Back to the Anger (3) – where does a homeless anger go to rest??
August 26, 2011
A year ago just about now I was worrying my engagement with my anger. It's better engaged now than then. One part of that story is yet to be written tales of searching over the last two months for ways to interrupt Catholic anti-abortionists' harassment of patients at the foundational abortion provider in Melbourne. There are a lot of angry people on that stage and I am not trying to add to them, but the atmosphere is penetrating. My just being there reportedly reduces the harassment, while the anger just perks along in the undergrowth.
There's a short, nicely written, psychological treatment of anger here. It makes sense in every respect except the one I'm concerned about now – namely, that there are times and places when there is nothing we can do about the sources of our anger; when our anger's natural home is inaccessible, and so irremediable. We psychs can't tell us what to do in that case, other than "cognitive restructuring", relaxation, meditation, acceptance and such; that is, suck it in. The article mentioned above tells us that to do so may be unsustainable, if the threatening forces continue. But this is the fate of many people these days (though perhaps no more so than throughout human history).
…a homeless anger
Here's one of these people, a long term friend and colleague who has not found a job in more than a year, and not for lack of trying. He's basically too old (late 50's) for the real job market. The imaginary one would suit him fine, but it doesn't hire or pay. He's basically too competent for younger managers and bureaucrats to stand. He's not a natural to anger; too little so in my view, but then there's taste, sensitivity, temperament….and he is angry now. Deeply, richly, almost unbearably. And like many other placid folks, he doesn't like to talk about his anger.
Systemically forced indifference
But, he's seriously tired of being interviewed by recruiters 30-40 years his junior who often don't know the tasks they are recruiting for, can't speak openly/transparently/honestly (choose your forward moving spin) about which type of process they are involved in (e.g. making up apparent candidate numbers for already filled positions advertised by legal or political requirement, etc.), and are seem more concerned with meeting their performance target numbers than people.
He's not surprised by this because he knows the recruiting trade and its demands on practitioners, but as a present object of the trade its shortcomings are a repeated caustic abrasion of his self-respect. And, yes, he's complained, suggested, proposed – all manner of efforts to improve their "customer service". It seems impervious to improvement. The players (recruiters) themselves are mostly powerless to influence the market dynamics driving them and their organisations, though one calls him for advice about system improvement options.
Unsystematic but persistent failure
But, he's seriously tired, also, of being the second cab off the job candidate rank he usually heads at first glance. There's a river's worth of D words for the effect: depressing and degrading and demeaning and degenerating and….. thankyou but no-thankyou calls from the less able or incompetent are teeth-grindingly outrageous.
And the government funded, not-for-profit, intermediaries facilitating his attempts in exchange for the dole are but another cog. Same coat of pretence to perform cut from the same material of personal and organisational incompetence. This is the arena of long term unemployment. My friend is still a vital statistic in the rate reported to us almost daily in proof of how well Australia is doing compared to our Anglo relatives. And, he knows that he is not statistically unusual: older = unemployable by dint of no 'economic' need for his services. Being a statistical mean is neither reassuring nor redeeming; it just provides a middle of the road place to be run over by fate.
Exposure of what to who?
Exposure therapy is the "evidence-based" treatment of choice to reduce fear of bad personal fates of many kinds. Exposure is a standard treatment for traumatic events which assault the self with recurrent images (recalls) and effects (anxiety symptoms). It is reliably effective. But it is less reliable if there is no visible cause (someone declaring you unsuitable for employment by right of disability, for instance, or being disabled in an objectively ascertainable way – loss of limbs, brain function, etc.; age cannot be mentioned of course, so it's not addressable). With such losses a start can be made on a life which embraces the loss as the from-this-point-forth condition of one's humanity. That is exposure to oneself. But/and, who would he "expose" himself to so that the fear of his daily deepening fate would be reduced?
Lacking an identifiable source of an apparent but unacknowledged disability (being over some age barrier beyond which is housed 'old') the threat cannot be reduced and the anger continues to be reinforced daily. So, too, with no job today, yesterday and likely tomorrow, day after day. This brings him close to existential despair – the expectation that there is no hope. For some this may produce resignation, for others outrage. Death is the imagined outcome of both, differing only in who is imagined dying: oneself or the nameless, faceless others. He said that it is "a struggle to believe" that continued efforts to job seek can make a difference, the moments of believing just fending off the pull of depressions expression of expected and unavoidable failure.
This is not a mental health disorder, it's a biopsychosocial one!! In other words it's down to the individual but the individual is not responsible for it, except to deal with it. A year ago I proposed here that,
"Disregard makes investment in emotions unrewarding to their owners, but it doesn't reduce their energising sources. Often it intensifies them, or the owners' perception of them, which does just as well for outrage production."I was wrong in the long term. For some, at some times, under some personal conditions the weight of others' disregard generates one's own self-disregard in return. Unfortunately this is not terribly instructive to the others whose regard is needed. They do not feel the absence of ones regard for them or oneself. It doesn't show up in normal metrics of governance and well-being. Living nothingness. No home.
So this is his fate so far – to be refused a place to deploy his existing capabilities, through no fault of his own, by nameless two-faced forces speaking from one mouth 'you should work to be whole' and out of the other 'consume to be complete'. No home.