The act of getting angry without causing pain
One of my favourite stories from childhood is about a man that was always afflicted by rage. One day, while in character, he saw a reflection of himself in a mirror in his hallway and he stopped. Staring back at him was a thing he didn’t recognize. As he paused to study his rage-contorted face, he saw a wild animal growling back at him. I can’t remember where I heard or read this story, but the picture of the man beholding a beast in the mirror has stayed with me.
My man or beast moment happened one day when my first son was about 4 years old. We were home alone. I had slept off while he was playing on the bed beside me. On waking, he was nowhere to be found. After checking his room and his other hideouts, I found him in the kitchen surrounded by 3 dozen half-chewed sachets of evaporated milk. Earlier in the day, I had given him a sachet and told him to ask me whenever he wanted some.
There was milk all over the floor — one month’s supply, wasted.
I was livid.
I grabbed a plastic spatula, which was the closest thing my hands could find and I beat him till the handle broke off. I can still hear his screams as the spatula rose and fell. He was just 4 at the time, and this one event tops the list of my biggest life regrets.
As I re-emerged from my brief descent into madness, I looked down at my son, curled up in a corner, crying and I saw my reflection. The spilled milk that triggered my insanity was sloshed across the entire kitchen floor. Outlines of his thrashing arms and legs drew patterns on the floor tiles, as though a crazed painter had torn out his limbs, dipped them in milk, and used them as a paintbrush.
It is one thing to read of a deranged man beholding his reflection in the mirror, but it is another to realize that you are that deranged man. My son is 10 now. We have a great relationship. He can’t remember this event, but I can’t forget it: long after his pain had healed, mine lingers. That day, my anger had led me to cause unwarranted pain — not just to my son, but to myself. I could have reprimanded him in a dozen different other ways, but I was too blind to think of that. If I learnt anything from this experience, it is that when we dine with rage, we are not the…