For two years in the late 1990s, I invested a lot of time and money in therapy. Andre was an excellent therapist for me. A PhD and child survivor of the Nazi ghettos for Jews in Budapest, his wisdom, patience and sharp insights helped me recover the emotional side of my fractured inner being. My work with Andre inexorably led to one destination – the one place I did not want to go more than anything.
Andre was trained in Gestalt psychotherapy. Therefore, his approach was tightly linked to present moment observations of my body movements. If I crossed my arms, he quickly queried, “Why did you just cross your arms?” I was startled by this practice. I thought, why are you noticing and who gives a rat’s ass? Instead, I tried to answer him with intelligence and wit. “I dunno.” He then poked me. “You seem closed when you fold your arms like that. What are you feeling right now?”
In those moments, I saw my truth. Something within me shut down. As we explored my feelings around the enormous conflict I had created for myself by blowing up my marriage, I began to see that this was my pattern. Every time I came close to feeling my feelings, something unconsciously shut down within me.
At first, I felt annoyed by it. What is wrong with me? I bellowed impatiently to myself. Andre helped me in countless ways. He loved to take out a chair and put the person with whom I was struggling in front of me. My father or my ex-wife were two popular, invisible guests. “Tell him what you’re feeling.” I role played my feelings. With his keen eye, Andre would probe and question my words, stripping away my logical, analytical mind to help me truly “feel” my feelings. And sit with them. And not run away from them.
One day in the men’s group he ran, I whined about my ex and our frustrating, expensive, stonewalling legal battle. “Fuck me!” I exclaimed in self-pity. Andre jumped on the moment. “Why do you say, ‘fuck me’? Is that what you really mean? Who is standing up in your defense?” The other eight men joined in the chorus. Andre went on. “Why aren’t you saying, ‘Fuck you!’ Isn’t that what you really mean?”
Once again, I was caught off guard by the suddenness of the moment – raw, real and inescapable. “Yes, that’s what I ought to be saying. I don’t know why I said ‘me’ instead of ‘you.'” My voice trailed and whimpered. I felt small but still safe.
Andre then addressed the whole group. “As a man, we must claim our manhood. We do it by climbing to the top of the mountain, drawing our sword and waving it mightily. Not to attack anyone but to claim our being. I am here and I matter!”
God bless Andre. I love that man. Over the course of many more sessions and intense moments both inside and outside his office, I cracked the hard shell around my heart. I faced the one thing I did not want to face. Rage. Oh how I feared and distrusted the rage within me. Like a nuclear bomb hidden within, I feared its explosive, destructive power.
There is only one way to defuse rage. By letting it explode. Safely, privately and violently within one’s own boundaries. For men especially, suppressed rage is the devil’s playground.
The apostle Paul writes, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 25-27)
The apostle James gets to the heart of anger and rage: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:1-2)
Rage reflects our inborn desire to have things our own way. We want to be the God of our own life. Peace only comes when we surrender our life to the one, true God. And He is not I.
In his peace,