Rage powers the Red Lantern Corps. Red exists at one of the far ends of the emotional spectrum, so it controls the wearer of the red ring more than vice-versa. Atrocitus leads the Red Lanterns, and he is the only one (at least for a while) that maintains his consciousness as a Red Lantern. When others are chosen, the ring forces itself onto them, empties their veins of blood, and fills their hearts and arteries with napalm which they then spew out of their mouths to burn their enemies. They become animalistic, devoid of conscious thought and control, fueled only by the Rage that focuses them on their goal of revenge. Red Lanterns cannot remove their rings without dying, because there is no blood to replace the napalm when it is drained out. Once Rage takes over, it is difficult to go back to the life the lantern once lived. Only with the help of the Blue Lanterns of Hope can this be accomplished without death.
Anger often arises in therapy, and its behavioral consequences often motivate people to come to therapy. Anger, like all other emotions, is neither good nor bad. What we do with our anger, on the other hand, can be helpful or hurtful. Anger can be useful by telling us what is important to us; we do not get angry about things we do not care about. Some things are worth getting angry about. Atrocitus’ planet and family were massacred by the Guardians’ Manhunters (their universal police force prior to the Green Lantern Corps). Other Red Lanterns have experienced similar injustices. Bleez was kidnapped and raped. Ratchet lived in a society that demanded the isolation of all of its citizens; his government mutilated his body as punishment for defying this law by connecting with another being. Other Red Lanterns encountered wrongful accusations, abandonment, and murdered friends and family members. Clearly, such atrocities fuel our righteous wrath, which hopefully leads to taking meaningful steps toward seeking justice and preventing such wrongdoing from happening again.
Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning that a primary emotion occurs first, followed by anger. Anger often emerges in the wake of sadness, fear, and hurt. These emotions do not feel good, and there is not much that we can do with them. As such, we sometimes move to anger, because it is energizing and we can do something with it. One can imagine Atrocitus’ sadness at the loss of his family, Ratchet’s fear of his society’s punishments, and Bleez’ hurt from being raped. Anger followed quickly on the heels of this sadness, fear, and hurt, and the red rings sensed this and found new recruits for the Red Lantern Corps. Anger’s connection with these emotions is also impacted by cultural narratives, namely that boys are not allowed to feel sadness, fear, or hurt (which makes it easier for them to move to anger instead) and that girls are not allowed to feel anger (or at least express it, which can lead to internalizing issues). Both of these messages inhibit people from experiencing and expressing emotions in healthy ways.
When we express our anger in unhealthy ways, we sometimes feel good in the moment. We sometimes experience relief or catharsis by releasing our anger. Perhaps it even feels good to make the other person feel the hurt that we are experiencing. However, after the fact, we often regret expressing our anger in this way, recognize that it did not ultimately solve the problem, and realize we now have even more of a mess to clean up. The Red Lanterns are mindless napalm spewers who are seemingly not in control of their actions (it is difficult to think clearly when our emotions are elevated) and who hurt others out of their own hurt. Even the ones that exact their revenge against those who have hurt them do not find that it assuages their Rage. Part of the problem is that though their Rage originated from an injustice, they take it too far and end up hurting themselves and others in the process. Once people recognize this, they are often open to working on anger management in order to control their emotions, rather than having their emotions control them. Our emotions and cognitions serve us best when neither one takes an inordinate amount of control. A balance is needed; we make our best decisions when our emotions and our logical thought processes work together.
For those wondering if change is possible, if anger can ever fully be tamed, if even they can return from such hurt and pain, I leave you with this. Red Lanterns can only be healed of their rage when the Blue Lanterns find the Hope that lies inside of them. As the Bishop in Les Misérables told Jean Valjean, a man who had spent 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family, “you have come from a very sad place…If you emerge from that sad place with thoughts of hatred and of wrath against mankind, you are deserving of pity; if you emerge with thoughts of good-will and of peace, you are more worthy than any one of us.” (Instead of “pity,” I would suggest that Valjean was deserving of empathy, given the hardships he had endured.) Hope exists for change and healing; they are difficult, but possible. Those who work toward such goals are worthier of praise than those who have never experienced such struggles themselves.
What have you noticed about anger’s purpose? What have you found typically prompts and supports anger? What have you found to be helpful for people working to overcome issues with anger? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Facebook page!