The Inner Volcano Can It Be Managed?
Lately, a higher number of people than usual have been contacting me about “anger management” issues. Perhaps it has just become another buzz word. Either these inquiries are on behalf of significant others (who never call) or they are calling about themselves, but then for some reason or another, they usually fail to make it in for the appointment, or we get lost in the back and forth of phone messages that go nowhere. I think there is a good reason for this.
If people are calling about their own issues, it is often because significant others have been telling them for a long time that they have to deal with their anger, but they don’t really see it as a problem. They might make the token phone call to the therapist, but the will is not really there. It takes tremendous energy and courage to face the volcanoes and swamplands of the inner terrain. I often think of the psyche as an inner landscape. When there has been an emotional wounding of some sort, or when there is an inherent sensitivity or passionate nature, simply because of who we are at a deep soul level, the psychic landscape reflects this. I have always found it helpful to use the image of the landscape when talking about our inner soul qualities, because most people can understand it – this is just how nature is. And it is also just how people are.
The trouble with the volcanic nature, however, is that they tend to make themselves sick and often alienate others. Constant inner eruptions wear out the adrenals and the endocrine system for starters, and exhaust the immune system and damage the heart, to name the most obvious problems. But worse still, they push away loved ones who get exhausted by the constant upheavals.
If you think of a boil, which is an angry eruption on a very small scale, there is a wounding or disturbance that festers. On an emotional level, this would represent a wound of some kind that is not or cannot be dealt with at the time of occurrence. And so the psyche pushes it down because that is human nature. This is repression of the first order. And then of course, like the boil, it continues to build on itself, getting worse and more infected over time. Hopefully, at some point, the boil can be lanced, allowing the poison to seep out and the skin to heal. Therapy forces the client to go within and lance the wound, and through consciousness come into a new place of healing and resolution.
I always loved Scarlett O’Hara as a literary figure. I loved her for her courage and her tenacity and her ability to fight to protect what she loved. But she was a master of repression. “I won’t think about that today, I’ll think about it tomorrow” was the line that she was most famous for. However, anytime we continually repress that which is calling out to be addressed, you can be sure it will come back and bite you. Scarlett did not have a volcanic temperament; she was more like Niagara Falls – a relentless force to be reckoned with, but she too had to deal with the consequences of not facing up to her own shadow. She lost her only child and the only man who ever truly loved her.
Ultimately, we all only have our own nature, and our own psychic landscapes. Sometimes I use the image of animals rather than landscapes to help people come to terms with themselves. If, for example, you have the nature of a rabbit, there is no use trying to pretend you are a tiger. Or if you are a fish, why regret the fact that you are not a giraffe?
Each nature has its great gifts and its own weaknesses. And within that framework, we are all more susceptible to certain types of wounding than others. What is traumatic for one child within a family constellation, is a non-event for the other child within that same family. There is no rhyme or reason to this. It probably has more to do with karma and the deep soul lessons we need to learn in this lifetime. But for the person with the inner volcanic landscape, the psyche is pushing for an externalization and resolution of the energy. It must be dealt with, or there are devastating consequences for all who live within that person’s environment, but most particularly for the person himself.
The person with a volcanic temperament has a big energy field, which if properly channeled, can be a tremendous force for positive change and leadership. Like Kali, who can be both a destructive force and a tremendously generative one, the volcano can lay waste to the old and bring about the possibility for tremendous renewal and change. A landscape that has been strewn with volcanic ash is tremendously fertile and ready for vibrant new growth. Those with volcanic inner landscapes must learn this important lesson of leadership: a leader must learn the lesson of emotional patience, both with him or herself, and then with others. This often means keeping the lid on, walking away, taking a time out, and thinking and counting to twenty before you speak.
Watch Benjamin Zander on Passion and Leadership