiven and release thoughts of those who don’t, in favor of specific constructive action. A willingness to reconsider the mistakes of the past in light of new information is a trait that makes someone worthy of forgiveness.