- Mental Health
Nice People Get Angry, Too
I Have Anger Radar
Some people can detect spirits or ghosts or inter-terrestrial life forms. They have this 6th sense about them. Me, I can detect anger. Why? I grew up with anger. My father was angry. My mother was angry. My uncle had to drink to shut down his anger. My aunt had to eat to assuage her anger. My granny held onto her money and squeezed her anger. Me, I am just receptive to it because I used to be possessed by it.
I used to eat anger for meals. I used to breathe in anger and exhale it so it swirled around people. I used to run with it, jog with it, and long jump it. I used to share it with my neighbors, family, friends and complete strangers. I used to be addicted to it. My anger used to roll off my tongue like a kid going down a big angry water slide. I loved my anger. It was my friend. I depended on it to get me through life.
It was my friend because I used it to get what I wanted when I was angry just like a kid would tantrum to get that new plastic toy. I used it to hammer home a point with loud, obnoxious screaming or in the form of silent treatment and watch them suffer. I used it to push people away to get privacy, or should I say, loneliness. Anger, for me, served many purposes. I used it the same way anorexics use not eating and the same way politicians use it in back rooms--to give me power.
So I can sense anger, no matter how big or small, no matter what direction it comes or whom it comes from. I have anger radar.
Anger is All Around--from Philly to Santa Barbara
I walk down the street and I hear anger from cars. Cars that speed past you; angry people in cars playing loud booming music or speeding in and out of lanes or tailgating you so to make you angry and lose your cool.
Angry and aggressive pedestrians walk past you in an angry huff. Pedestrians who don't move out of the way. Rude passive aggressive pedestrians brushing up against you or taking up the whole sidewalk. It may not be violent or directly in your face or it may not be verbally communicated, but it's still anger--loud and clear.
I see it in locker rooms, board rooms, pool halls and churches. I see it in religious people and atheists. I see it in Democrats and Republicans. I even see it in pacifists and eunuchs.
When I lived in Philly, people used to spit their anger on the dirty sidewalks. They used to curse you out and ball their fist in anger and take a swing at you. They used to throw snowballs at you in the bus and shoot you in the back with their anger. They used to insult you so you felt weak and immobilized. They were good at it. I used to think it was the cold or the hot and humid weather, but I realized it was just their style of anger.
In Santa Barbara they have a different kind of anger. It is condescending; it is backhanded and demeaning. It is not as loud or in your face Philly anger but it is more subtle and perhaps more penetrating. It is about control and money and prestige and my Tesla will run over you if you don't watch out kind of anger. But you feel it, nonetheless. You feel it in your soul.
You see anger in the seedy towns and the gorgeous beaches from the tenements to the million dollar houses on the hills. They are nice people and not so nice people; they are rich people and not so wealthy. They express it in different ways--blatant or masked, quiet or explosive. Anger is anger no matter what form it takes, no matter where it comes from.
What type of anger gets you in trouble?
Half the Time We Don't Know We're Angry
Most of us are in la la land half the time, too busy with our daily activities, too busy with our careers and personal responsibilities. We are out of touch with the way we are feeling. We are numb to our anger. We walk around angry and we don't even know it. Other people see it and hear it, but not us.
I remember one time I was being supervised by a well-known psychotherapist. He reviewed a video that I took of a therapist that I was counselling. He looked at it for a few minutes and said, "Mark, you are really angry at your client." "I am?" I asked in disbelief. I became defensive for a few minutes and then I watched the film further and I realized that I was getting frustrated with my client and not giving her eye contact, which is often a symptom of anger. That taught me a lesson. Our anger doesn't have to be overt. It can be subtle. So subtle that we do not even know that we are angry. We are, in fact, in denial.
That supervision I received was invaluable. It opened my eyes to how much we can deny that we're angry. No one likes to be called angry. We all want to be viewed as being in control and being calm and collected. We don't want to be labeled as an angry person--it's demeaning.
Most people are nice people--whether angry or not. Anger comes and goes throughout the day. We can't help how we feel. We are in denial of our anger because we want to protect our ego and not look bad in the eyes of the world. So we go around thinking that we are not angry but a person who was justified in yelling or hollering because other people were doing something to us. It is them with the problem, not us.
Denying our anger only fuels our anger. It keeps it going. It makes a small brush fire into a 10-alarm fire.
Our Anger is Distorted
Our anger is a product of distorted thinking. This illogical thought process makes us feel that someone is doing something to us purposely just because they want to see us suffer. Anger makes us view people's intentions as cruel or heartless. It riles us up until we believe our distorted thinking and vent our anger verbally or passive aggressive or even to the point of violence.
Our distorted anger makes us become so focused on the other person, that we forget about ourselves. We forget about taking care of our emotions and we forget about our need to think clearly and calm down.
The truth is that most people are not cruel and heartless. If they hurt our feelings it is generally by accident. They may be insensitive to our feelings or they may not be mindful of us. But it's not because they have it in for us.
Popular spiritual writers like Eckhart Tolle and Thich Nhat Hanh preach self-awareness and being mindful of the moment. Because if we are in the moment, we become more aware of ourselves with relation to others. We have the opportunity to make good choices for ourselves and other people. In the moment means we are aware of what is going on inside and outside of ourselves. It certainly doesn't mean living for the moment, which a selfish behavior.
Eckhart Tolle talks about being in the present moment as being fully conscious: "To be conscious of Being, you need to reclaim consciousness from the mind. This is one of the most essential tasks on your spiritual journey."
Thich Nhat Hanh sees many positives in the present moment: “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it."
"What is most important is to find peace and to share it with others." Thich Nhat Hanh
Making Positive Choices and Creating Good Karma
Good deeds or good actions result in positive Karma for the individual and future happiness. But bad deeds and wrongful acts result in negative Karma and a troublesome future. Allowing anger to consume us leads us to behave in negative ways and create unhappiness. The key to creating good Karma for ourselves is to manage our anger. Being mindful or conscious of anger, and being aware that our anger is distorted, allows us to think through a situation better and to avoid bad Karma.
How is your anger affecting your life? Where is your anger leading you--to a bright future or a future full of misery? Your comments are welcome.