Thursday, July 19, 2012

Grief and Anger

I once attended a training taught by a man named Jim Mitchell. A tall, robust black man, a former bank executive who gave up that life well before people were hungry to hang bankers, he'd dedicated himself to training men to deal with their emotional baggage. One of his central ideas, in the training at least, was the idea that there are interior reservoirs, of grief and anger. He told us, if you want to get clear about who you are, and what you are doing in this life, you need to dive down into those reservoirs and drain them.

That made sense to me, on a visceral level. I was working at a Fortune 100 at the time, at their world headquarters, paid more for less work than I'd ever done anywhere before, and yet I didn't feel right. I had dedicated myself to a path of healing two and a half years prior to that, and those years had been productive; I felt better and more clear about who I was than I ever had in my adult life. But still, something wasn't right. I didn't want to be working in a climate controlled tower surrounded by sound deadening cubicle walls and profoundly conventional people. I wasn't sure what I wanted, but it wasn't that. So I took that training, and I thought about what Mitchell said, and I set about an intention.

I took some time off work, and fasted and deprived myself of sleep for three days, at the end of which, six of my most trusted friends came to my house, and they sat in a circle on my living room floor, with me in the middle. I fasted and sleep-deprived myself because I figured, the weaker my defenses, the more I might be able to get to the core of what I was looking for. I also had severe symptoms of Lyme disease at the time, which I didn't know was Lymes, which exacerbated my physical strain immensely. My friend Snake facilitated, and I went about exploring the depth of my grief. I was a mess from the beginning.

I wrote about that experience in my first book, The Dream That Must Be Interpreted. Free to download, such as it is, if you don't read any other part of the book, and want to know what a grief reservoir draining session might look like - there it is, chapter five, Initiation. Suffice to say, I did not know I was that deep. Nothing very pleasant about it, I might add. But such is the nature of personal growth, dealing with unpleasantries.

A young woman who goes by the handle Karpatok said it well, about grief, with these simple words: “How could they...HOW COULD THEY!” in the Doomstead Diner forum recently, in reference to the hideous destruction of the mountainous land of her birth and childhood, West Virginia, by mountain-top removal coal mining. Grief, in it's generalized form, about what has been done to me, what has been done to the earth, and also, consequently, what I have done to myself. The constant breaking down, the demands of obedience, the cruel critiques, the minimizing, the petty and not so petty tyrannical pressure to conform, the physical and psychological abuse, the irrational command and control aggressiveness of Authority. The Destruction of the biosphere in the name of self-interest, the systemic toxicity, the burning of fossil fuels wantonly and the denial of the consequences, the constant enforcement of separation, the predations of the monied. All the stupid petty things I have done to fall in line, to debase myself, to make myself small.

Of course, the other side of that is anger, for all the very same reasons. If you want to know what my anger has come to look like, I'll refer you to my recent post 911, which I wrote shortly after I came to the belated conclusion that 9/11 was a false flag, inside job to initiate a war of Terror on all the people of the world, that cannot end or be won, any more than the drug war, which never was about eradicating drugs or drug use, but about the control of the people. What I would like to do, to the defilers! There is a thing in me that desires to kill every last one. But in case you haven't figured out, and I haven't been clear enough about it, I am NOT encouraging you to explicit violence. At most, I am encouraging you to explore the depths of your anger. Because if there is to be anything like a change of course, driving humanity in a direction away from mass extinction and the destruction of the biosphere, IMHO we're going to have to get clear about our anger. As is, it's coming out sideways mostly, directed by Authority at anything but Authority, or directed at Authority impotently, or bottled within and tearing us apart.

Mitchell talked about draining that reservoir too, and he's right. I don't think one can think or be clearly, as long as that reservoir remains full, spilling out over the sides. I think we have to drain it. And at the bottom of those two reservoirs I think, are pearls of forgiveness. Because we have to forgive, or it isn't the thing we wish to destroy that is destroyed, but ourselves instead. And the thing about that is, forgiveness isn't anything like giving up, giving in. Forgiveness is like freeing oneself to be in love with this life fiercely. To be in love with this earth, to be free to do what one can to nurture and protect it, each other and ourselves

So I think if you really want to understand how deep you are, how deep down you really do go, you've got to dive on in, into one's own depth, inside. Nothin' pleasant about that work, necessarily, but real change rarely is.

And if you do that work, if you're anything like me, you may just find, the hardest one to forgive is myself.

Note: There is a fundraising drive going on for me, at the Doomstead Diner. A couple of my posts have been featured there. It's a great crowd, a great resource for dialogue and information about the collapse of Civilization. I find myself in a bit of a financial bind, my utilities long in arrears and threatening to open up another confrontation with city governance over an attempted condemnation of my house. RE, chief admin there, found out, and offered up the idea. I accepted. To anyone who gives, to help give me a little breathing room while I figure out WTF with this house, and myself - THANK YOU! Whether you come from the Diner, or from my blog, drop a note and I'll reply. Blessings, with gratitude.


Nick said...

I apologize but admit I am in too much of a rush to comment on a great post. I just dropped by to make a much too small donation and wish you
good luck with your housing situation WHD.
Also I have some thoughts on developing a new type of doomstead that may interest you. If you like send me a PM at DDer and I'll fill you in.

manray said...

Good stuff. Just starting to get into your book. Greatly enjoy your blog. Sorry for the hassles with the city and the home ownership debacle. I can relate.

I contributed a paltry amount to help. Wish I could do more.

Also, I am wondering if you would be interested in screening a film there? Perhaps you could accept donations. The film is here:

I screened this in Austin, Texas last year. The filmmakers are looking to get the word out. It's a funny, inspiring and insightful film. If you are interested email me:

Thanks for doing what you do.


John D. Wheeler said...

I made a small donation on your website. I wish I could do more, but I am seriously insolvent and headed towards bankruptcy myself.

I hate to say it, but my reservoirs are overflowing again. I'm not sure whether I just didn't drain them fully the first time or whether they refilled. And by far most of it is self-directed. I had three decades to prepare and still came up woefully short.

William Hunter Duncan said...


Just knowing you're out there is heartening to me. Much to small, nothin! I will check in with you at DD.


No such thing as paltry. My gratitude. I will check out the film and get back to you.


I hear ya, brother. I was looking at job opportunities on Craigslist today and I was like, this is one sick mfing culture. Hard not to keep those reservoirs from fillin' back up again. There's enough info out there to drown us all. As for the dough, maybe back at ya someday. Thank you.

et al - Reading these comments, it's clear, a paradigm is coming to an end, practically everybody living effectively alone. Soon it may be time to take back the land. Prepare yourself.

Anonymous said...

Re: condemnation of your house

You must speak to some free legal aid attorneys in your city..... There are usually ways of at least delaying the process, sometimes with something as simple as a written letter. also try publishing the specific facts of your case, see if anyone else can solicit advice from a RE attorney. Not the best way to do it, I know, but anything helps right? i'm sure people here and DD would keep it anonymous if you wanted.

I don't see a donate button anywhere on this site... where is it?

William Hunter Duncan said...


Thanks for the advice. The donation button is actually at my website, there is also a link on the left column of the blog page.

Jason Heppenstall said...

Hey William,

This post about anger and forgiveness resonates strongly with me right now. On Tuesday I got a fashionable-looking shopping bag delivered containing a plastic jar in which was about 3 pounds of ashes. Those ashes were my own father, who spent much of his life, as I saw it, bullying and cajoling me into conforming to his view of the world.

How strange and unnerving it was to see this man who had exerted so much influence over my life reduced to some grey powder in a shopping bag!

I drove deep into a forest where we used to take holidays when I was a child and found the largest and most ancient oak tree in that forest and scattered his ashes at the base. As I did so I felt a profound sense of gratitude flowing through me for the gifts my father has bestowed on me. I also felt grief - not just because he was dead - but grief because of all the wasted years we had spent butting heads. At the end of it all I realised we were just the same, cut from the same cloth, but grew up in different times and with different influences tugging at our conscious minds. It's impossible not to forgive him for being tough on me - he turned me into a tough individual, which is probably the best gift anyone could have given me for the times we face right now.

Anyway, he was also a wealthy man, so I've put a little something your way via Paypal to say thanks for writing your blog. It's not too much but hopefully it will help a little bit.



William Hunter Duncan said...


Delivered in a shopping bag, wow.

I butted heads yesterday with my living father, who has never seen me but through the prism of his conventional nature, who has never made an effort to know me. It was not pleasant; he is the one person in this world I have a difficult time standing up to.

I think your father, if he could, would appreciate what you did, and what you have become, if his eyes have been opened.

Thank you for the gift. It was very generous. Blessings, with gratitude,


Justin said...

In my own depths, I've found that what is behind anger is fear. My chain reaction is to become afraid, then get angry. However, I've come to recognize that I can be afraid and calm rather than angry. When I am in that state, I can clearly state what I am afraid of. Usually, merely saying it out loud dispels the fear completely. I 'snap' out of it. Most of the time, I've found myself unable to say the thought out loud. That works too, if the fear is so irrational that I can't bring myself to vocalize it, then I can no longer bring myself to fear it either.

I've asked stuff like, "Did you stop loving me last Tuesday?"

Sorry for such a personal example, but there's not a lot of examples aside from personal fears to use illustratively. I did use to get angry at drivers that harassed me on my bicycle, but then I realized I was just afraid of being hurt or killed, and that's not something to really afraid of. In both cases, if it happens, you deal with it and its not so bad.

You know enough of my story so as not to have to make excuses for the lack of donations.

P.S. On several occasions here, I've found plants dug completely up in my garden. I've lost an heirloom tomato and several peppers. Here is my theory: the skunks that live in the tree line nearby are responsible, the ground has been so hot and dry, so the only place they are finding grubs is where I am watering. We've also had several sightings of skunk near the garden. Any experience or advice on how to degrub my soil with the plants still in it without exchanging a grub problem for a carcinogen problem?

William Hunter Duncan said...


As my friend Snake is fond of saying, fear is a bodily response to danger that says, "be awake." Worries about collapsing relationships are more like a low grade terror, which we tend to impose on ourselves. I think that too stems from our collective refusal as a culture to face mortality.

As to the skunks, you can shoot them. That may be about the only answer to your dillema, I suspect. Are they stripping the trees of leaves? If they are you might be helping the trees too, assuming the skunks are too many for the current carrying capacity of your area. You might try buying chili powder in bulk, and spreading it on the soil around your plants, but that might get expensive. Otherwise, a giant cage, but unless there is a bunch of sufficient fencing available as scrap, that'll be expensive too. Electrify a smaller fence with a car battery?

No expectations at all, on donations.

Justin said...

Sounds like you have a constructive way of seeing things! Sorry for your loss.

I'd rather not shoot the skunks, they help kill voles and mice. Not only that, but killing them would be some thanks for helping take care of my grub problem!

I since built a fence out of shipping pallets and scrap lumber to keep the skunks out. I'm happy with the fence, I plan on building raised beds on either side of it and using the crates to support climbers. I still have to figure out how to get rid of these damn grubs... You know what, to hell with it. The skunks stay!

I've since learned that moth balls around a perimeter will keep them out with the pungent odor. Making your property smell like industrial toxins is always a surefire tactic to keeping out living things.

Tim Gockel said...

Hello WHD, How're ya doing? Wow I just discovered that doomstead downer ,er...diner LOL. Too many people "flaming" and "napalming" each other in the comments section.I think you should "Rise Above", in the words of the great Henry Rollins and Black Flag, the comments section over there and concentrate on this beloved (by us readers)blog. Sincerely, Tim PS, another donation comin' yer way.

Tim Gockel said...

Oh, I guess it is cool he put out that "Brazos". I hope some needed funds are comin' your way!

William Hunter Duncan said...


I ran with the battle for awhile, but I can't keep up with those guys. I love it over there, they've been very good to me, but it can get exhausting, the back and forth, arriving at nothing. I'm resolved to step in when I can, and as clearly as I can, but more right now I'm focused on what tangible things I can do in the terrestrial world, like getting a job and preparing for winter in this house, and whatever else is coming...

Thanks for everything.

Tim Gockel said...

What kind of job are you looking for?

William Hunter Duncan said...

At this point, anything that pays $11/hr or more, as long as I am not working for an ass, and it isn't a dangerous abuse of my time. I've worked in corporate, warehouse, industrial, retail and construction environments, I've owned my own business, I have managed others with as many as 25 employees. Not much I can't do, but fix computers and such.

Tim Gockel said...

hmmm. Do you know the Mississippi Market food co-op in ST.Paul? My nephew works there in produce (as did his father, my brother, back in the day). Anyway, he's moving to Uraguay to be an organic campesino for an open ended time. Maybe MM will need somebody when he leaves? Just a thought. Tim

William Hunter Duncan said...


Thanks. A nice reference. I'll look into it.

Tim Gockel said...

A rather simplistic thought, but a thought none the less. Just trying to think of synchronicities. I don't think he leaves until October.

Tim Gockel said...

Actually doomstead diner is excellent. Guess I shouldn't cherrypick the comments and read the essays. My attention span is not what it used to be though. lol.