I’d read this section of A Course in Miracles dozens of times before I noticed the explicit connection it draws between fear and anger. This is important to me because – as I’ve noted before – anger is one of my “issues.” It comes up a lot – less than it used to, but still. About three months ago I realized that every time I was angry, I was responding to fear. Today I read this section and thought – oh, so that’s where I learned it.
I’ve pretty much covered anger as much I need to, but I do want to pick up on a couple of ideas in this text that feel helpful. The first is that the course is clear that anger is never justified. It doesn’t say so explicitly, but it’s hard to draw any other conclusion from this line:
You cannot be attacked, attack has no justification, and you are responsible for what you believe (T-6.In.1:7).
I’ve talked to therapists and read books where anger is given useful credence. Well, it helps you discern your boundaries. It’s your ally telling you that something’s wrong. And so forth. Without in any way denigrating those ideas – which I stipulate can be very helpful – I really appreciate the clarity the course brings to this issue. When I am angry, I have allowed myself to believe three insane ideas: that what I am can be attacked, that I deserve that attack and have a right to counterattack, and that I am not responsible for the two prior conclusions.
If the course does anything, it returns to us responsibility for our lives. The problem isn’t out there – it’s in my mind and I am responsible for allowing the Holy Spirit to heal it. Period. We can take that or leave it, of course. The course is not for everyone. But increasingly I am aware of the zero sum nature of its belief system. If we’ll follow it, we’ll reap the benefits. Hedge just a little and all you’ll do is spin your wheels.
Why the focus on anger in the introduction? I think because for many of us it is a familiar emotion. It’s what we do with the anger that’s varied. Some people are violent towards others, some people abuse themselves, some people stew, some people get passive-aggressive, etc. But whatever we do, when we’re angry, we are accept attack as reality. We are completely disregarding the basic premise that “nothing real can be threatened.”
So as we move into Lessons of Love, it is perhaps helpful to begin to identify one of the more damaging effects of fear – anger. If we can undo that one, then what can’t we do?