By Marianne O’Hare, PhD,
NJ Licensed Psychologist
Balder was the god of light in Norse mythology. He was the son of the chief god, Odin, and the goddess Frigg.
Balder was loved by all except the wicked Loki, who, jealous of his popularity, plotted his death. Balder’s mother had made all things—living and non-living—swear an oath that they would never harm her son. So there was no weapon that could hurt him.
Nevertheless, Loki cast about for a way to destroy Balder. One day he learnt that there was one plant, the mistletoe that had not sworn the oath to Frigg.
He obtained a slender branch of the tree, sharpened one of its ends, and hastened to the great hall where the gods were feasting. They were entertaining themselves by good-naturedly flinging rocks and spears at Balder, knowing full well that nothing could harm him.
Loki stole up to the blind god Hoder who also happened to be Balder’s brother and asked him why he was not hurling things at Balder like the others.
“I cannot see,” said the god.
“Throw this,” said Loki, thrusting the weapon he had made, into his hands. “I’ll guide you.”
Hoder flung the sharpened branch.
It pierced Balder, and he fell down dead.
Loki did not go unpunished. The gods chained him to rocks in a deep cavern. There, he awaits his release, for according to Norse mythology, he will eventually break free and take his revenge on the deities who had attempted to bind him for eternity.
—A story from Norse Mythology
We are not gods. We are human. However, like Loki, we humans experience moments of anger, frustration, resentment, annoyance, and jealousy. And, like Loki, we might form a plan to destroy our rivals. Also, like Loki, there are times when we do not directly express our anger and jealousy, so we get someone else (who may be blind to what is going on) to do our dirty work.
Anger, jealousy, frustration, annoyance, and resentment are human emotions. No emotion is either right or wrong, or good or bad. And, emotions cannot hurt anyone, except maybe the owner if the feelings are allowed to fester. It’s better to get these feelings out in the open. Or is it?
Expressing anger (and its many variations) is a tricky business. Anger is one emotion that, by expressing it, can cause us to feel more, not less, of it. Anger begets more anger. So, depending on how it is expressed, it can be dispelled or it can become rage.
Like Loki, when we are angry our thoughts are filled with retaliation and getting even because of how “unfairly” we’ve been treated. How angry we become in a situation is influenced by the meaning we give to the event. And, what we do with our anger (behavior or conduct) depends largely on our interpretation of the event, past experiences, and our “rules” or beliefs about our unfair treatment. As a result, our conduct (or the behavioral expression of our angry feelings) may lead to persistent anger, violations of the rights of others, aggressive behaviors, and/or violence.
Aggressiveness, poor impulse control, and intense anger and hostility are, also, highly correlated with abuse or withdrawal from alcohol or other drugs. If you are not thinking clearly to begin with, have a perception of being hurt or unfairly treated, adding (or withdrawing from) substances which cloud thinking can only lead to intermittent explosive behavior or loss of control of aggressive behavior.
Loki’s jealousy and rage meant plotting, loss of control, and violence. Although punished, he still felt hurt and unfairly treated. And, according to the legend, he continues to plan his revenge.
If your anger reactions are troublesome to you or if you think your angry feelings can break free in hopes of getting revenge, please contact Counseling and Psychological Services. You can learn to understand your anger and harness it so that it can serve you constructively, not destructively.