Seeing Red

In The Dark Calling, book six in the Arcana Chronicles, Kresley Cole tells us, “Rage is a type of madness.”  And that it might also be an incurable disease.  Hmmm….

Normally, I avoid young adult or new adult stories;  too much angst and not enough sex. Add to that my typical avoidance of apocalyptic books and those with love triangles, and the Arcana series would normally be relegated to my top three Greatest Miss List. But I’m a sucker for Kresley Cole. I would read toilet paper if she wrote on it.  But, I’m hooked on the Arcana Chronicles. All hail Tar O! Also, there’s only one book left (which I’m sure will take at least another year to come out, dammit!) so I gotta find out how it ends. 

Back to rage. I have some. I used to have more. It scares me. It scares others.

Rage is a kissing cousin of anger, or maybe I should say a kicking cousin. Anger is a useful emotion; it can call us to action or activate our willingness to fight or fight back. Anger burns bright and usually clean, in my experience. In many instances, anger clarifies my thinking and allows me to see and say things that need to be seen and heard. Anger may be born of annoyance or irritation, impatience or frustration when they’ve reached their tipping point. 

Of course, we can also say and do things in anger that we don’t mean, or if we do, wish we hadn’t expressed. Anger can act like wine and loosen our tongues to the point where we are able to speak a truth that we would never have uttered without the help of liquid courage. In the same way, I’ve perseverated over major offenses and even repeated slights to the point where I work up the wherewithal to strike back or just defend myself. 

For me, this kind of anger is healthy and justified and sometimes necessary. But then we have a nomenclature problem. We talk about someone having “anger management” issues or needing therapy to manage their madness. But that kind of anger is misrepresented. If someone needs help managing their aggressive tendencies, or if their emotions may be correctly characterized as madness, then we’re talking rage, not anger. 

Because Kresley Cole is right; rage is a kind of madness. It grabs and consumes us and spits us out the other end, if it does so at all, chewed up and mangled, sometimes beyond all recognition. Rage is the hottest of fires, that which burns without discrimination and with an intent to destroy. Anger is a controlled burn, often set to preserve something greater. Rage is wild fire, out of control and annihilating everything in its wake. 

I used to be filled with rage. The depth and strength of my rage felt bottomless. I knew it was there, or at least part of me did. I knew that coiled deep in my belly was a lifetime’s worth of feeling helpless and victimized by my mother, neglected by my father, made fun of by my peers and generally ignored by the rest of the world. I had no means of venting any of these feelings so they grew and grew, until the only way to keep them bottled up was to stuff them down with excess food and then throw it up to avoid the consequences of my actions, which led to shame and guilt, which were more strong emotions that got stuffed down with the rest of what I was incapable of facing. It was the most vicious of cycles. 

At some level, the same one that knew that these feelings were wreaking havoc with my psyche, I was terrified of releasing the Kracken. I was sure that once given space to expand, my rage would consume if not the world, then at least my soul, my very essence. There was a part of me that identified completely with my rage. I was sure that once freed, I would no longer be recognizable but instead would be a hellion or harpy or raging, uncontrollable bitch. And given that I had a healthy respect for my ability to cause chaos, I was positive I would be most effective in my destructive tendencies and that no one would ever love me again. 

This is how our minds, or at least the damaged parts, talk to us. Our fear whispers, “You cannot survive the storm.”  And we believe it. We believe the lies we repeat ad nauseam. What we should say to our fear, instead, is, “Fuck you, I am the storm.”  Because it’s true. We can survive. We can survive our fear and our rage. Most of the time. 

When we are in Rage’s maddening grip we feel like we’re not ourselves. For me, I understand the term “seeing red,” and in so seeing, I see nothing else. I’ve felt my control snap completely while the most outrageous things fly out of my mouth. And if you know me and the precarious nature of the hold I have on what little filter modulates my speech, you know that’s saying something indeed. 

Being in the midst of rage is no fun. Not for me, and not for you, if my wrath is pointed your way. Thankfully, the only one who’s ever incited me to crimson vision is my dearly departed mother. I had to write letters of apology on at least two occasions for the nastiness I spewed. Once, I had to take a year-long hiatus from seeing or speaking to her to process my rage to the point where I could control it.

And it worked. I realized that I could control my urge to spew, and I could work through that which caused me to explode in the first place. The key to rage, for me, is to give it the space and attention it craves, and look at each piece of the puzzle to see where the triggers from our past lurk and activate them safely instead of whenever they decide to surface. 

Thankfully, my rage has dissipated. I still get plenty angry, but the frightening prospect of being a berserker wannabe is now in my rearview mirror, along with my mother. Someone once told me that it makes sense that our parents push our buttons as easily as they do. They created them, after all. So, there’s an upside to being an orphan. And I’m grateful to have exorcised my demons before my parents’ demise. All good here. 

But I can relate to my beloved fictional friends’ emotions, particularly the virulent ones. Reading about them, and everything else in my beloved books soothes the savage beast inside me.