Love and having a home base – Part 2
In many of the old sagas of the Norse, the berserkers are the villains of the piece. They become fodder for Egil or Grettir to put down as threats to the community. Some of this is historical and some fiction and entertainment. By the time many of these stories were written, berserkergang was punishable by lesser outlawry as was anyone who did not restrain someone berserk. The power one might be able to gain from such practices had been deemed too dangerous to the community (as well as a pagan practice). I have also seen valid arguments that these practices were a reflection of an older time when combat was more individual and the talents of a berserk were more useful rather than later when the Norse fought best as coordinated units. As a former soldier, this latter appeals to me but does not invalidate the technique. Rage and anger are part of us, part of our animal natures and the fight part of fight/flight that assisted in our survival.
In the stories where berserks are the villains, they are takers who use their brutal and violent natures against a more civilized populace. Whether it is using the laws of judicial combat to win land or trying to force themselves on women, they take what they want until a more controlled or stronger force stops them. When I first started dealing with strong levels of rage, it was these examples that terrified me (along with some other issues that I will address in a later post). I did not want to be the man whose friends and family feared him. The wretch that ended up in prison (or dead), with nothing to show for his life was something that somehow possessed me with great terror. Fear of me in the eyes of those I love was tangible. This was not rational, but then, strong Passions often counter Reason. (This is amusing as my initial realizations came from meditations on the philosophy of Stoicism, which values Reason before Passion.)
Now, to be fair, no one writing stories with villains tends to present the villains as family men so it is partially a metaphor. However, when dealing with the Passions and emotion, metaphor has great power. Rage and anger are generally defensive reactions to a perceived threat. That is their original purpose. Therefore, WHAT you choose to fight for and protect is a very important decision that affects how you are able to face your Rage. Love and devotion are powerful counterbalances. When we see a wretch on the news who “Runs Amok”, we generally see someone who finally turns his Rage inward. Even before modern mass shootings, such men rarely survived. They either died in the historical equivalent of “suicide by cop” or by their own hands in a sort of ultimate protest or act of despair as they still do today.
So, you need to find your Home Base and the things you Love. Home and family are the obvious ones but if that is not your path, find something else more than just you. None of us fights or strives alone. We are social creatures who need support and reinforcement. Having that positive force makes it much easier to control and dispel our Rage when it is inappropriate or an overreaction to events. Also, if we let those we love see our anger, we are further encouraged to make the chain that binds that rage all the stronger. It becomes the fire the makes us strive and work and not the conflagration that destroys you and all around you.
Love and Devotion are powerful checks on Anger and Rage. Find them, both within yourself in and in your life. Then, you move forward together with a family/tribe/whatever.
If you like a slightly more modern metaphor, look at the film Outlaw Josey Wales. (Yes, I do find classic old West tales have some similar elements to Old Norse.) It shows a man who lost everything is about nothing but vengeance. He joins a group during the Civil War to take that vengeance and ends up on the run at the end of the war. During the course of the film, he picks up a large group of “strays”. He is a fierce fighter but, in many ways, a gentle man. At the end of the film, it is this “family” that saves HIM. Our connections in life are what matter. No one stands alone.
The same is true in Rage work. There came a time when I had to face that rage and anger. I did not stand alone. I had family with me. No one is an island, remember that and find your home base. It will keep you alive and give you focus.