Years ago there was this silly British comedy film made by the Monty Python team called Erik the Viking. There’s a scene in it where the vikings have set off on a terrifying quest to the edge of their world. One of the vikings has anxiety and has never fit in properly with the others. As the quest becomes more challenging the vikings begin talking about these horrible unfamiliar sensations they are experiencing – queasiness, heart-racing etc. “That’s fear”, says the anxious viking. “You’re feeling fear. That’s what I feel all the time”, he says delightedly.
Just as these vikings were culturally inexperienced with fear, so too my boyfriend seems culturally unaccustomed to anger. It’s been a curious experience for me to observe someone so, apparently, peaceful. Because I come from a family almost proudly angry. Artist parents get quite angry and there is little effort made to contain it. It just erupts and recedes. Not all of it is productive anger but neither is all of it seen as destructive.
Besides, anger happens regardless of how comfortable you are with expressing it. And seems particularly inevitable when you are juggling work, study, co-parenting, step-parenting and new relationships, as Seth is.
Lately I have been teasing him when I see him tense up. “That’s anger. You’re feeling angry. That’s what I feel all the time,” I say.