Hello everyone, for this post I am taking a break from the typical articles I write. Instead, I want to share with you a very personal experience about challenging and channelling rage. It is a delicate and painful subject, and I was in two minds about publishing this piece. My apologies to music fans coming to this post expecting to read about the Great rap-metal band that goes by the same name as my article, To make your visit worthwhile there are special versions of my poster just for you at the end of this post.
A few months ago I found the courage to write about this subject in the Google+ Leadership Communities and the feedback I received convinced me that it is something worth discussing. It stimulated a healthy conversation and I thank all my friends who contributed to the exchange of ideas (see credits at the end of the article). In the end I found that many people have struggled in their early teens and beyond; overcoming those struggles is what this article is about.
Before I relate my experience let me just add a very simple disclaimer. I would strongly advise anyone who suffers with rage, anger, etc. to seek professional assistance. I was not courageous in solving my problem by myself, just very lucky. Right, if you are comfortable let me summarise how I overcame my Rage Against the Machine.
When I was a child I was full of rage; I guess it was rage against life. It would be easy to blame specific people but, with hindsight, I’ve realized it wasn’t about people. The rage was directed outwards, but the seed of hatred was inside of me…no one planted or nourished it. It was a Rage Against the Machine and the Machine was ME.
That is probably the reason I never really wanted to hurt anyone even if I was very destructive and people were often frightened of me. I destroyed anything I could get my hands on. When I ran out of objects to destroy I became self destructive. At times I would really hurt myself; it was almost as if I preferred to hurt myself rather than wait for others to do so. Perhaps, in my mind, I was tempering myself for a future of anguish and pain. The funny thing is that I was never fully satisfied; I’ve always looked for perfection in everything. I would constantly invent new ways to destroy things and inflict pain more efficiently. I poured so much energy into being creatively destructive that I had no time for anything else. Even child’s play always turned into a labour of rage and hate instead of love. I was even very selective with television; my favourite was The Incredible Hulk TV series and Rocky was my film of choice.
On one particularly bad day, during my adolescence, I picked up pen and paper and started drawing. I was never a very good speaker, I’ve always preferred to visualise problems and solutions; thus, drawing was a more natural media. To this day I still don’t know why I did this. All I can think is that my psyche just couldn’t take any more self-abuse; it felt like a safety valve opening and releasing the pressure that had become unbearable.
From that day on I would draw, design and invent any time I felt the rage welling up inside of me; so, basically, everyday thereafter. I began to realize that it gave me much more pleasure venting my anger in that manner rather than having to bandage up self-inflicted wounds or having to repair whatever I had broken. It was exactly what was needed at exactly the right time considering that I entered the world of work very young. If I had taken all my rage into the workplace I wouldn’t have lasted more than a few days before being fired and that would have only fuelled more anger and eventually my total destruction. Today, I can only count my blessings and I say, in all sincerity, that I owe it all to art.
I was fortunate enough to figure out how to solve the problem by myself. Once I had touched rock bottom there was no place to go but up. My conflict was inside of me so the solution lay there as well…I just needed to rewire my head a bit to figure it out. I knew life would be a long, hard journey and I just needed to find the right road, even if it was the one less travelled and often scary, especially when taken alone. Call it luck, help from a Higher power or perhaps I swallowed a compass as a child, whatever, I found the right path.
In the end, my lesson from this adventure is that any strong emotion is pure energy. My childhood rage was energy that, left uncontrolled, was highly destructive. Once I had found a way of controlling the daemons, I had effectively learned how to route that energy to a much better use. I would like to point out that, in my case, anger management was not about self soothing. I would often find solace in listening to [rock] music or taking long rides on my bicycle, but I was only addressing the symptoms, not the cause. It was only by directing the rage into something tangible that I was able to curb the cause.
Everyone, even great leader, will inevitably have bad days; times when they feel rage and will want to vent their anger. These strong emotions can be very dangerous because they seed jealousy, prejudice, egoism, etc.. Following this life lesson I found I no longer had to suffer the side effects of anger and rage. I know it is still there waiting to come out, but I control and channel it into something creative for myself, my colleagues and associates.
The best part of this discovery is that, unwittingly, I’ve been able to help people find their own personal “vent”. Everyone has a passion which requires nourishing. It is just a matter of figuring out what it is and feeding it by channelling all the negative energy into a more fulfilling and constructive endeavour. Most of the time “problematic” employees are sidelined, but through listening, channelling and engaging I find that there is always a hidden passion that just needs to be fuelled. It is like finding the right spot for a delicate seedling…not too dry, wet, shady or sunny; if the conditions are right the seedling will take root by itself.
Some people will say that a loving relationship can help soothe and overcome rage. The relationship angle is very important. Although, what I found is that the right relationship isn’t always the loving and caring one we imagine. As an example, My first job was the fruit of a very negative relationship. A series of events made me take action…for the better. I was sixteen and was told that I would never amount to anything. Three hours later I returned to that person waving in their face an employment contract I had just obtained…I’ve never looked back since. I think we all have our own particular triggers that anyone can pull with the right words, be they [people and/or words] good or bad.
Just to finish off on a lighter note and leave some food for thought. I played rugby in school for two seasons and the thing that my coach always used to reprimand me for was that I wasn’t aggressive enough. How ironic is that!?
Ok, that’s it, thanks for taking the time to read my story. I hope it helps people who are Raging Against their own personal brand of Machine. May you discover your passion and inner peace.
Credits go to my Leadership friends in the Google+ and Twitter Communities for inspiring, contributing and enriching this article. In alphabetical order with their G+ and Twitter names in case you’re interested in following these great friends, professionals and leaders:
Alli Polin @AlliPolin, Astrid Franchiska Kowlessar @AstridBijou, Blair Glaser @BlairGlaser, Brian Rensing @_bpr_, CASUDI Caroline Di Diego @CASUDI, Dan Forbes @DanVForbes, Dave Moore @mooreconsortium, Irene Becker @justcoachit, Jen Olney @gingerconsult, John Thurlbeck @JHT29, Kate Nasser @KateNasser, LaRae Quy @LaRaeQuy, Martina McGowan @MartinaMcGowan, Mike Cowan @DJ4UMikeCowan, Ryan Setter @RyanSetter, Terri Klass @TerriKlass, Tony Richards @tonyrichards4
Here are all the links to the accompanying artwork, both for training labs and for RATM Fans…enjoy.