Monday, November 5, 2018

Anger, the mask of fear (Chuck Lorre)


Appearing on CBS’s Sunday Morning, yesterday, Chuck Lorre, the creator of The Big Bang Theory, uttered words that merit echoing reverberating, vibrating and pulsating across the globe. Commenting on his reputation of being “quick to anger” Lorre said:

But fear for me exhibits as anger," Lorre said. "'Cause I'm not gonna show you fear. I'm gonna show you anger because that's just how I grew up. And that's what you present to the world. And that maybe becomes your reputation." 

Men, for decades have been stereotyped as “angry” in a judgemental interpretation of something we are not (also stereotypically) permitted to show, vulnerability of any kind, and that includes “fear”. Identifying with Lorre, along with millions of other males, I am confident that if we peel back the layers of emotion that erupt when we display anger, will we undoubtedly discover that at its root is our deepest fear.
A bill is overdue, and we raise our voice in “anger” because we fear that our credit rating will be eroded.
A situation is so inhumane, so degrading and so demeaning that we shout, “I cannot take this any more!” at three a.m. into a phone to the head office of our community development organization, because we fear for the loss of our sanity.
A relationship founders on pettiness, into which net we become enmeshed, and our anger erupts because we fear the loss of the relationship into which we have already invested years of commitment.

A penetrating insult crosses the table at an elegant restaurant, and we immediately go silent, this time in disappointment and ultimately fear, although we are unable  to grasp the significance of that emotional element at the moment. Instantly, we feel hurt, and only later, upon reflection are we able to discern our anger that someone we previously believed was trustworthy and “safe” has betrayed that previous trust. And then the fullness of the implications of the biting criticism unfolds into the “fear” that somehow both partners in that other relationship do not share a common acceptance and support of the relationship we have with one of them.

A family member forwards an email forbidding further contact on the pretext that the initial overture to build a bridge over the many degrees of separation was merely a manipulation on some other issue, to compel their joining a conspiracy completely and totally unimagined. And we become enraged because we fear that, not only will the bridge never be begin, but the reality being characterized as a conspirator undermines an identity, and additional relationships.

While tidying up an estate, a family member proffers an item, as an act of apparent kindness and generosity, only to discover that a similar item, of far greater significance and value has already been placed on the pile of her “inheritance” and anger erupts in the veins, not because the original offer was so desired or desireable, but because the blatant narcissism and hypocrisy of the “offer”  seriously erode previous placed trust in the family member. And the “fear” that is operative is that of shame that a family member is so blatantly crass and opportunistic.

When confronted by a former colleague who has become aware of a rift in the relationship and who wants to seek revenge for the rift by offering, “put all your arguments on the table and I will combat each of them”….only to hear from my voice, “For God’s sake, this is not about winning an argument; it is about trust, and I no longer trust you!” Anger, then, is the fear that a long-standing professional relationship was all along really hollow, vapid and based exclusively on power, essentially exposing the emptiness of any previous perception of collegiality, and the innocence and naivety of my perspective.

All experiences of loss of innocence, it would seem, fall into a similar experience category, exposing anger both at the other and ultimately at the self, for having been so trusting, so naïve and so “uncanny”. And the anger (read fear) can at times be overwhelming.

Near death a very elderly woman declares to her daughter, “Your brother would never have care for me as you have!” in a deeply penetrating statement of anger and resentment. Obviously fearful that long ago, without perhaps fully grasping the import, she had already shredded the relationship with the brother, her son, and had been extremely jealous of the time spent by the brother/son during the father’s palliative stage prior to his death. Now, near the end of her own life, she feels free to utter her vindictive truth.

Projections, too, carry the weight of deep and profound anger, coming as they do from our unconscious, as we portray our individual Shadow, the storage vault for our deepest fears. And, it is not incidental to wonder how the contemporary culture would shift if what we hear as anger were to be recognized as fear. The angry “cover-up” is so much more destructive, not to mention demeaning, and so regularly dismissed as unprofessional, when, recognizing it as fear would connote a very different meaning, prompt a very different response and attitude.

Think of the workplaces that have literally sanitized “anger” from their premises, in all forms. Would they be so eager and determined to spend the same dollars, energy, policy-writing and enforcing efforts if they came to the position Lorre already has, that the anger they witness is much more likely a deep expression of fear? Would the corporate establishment that governs these large organizations, including governments and social agencies, be so quick to outlaw all expressions of anger if they came to the realization that most, if not all of the anger were really a cover-up for fear, both superficial and deep-seated?

Another question, “Is anger a trait more fundamental and basic to the DNA of the male species, as compared with the female? How far removed from the Lorre perspective is the women’s movement that anger is really an expression of repressed, vaulted and hidden, fear?

And as the public discourse becomes replete with anger, on all sides on all issues, are we ready to listen to Lorre’s personal story, that he is not “going to show you fear” but resorts to anger instead, and pays the price of an angry reputation?
Trump incarnates the same deep and profound fear(s) and covers it/them with his persistent anger, obviously riding a wave of similarly repressed fear, screamed out as anger over anything and everything from his frightened cult.

Entertaining this anger may be; it is certainly is not illuminating of anything resembling a serious public debate about the issues, their implications and their gasping voracious appetite for address. And if the most “powerful” nation on earth is drowning in the anger of its public “leaders” (while masking both personal and national fear) can the rest of us trust any crumb of hope for creative, responsible collaborative and pro-active resolutions to the serious problems of race, military conflict, environmental protection, immigration, and income disparity?

In a word, NO!

And that NO expresses both fear and anger, on the part of this scribe!  

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