Sunday, August 17, 2008

Upside of Anger?

Is there one?

We're supposed to allow ourselves to "feel our emotions" and accept them, recognize them, give them free rein to a degree. At least that's what we're told in the post-psychologized world where the jargon of therapy is bandied about as if we really know what we're talking about when we throw around terms like "codependent" and "projection."

My anger worries me sometimes. It's not the kind of anger that erupts in physical abuse, picking fistfights, smashing glassware, punching holes in walls, or anything like that. It's more of a slow burn that lashes out with sarcastic, blunt, passive-aggressive comments toward those around me. I don't like it -- and like any dysfunctional abuser, I'm ultimately sorry for my misanthropic moments, but I feel somehow powerless to stop them when I get into the red zone.

I'm supremely impatient, and I also allow myself to find fault with and become annoyed at the neurotic habits of others (nevermind that we all have such habits).

My impatience and my blunt, cutting remarks sometimes get me in trouble, and they ultimately aren't indicative of the kind of person I want to be. I've been trying to cultivate a mind of "lovingkindness" for several years now, and in theory I understand and aspire to the concept of human imperfection (even -- or especially -- my own). But all learning about this goes out the window when something sets me off.

It makes me sad, this impatience of mine. I don't want to cut people down, belittle them, hurt them. And the truth is, I've gotten better; sometimes I think that's all I can aspire to: gradual improvement.

But nights like tonight when I realize that I was sitting at work, getting extremely irritated and ready to spit fire at the next person to approach me... these are the moments when I feel I haven't progressed at all. I'm still some petulant, childlike creature who is angry at unknown enemies, ready to slam doors, stomp feet, and give terse, one-word answers to anyone who dares question me.

And I want to just say, "Try, Joe, please TRY to be pleasant and happy and kind to others, because really, all's well in the world and everyone else is only doing their best and because life is short really, so why get irritated when this will all be over in the blink of an eye."

In the end, I wonder: how can someone so loving and sensitive be so damn nasty and mean sometimes?

I need to do more work on this -- possibly daily. I have the following quote from the Dalai Lama posted on the wall of my office; I think I want to meditate on it a little more often, and maybe search for a few other similar teachings to think about as well:
Whether people are beautiful and friendly or unattractive and disruptive, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and be happy is equal to one's own. ...When you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems. Nor is this wish selective; it applies equally to all.


LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Most of what you write about is vary familiar to me. My anger usually erupts in snide comments masquerading as wit and humor that I want to retract almost as soon as I say them. Making me even angrier are supposedly compassionate types who tell me that depression is anger turned inward, which makes me want to turn it outward, and when I do I feel more depressed and angry. Fortunately this is not one of those days. Sorry to hear that it is one for you (or last night was).

Salty Miss Jill said...

I think we are leading parallel lives. Especially with the annoyance at other's idiosyncrisies and mis-use of psychological terms.
The person I am most angry with these days is myself. bleah.
I hope we both feel better soon. When's that dinner party gonna happen?
More medication, please!

joe said...

LdB & Jill: thanks for the coments and support. I'm over my crankypantsness, but there will unfortunately be a professional hangover (hopefully not dire).

Jill: Keep meaning to write -- how I wish I could be in NYC next month, but I just took a mini-vacay to NJ in July, so probably not. Your comment about "the person I'm most angry with is myself" tends to resonate -- that's really what it is most of the time, isn't it? MANY years ago I clipped a Cathy cartoon which I was just prompted to look up. I think I'll post that in a minute. Hope YOU'RE doing better!