Developing Spiritual Lifestyle Practices - Day Three: Noticing The Furies
Today we are continuing our exploration of the twelve spiritual lifestyle practices that Fr. Richard Rohr outlines in his book Just This. Today we're going to be taking a look at what he calls Noticing The Furies.
The Furies were deities found in Greek mythology that were tied to vengeance and retribution--and subsequently the word "fury" itself became connected with our understanding of passion, anger and rage.
I learned early in my life that anger was one of my most effective defense mechanisms. Some people go to silence when they are threatened. Others may use tears to gain sympathy when they feel vulnerable. I tend to blow up.
Most of the stupid things I've done and said to hurt the people I love have come out of fits of rage. Virtually all of the dumb decisions I've made in moments of reaction have all stemmed from anger.
And yet, I still find myself falling back on it when I am threatened, feel afraid, vulnerable or small. It makes me feel as though I have control, that whatever power is being taken from me can be reclaimed--by force if necessary.
I'm here to bear witness that as horrible as it is at times to live with someone who struggles with uncontrollable anger, it's even more horrible for the person who feels it. Honestly, it feels as though you are on the edge of a cliff, and at any moment you are going to fall off---but you can't seem to step away.
So, to say that this has been a difficult time for me during this whole coronavirus crisis... yeah, that's an understatement.
One of the things that we need to know about this particular lifestyle practice is that there is a decided lack of judgment within it. "Noticing the Furies" is an act of curiosity that should come from a non-anxious place.
In other words, you shouldn't beat yourself up every time you get angry over your fears or vulnerabilities. But you should pay attention to it, be curious about it, and be courageous enough to ask hard questions about it.
Some people proclaim that their anger, their rage is righteous indignation---that they are on the side of the angels with their explosions and rants. There's a positive side of anger, to be sure. But there's a fine line.
Fr. Richard puts it like this:
Whenever you see in yourself an excess of emotional response, you can be pretty certain that you are over-identified with something or your shadow self has been exposed.I resonate with that so very much. I have often found myself on the other side of a moment of rage, wondering why I got so upset in the first place. That curiosity almost always leads me to my own secret insecurities, my own unacknowledged darkness.
What I'm learning is that I need to learn new ways to express my feelings. I also need to be honest with myself about my shadows, and the underlying reasons for my fears. I can't expect just to try to change my behavior without understanding the reasons for the behavior.
The poet Tiffany Aurora writes:
We build new worlds---
from the ashes of old flames
& wonder why they never
If we are going to see lasting change when it comes to developing a vibrant spiritual life, we are going to have to learn how to see God, ourselves and others in new and more life giving ways.
May you find the strength to be a non-anxious presence in your own life as you seek to understand more about yourself and your relationship with God and the world around you.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.