The Motif of Anger

In my post A Baker’s Dozen, I listed my book’s series, or repeating patterns. Last week I talked about the motif of Scrap. Today the subject is Anger.

The thread of anger that is sewn through my story is often my father’s anger, but anger tends to spark anger, so I have had plenty of my own.

A famous quote by William Blake about anger goes like this:

I was angry with my friend:

I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

I was angry with my foe:

I told it not, my wrath did grow.

What I take from these lines is that if we express our negative emotions, they can’t grow inside of us.

Writing has that same effect. I find that when I write about something difficult or emotional, once I finish the piece I am writing, I am relieved of the burden of the negativity.

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When you’re angry, do you find that writing or expressing yourself artistically helps? Or do you confront the person you’re angry with?

No point in photoshopping Tiger’s angry eyes


Filed under Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals

44 responses to “The Motif of Anger

  1. What a cute angry Tiger.

  2. If it is an old anger, and I don’t even see the person anymore, my anger has little heat and dissipates easily.

    • WJ, I sort of know what you mean because I find myself often just not staying angry long at all. But if it’s an old anger how can you still feel it unless it’s still there? Does that make sense? It’s usually the new angers that dissipate for me, I think.

      • Suppose I recall an ill turn someone did me. I remember that it made me angry and that memory has a mild feeling of anger, and I can’t (and don’t want to) get excited about. I usually pity the person or wonder what my part was in the bad happening. Human relations are complex. The older I get, the less angry I get. This is one of the benefits of aging.

  3. I tend to be a non-confrontational person, so I prefer to write if I’m angry.

  4. It all depends for me…if it is with someone I’m close to, then I will express my anger because I think it’s important to be honest in order to maintain intimacy. If it’s with someone I don’t know very well or a co-worker, I tend to let it go if it’s minor and I may use that in my writing.

    • Faith, you make a great point about maintaining intimacy. It’s true that not letting someone close know they’ve angered you can lead to building a wall that has disastrous consequences.

  5. When I’m angry, I usually think and stew and try to work through it. If I’m angry about a short-term thing, like tripping over the dog’s leash, I try to remind myself it’s not the dog’s fault, take a deep breath, think about something else and get over it. Anger can be a dangerous, harmful, and usually wasted emotion.

    • I think anger can be used in positive ways, but that can take some time and distance. Mainly it’s very harmful, to the person who is angry and to others close to that person.

  6. Absolutely! Writing helps me work through most things, actually. I like The Work by Byron Katie – she is very new-agey but her process for writing down judgments against others and then turning them around to discover how they are actually just as much judgments against yourself is really interesting and insightful.

    • I like your suggestion. I have a book by her, but haven’t really done more than dip into it. What a great idea to see how much the judgment is against yourself. Fascinating. That would lead me to speculate that maybe the most judgmental people are the most unhappy with themselves?

  7. Writing it out suits me. I don’t handle confrontation well and try to avoid it.
    What’s “left” behind probably isn’t anger as I forgive. What’s left is sadness that someone else didn’t care enough to notice or care.

    • I don’t handle confrontation well either, although I’m a master at it with my husband ;). But it all started with my father and my inability to have an argument with him without it being a disaster. I know what you mean about sadness replacing anger. Very well put, Lynne. I empathize with you!

      • I have to jump into this conversation because you’ve touched on something I feel strongly about. I think it’s really important for people to be able to talk about their problems or the situation that is causing the strife. You can’t do it well when you’re angry, but after your blood pressure goes back to normal, it’s good to be able to talk about what went wrong and then work through it with give and take (mostly give). So many people can’t or won’t talk about problems and then the problems fester and grow and leave bad feelings, sometimes forever.

        • Anneli, I know what you mean about people holding things in to that degree. I do wonder, though, what in their lives caused them to feel that they have to. It takes a lot of trauma to build thick walls. Maybe I am imagining that everyone who refuses to talk about problems or anger was shaped that way. Maybe some people are that way naturally? Or very private? But as Faith (above) mentions it’s necessary to talk about anger to maintain intimacy.

          • Yes, if you care about having a relationship with the person then you can’t pack around anger. Also, if you have a disagreement and don’t resolve it at least to the point where you can say, “Okay, let’s agree to disagree,” you could end up packing around resentment which is an ugly sentiment in itself. It’s a different thing for anger that doesn’t involve people you care about. That kind of anger is easier to let go of and you can tell yourself, “What will it matter ten years from now?”

            • That’s the kind of anger I see my husband harboring. He doesn’t stay angry long with people, but he’s angry about the loss of small business (deeper than that, but that’s the nutshell version) and he can’t get over it.

              • It takes years of practice to work through ways of coping. I picked up a lot of tips by sitting in on workshops of school counselors. The methods they used when working with kids were ones I introduced at home and have helped me a lot ever since.

  8. I am the mistress of repression but when I find the courage to write about what angers me I find it helps release it. Most of the time it’s very hard to put into words.

    • Why is it hard to put it into words? Or should I say, what in particular about it is hard to put into words? I’m not trying to pry, S, just trying to figure out what the “block” is.

  9. This is not black and white for me. Sometimes if I express my anger on paper it calms me; other times it fuels it.The problem is that I haven’t yet figured out when if fuels and when it calms…:.

    • Carol, that is quite the dilemma! Does it have anything to do with the timing? In other words, if you write too soon does it fuel the anger? But if you let it go until it’s time, then it calms you? Just wondering because I suspect that’s how it is for me. Or is it who is involved?

  10. I have written to someone, when angry and when I feel not sure how they will react. Saying things like, “When you did this, it upset me” or “Whether you know it or not, when you say things like… (example)… it makes me feel bad.” Usually my anger is because someone unexpectedly hurts me. It is sometimes about my own lack of self esteem, sometimes it is not even intentional. I find by writing, I get better results than using my voice, which can be raised when heated up. This usually inactivates the listener, due to their past being able to ‘tune out’ yelling. I actually use an excited voice, sometimes too often. It distracts from the message I wish to impart. I carry hurts longer than I carry anger. I forgive when I think the other one is really sorry for their actions or words. I also apologize if I misconstrued their intentions, Luanne.

    • Oh, I completely “get” that about the excited voice. That’s one of the reasons I never liked to argue with my parents or brother–I get too upset and sound too excitable. Then I get a rash. So in those cases, it is better to write to them. Do you feel that you’re a sensitive person who is easily hurt by others? Because you seem sensitive to the feelings of others, Robin, which means that you are always conscious.

      • I think the positive side of being sensitive is that I do feel others’ pain, too. I like that idea of saying I am always “conscious.’ That is an excellent interpretation, Luanne. Thanks so much for that! I like that you also feel when you are upset, that you may sound too loud. Really sometimes, it is more excitement or expressiveness, than anger. My louder tone of voice, caused me to have to see Bill only once a month, the one I blog about a lot, since he refuses to see that I am not personally ‘attacking’ him, with my loud voice! It is funny, though, in my observations with my two brothers, who are also ones that learned to ‘debate’ as youngsters, my parents thought this was a good trait to have, Bill never gets upset with their louder voices, Luanne!

  11. When I get angry, it usually doesn’t have all that much to do with the other person. What I try to do (not always at once, and not always successfully) is to find the hook in myself: Why am I so pissed off? Why can’t I let this go? And that can be great fuel for writing, both fiction and nonfiction.

    • Susanna, looking into why I am so angry is a great idea. I don’t think I was ever able to do that with my father until I started writing creative nonfiction. I’ve had to examine myself more and focus less on him, whereas in the past I always obsessed over my father, his anger, and his actions. Love what you say about this internal search being great fuel for writing!

  12. I don’t like confrontation and usually end up crying if I express my anger, which doesn’t help! I tend to have angry conversations with people in my head, which doesn’t help either as it winds me up more. I don’t think I’ve ever really tried writing the anger down, maybe that’s something I should explore…

    • Don’t you hate that when you cry when you’re mad? It’s so frustrating! I find it really helpful to write it down unless it’s too soon and then I just inflame the whole thing.

  13. oh where to begin Luanne! I have gone from someone who used to simmer and boil on the inside very quietly like a black pot on a hot plate to someone who learned that holding on to negative feelings leads to all kinds of physical ailments and spiritual darkness. The root of anger is ‘fear’ usually the fear that we are not ‘good enough’ in some way or that we don’t measure up. (Susanna’s earlier comment is spot on) Years of therapy etc and meditation taught me that 😀 and yes, writing out negative feelings has helped.

    • It’s so interesting that you say that the root of anger is fear. While the anger visited upon me as a kid led to my own fears, now that you say that, I do think that my father’s anger came from fear. Of course, a child can’t possibly understand that and it wouldn’t help anyway. I love hearing how you’ve been able to overcome so much of this, Yolanda. That in itself is so inspirational.

  14. Ahh…what a cutie Tiger is. He could be shooting laser lights out of those beautiful eyes of his, haha 😉 I find writing the anger out is definitely the way for me. I’ve often done that and then not even sent the letter/email or whatever as I can’t bear the confrontation but I’ve felt much better after the writing of it…

    • Hehe, Tiger is a girl. I know, silly name for a girl. My son gave her that name for some reason. I usually call her Tiggy Winkle or Tiger Queenie Princess Mimi Josefina. Or Tiges with a long I. She answers to all of those.
      I’ve done that before! Written a long letter venting, then destroyed it!

      • Ahh…sorry about that! But I did have to laugh at all your names for Tiger, which is a beautiful name so your son did well! We do the same with both our cats, in fact my daughter drew up a list the other day of all the names our cats answer to…Maisy, just for starters, answers to Bibbs, Missoo and Amaze Maize and Eddy (named by middle son after the mascot for Iron Maiden) answers mostly to Boy! Funny isn’t it? 😉

        • Maisy is such a pretty name! It’s so funny what we call them! My Mac (the oldest of my cats) got this name when he was young: monkeybunnyratowlpig. I also call him Mackie Man and Handsome Man. hahaha And Pear Blossom has a different name she also goes by: Jellicle Jill.

  15. Writing definitely helps sort out so many emotions from me: happiness, sadness, anger, sorrow and joy. I work out the negative emotions and honor the positive feelings by memorializing them.

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