Dear quarter lives,
This might be the story of my prisoner, but there are many similar stories out there where one captures an emotion, a memory, a person, and hides them deep in the dungeons within. There is no man, no woman, no human without a dungeon. They form inside of us when we are children. They are as old as our breaths. They help us feel safe, like an army of sorts. As children, it was how we dealt with what we didn’t know how to deal with. We felt safer knowing that all that was dangerous, all that was unwanted was locked up inside, deep within us, in a room far far away. We tied these rejected emotions to heavy iron chains so that they would sink forever with no way to escape or surprise us.
But something happens when they have lived there long enough — we get attached to them. It is ironic indeed that what we have chosen to hide away because we were afraid of, we now become so attached to and dependent on that we might actually only feel safe when they are with us, a Stockholm syndrome of sorts. And so at this point of attachment, when you can no longer separate your sense of self from your prisoner’s sense of self. Your identities now intertwined, you have now merged. A new symbiotic relationship now exists, you become each other’s hosts. Your prisoner resides in you, and you reside in it. And so it was, after many many years of holding Anger captive, I realised that I am as much a prisoner to him as he is to me.
And for all prisoners, the goal is always freedom. But not all prisoners are created equal, some become vengeful, others are more forgiving and spare your neck. And those prisoners are the wisest because they remember, unlike us, who they really are. No matter how blurry the lines get, they remember that they are not us. That we are not the fear we hold within. That we are not the anger we have suppressed. They remember that their purpose is to express our experience but they are not us and we are not them. The danger comes when the prisoner is angry. Angry at us because we have not allowed them to speak, to express themselves. Instead we have blindfolded them and hid them in places so deep and so dark that they became so sensitive to the light that it becomes dangerous for them to leave even if they wanted to without getting us a little sick first.
And so with Anger, especially with Anger, when we come to make peace with it, we must show up ready to surrender, ready to assume responsibility for the abuse we have inflicted on ourselves by holding back our anger. We must acknowledge the abuse we have allowed our prisoner to endure by hiding them away so absolutely that we forgot they even existed. In those cases, where the attachment is not even acknowledged, the prisoner’s pursuit to freedom becomes even more complex, even more dangerous, to us and to them. They begin to plan for our death. They decide that if they cannot see the light through merging with us, they must seek desperate measures, they must seek the light by removing the physical barriers of us, by removing our bodies, by destroying them, by killing us. Only then is all energy within us released back into the Universe, and when that happens, Anger can finally be free.
And so when we refuse to communicate with our prisoners, they have no way of even warning us, or threatening us. Sadly, we have cut our own ears. We have refused to listen. And now, we must bear the consequences of seeing the storm only when it is too late. We must too realise that who and what we decide to lock away in our dungeons is always our choice, even though our choice could’ve been the result of serious hardship. Often it is due to a heightened sense of the perceived threat from that particular thing, be it an emotion or memory. We might’ve witnessed an unpleasant expression of Anger growing up and vowed to avoid it at all costs. And so within us lives this exaggerated fear of expressing our anger thinking it might injure or even kill us. Ironically, that is exactly what it does when we cut off all contact with it. And so the only way to approach Anger, I believe, is with love and with a lot of trust. We must trust that our anger does not exist to hurt us. We must communicate with it. We must listen to it. And when we do, we will realise that Anger actually came to protect us. Like a house alarm, Anger acts as a signaling tool when our boundaries have been crossed. Anger alerts us to take action. To speak up. To better assert our space.
Anger has long been misunderstood. It has a bad rep because it often presents itself as aggression and violence. But it is not the anger that does this, it is what we do with the anger. It is our reaction to Anger that has been aggressive. But we have instead pointed the finger at him, deeming him the unwanted/unpleasant emotion and locking him away as if to punish him for his bad behaviour when in fact it is our behaviour that has been bad. So to heal this complicated relationship we have with Anger, we must first open our hearts and go deep deep within until we reach the dungeon, and then we must consciously and intentionally choose to unlock it. We must choose to free our prisoners. We must choose to set Anger free. And as we do so, we must apologise. We must open our entire body to listen. And as we listen to the wounded within us speak, we must give them our love for they have given us theirs all these years.
Before I go, let me just remind you of one final thing — our prisoners’ pursuit to freedom is also our pursuit to freedom. For when they are free, we become free. It is always us who are the captors, the torturers, the unreasonable tyrants, never the victims. It is us who hold prisoners, not us who are held prisoner. So let us never forget the fact, for it is a fact worthy of our memory. It is fact through which our power can be realised once again, and our choice recognised. It is always up to us! Remember that, always, if you are ever to be free.
May you be free forever,