"[Anger] diverts one’s thoughts from the real problem to something in the past that cannot be changed. It makes one think that progress will have been made if the betrayer suffers, when, in reality, this does nothing to solve the real problem. It eats up the personality..., it impedes useful introspection. It becomes its own project.... Far from being required in order to shore up one’s own self-respect, anger actually impedes the assertion of self-respect in worthwhile actions and a meaningful life.~Martha Nussbaum, philosopher
Anger. To those of us following the news, it seems the world is fuelled by it. And why not? There's plenty to be angry about. An economy that, even with figures that show it improving, has left many behind. A rapidly shifting world that requires us to shift with it or wither. A news cycle that churns out many dozens of stories daily, each capable of inspiring outrage, from garden-variety mud-slinging among politicians to a recognition that the world holds little hope for so many displaced or forgotten or just unlucky people who, let's be honest, aren't so different from us.I've watched with helpless horror as anger has burned hotter in recent months. And I saw it again on another infidelity site that occasionally takes pot-shots at this one. And as I read comment after comment that gleefully detailed cheaters' various flaws and the lunacy of those of us willing to consider reconciliation (or, as I prefer, rebuilding, which is far more indicative of the hard work involved) as a viable post-infidelity path, I wondered, briefly, if I was the crazy one. Anger, after all, is so easy. There's righteousness in anger, beautifully articulated in that anthem of the betrayed, Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats". It would be a whole helluva lot of fun to kick the shit out of someone's "pretty little souped up four-wheel drive". It can feel good to unleash on the idiot who cheated on us, to catalogue the myriad ways in which he's a no-good loser that we unwittingly chose for, well, why exactly? No matter. We wipe our hands of him. Onward!Anger can feel like power. And I've written before that it can be empowering. If anger is channelled to give you the strength to create boundaries for yourself, to refuse to be disrespected, to wake you up just how deeply you've lost yourself in a desire to be loved or secure, then that's a good thing.Just don't confuse it with moving on.As Nussbaum warns us, anger can become its own project. It can feel so intoxicating that we stoke it constantly. We tell our story, gathering fuel from others' outrage, over and over and over. I entirely support the desire and the need to tell our stories – it's how we process trauma and is crucial to our healing. It's just...at a certain point the hero of our story – us – needs to stop cataloguing the wrongs done to us, stop relishing the myriad ways in which karma is going to kick the wrongdoers' butts, and move into our own transformation. What happened to us is not the whole story. It can't be the whole story if we are to create a life in which we are not simply a victim. The thing with those who traffic in anger – the Trump-like authoritarians who need us to stay angry because their power is built on it – is that victimhood IS the story. There is no transformation. There is only me vs. him. Introspection? That's for idiots, the ones who think that reconciliation is possible. Far better to stay focussed on the crime. The easier to maintain our anger.And yet, as Nussbaum says in characteristic understatement, introspection can be "useful". I would take it further and say that introspection is necessary. Not introspection as self-blame but introspection as in "what role did I play in keeping myself stuck?" Or "were there ways in which I betrayed myself?" Or "how do I create the life I want either with or without my partner?" You might find yourself angry with yourself because you can see the times you let yourself down, disrespected your own boundaries (or lacked them altogether), didn't keep yourself safe, ignored your intuition. That sort of anger can fuel a transformation in yourself. It can inspire you to fight for yourself more than for your marriage. It can lead to a declaration of self-respect and self-love even while working to acknowledge and address our own flaws.Its probably not nearly as fun as focussing your fury (and your baseball bat) on a cheater's truck.But far more likely to take us where we want to go.