Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Anger, Part 2

I'm taking a break on the letter writing blogs until after the holiday. They require a bit more time from the reader (being a task, as opposed to just reading the blog) and shouldn't be rushed. So, I thought I'd address one of my favorite topics again - anger.

It might sound weird that anger is one of my favorite themes to write on. I like doing so because others seem to find it so taboo, and yet there are probably very few of us who aren't angry about something. It might not be an apparent anger. It might be something that sits below the surface but with the "right" trigger bubbles up.  This time of the year, as loving as it aims to be, is especially prime for anger. Family disputes about hosting the holidays, work stress due to deadlines, memories of frustrations from previous years, and the like. So I figured, what better time to address it, and get it all out before the holidays. Start the new year fresh.

I was thinking about anger yesterday because there are a few situations and people in my life right now that I will openly admit are making me angry. In most cases, it's because I believe I'm being treated unfairly. Whether it's the feeling that I'm being judged by a past situation and not by my current self, or the opinion that I'm not being given a chance on something I downright am positive I deserve and have earned, or that I'm just very frustrated by someone's actions and they way they are treating me, I have some anger. I'm not ashamed of it. Anger is a natural emotion. It's a passion. Would it be better to feel so little emotion that we never get angry?

Anger in itself is not bad. It can be a catalyst for positive change. If I'm angry about something, I could take a stand. If angers me when I hear stigmas about certain conditions, it motivates me to work even harder to build awareness and educate people. If it's a less broad, more personal anger, I could address the person or situation I'm angry at. Or, I could change my view on and interaction with the person or situation. Before choosing an action, though, here are a few key points about anger to consider:

  • Anger almost always comes from hurt, at the most basic level. A hurt of a betrayal, of rejection, of working really hard at something and feeling unappreciated, of loneliness, of having a stigma thrown at you, of not being understood, of having promises broken, and the list goes on and on. But anger makes us feel powerful and hurt makes us feel vulnerable. And most people don't like to feel or appear vulnerable, so anger manifests itself more easily. 
  • Initial anger is a reactionary emotion - like a fight or flight. Fear would be the flight, anger is the fight. But once that initial response is over (probably a couple of minutes at most), it is 100 percent our choice to be angry or not. We could choose to acknowledge the truth and feel hurt instead of anger, we could to be motivated to make a positive change, or we could decide it's not a big deal and move on. Often we decide to prolonge it and keep feeling angry instead. 
  • Examine the anger carefully. Before taking any action, ask yourself "why am I angry?" The real answer isn't "because Bob Smith called me a jerk"; it's something more like "because Bob Smith doesn't like me and that feeds into my fear of rejection." In truth, there's nothing you can do about Bob Smith if he really wants to keep calling you a jerk, except choose not to interact with him. But when you find the root of the problem, you can address it at a personal level within yourself. 
  • Before taking any action, look at all of your options. Then look at the potential consequences from each action. Which will most likely get to the heart of the issue and turn out best in the long run. 
For me, anger is often a catalyst for change. It's the "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" mentality, but in a positive way. First off, there are patterns. It's the same situations and people, over and over again, and they're hitting at the same trigger points. Most often, it's my fear of rejection. I have to keep in mind that you can't change anyone, you can only change yourself. So first, I look at what I can change within myself. Am I being too sensitive? Am I expecting to much? Is there something in my actions that's unintentionally aiding and abetting the situation? Then I look at what I can change with each situation. In some situations, it means walking away. In others, it might mean talking about it with the person(s) and seeing what can be done to improve things. Anger is incredibly personal, and incredibly individual, and I have to treat it that way. 

2013 is going to bring some big changes to my life in many areas. I've decided, as a Christmas present to myself, that I'm going to start those changes early. I've begun with the complete opposite of anger. I'm spending much of this week writing, doing creativity exercises, contemplating, meditating, and feeling the incredible energy that seems to be flowing around me - for what I do not yet know.

How will you address your anger and clear out your heart and mind to start the new year? 


  1. Nice blog, Maya. I think you do a lot to build on the conventional wisdom that anger is always a secondary emotion. If, as you said, a particular instance of anger happens to just be a knee jerk reaction to something that will pass quickly, it is often best just to let it go, but if it is something that persists, the real task is to discover just what the real emotion is that anger is hiding.

    1. Thank you. I agree, and I think that's the best course of action. If it's the initial "oh that upsets me" but then you get over it - like someone cuts you off in traffic or something - then you can just let it go. But if it's a person or situation that continually makes you angry, I think you need to look deeper into the root cause, and how to best address it. It may still be that you have to let it go, but in that case, it's probably something you have to work on within yourself. Like the "ok this isn't a big deal, i'm just being super sensitive" thing that I find myself doing occasionally, where really the issue is internal, and not something that necessarily needs to be addressed with the "offender".