Friday, December 02, 2005

A spurt of irrational anger, followed by a sudden notion of inner-growth...and the resulting look at a pretty scary little emotion called 'anger'

It's interesting how we notice ourselves age. Physical changes are certainly an obvious indicator. Birthdays are another obvious way to see the passing of time in life. But beyond those, there are many, many little things, subtle things, that show us that we've gotten older. Culture changes, yes. Changes in locations, friends, occupations, definitely. But it's funny how random things will suddenly trigger the thought "Wow, I've definitely gotten older."

I was walking home today, feeling kinda down and cranky. [Disclaimer: been feeling cranky all week, so it was little surprise to me that Friday ended my work week and I was full of left over crankiness mixed with relief that the weekend will give me some down time in which to breathe and regroup.] I got my cell phone out to call someone...which is a common habit of mine when I walk places...I get bored and want someone to talk to so I don't end up counting how many steps it takes me to get from Point A to Point B. [No joke, I've done that before...judge how you will.] But there's one street on my walk home that my cell phone never gets reception on. I don't know why. Other people talk on their cell phones on this street. But never me.

This annoyed me beyond reason. Recall the crankiness. It always escalates petty annoyance into irrational anger. Ugh. And I suddenly had this gigantic urge to chuck my phone out into the street, or perhaps just ahead of me on the sidewalk several feet, then curl up on the ground and scream. [This is the part where you blink and say, "Where the hell did that come from?" while simultaneously creating the mental image with mild amusement of me throwing a tantrum in the middle of a Cambridge street.] But, I obviously didn't, or this would this post would have started in a completely different way... Instead, I shut my phone, sighed very deeply (enough to make the guy passing me on the sidewalk turn to look at what the noise was), put the phone in my pocket, silently cursed it as if it's the phone's fault, and continued walking down the Street of No Reception. And, as I walked and willed my mind not to stew over something this stupid, I was struck by the inner-growth I noticed. When I was younger, I had such a hard time controlling my temper. I spent many years learning how to quell irrational bursts of anger. And I'm sure had this incident happened to that "younger me," there would have been a bigger show of angry emotion (enough to make that guy passing stop and stare). But, I have learned to recognize the uselessness of certain displays of anger. [This story being one of those.]

And so, from this sudden realization of growth, I started thinking about how I've learned to deal with anger. How I've learned to feel it completely, but not let it consume me. How I've learned to experience the anger, but not throw it back out. How I've learned to let it flow through me and out again, instead of holding it inside as a way to pretend I'm not angry. And it felt good to see how much I've learned, how much I've grown in this little and subtle way. As I write this, I think back to the little cell phone episode, and play it back in my mind, and laugh at the ridiculousness of it.

I think it's interesting how hard it is to learn to deal with anger. It's one of the most powerful of emotions. And one that people deal with in such bad ways. People hold it inside of them because they think it's wrong to feel angry about something, then it comes out when they beat their family or shoot someone in a fight or yell at an innocent store clerk or snap at a well-meaning friend. People allow themselves to feel the anger but fall into the emotion until the anger has engulfed them completely, and they live their lives isolated from people or speaking negatively about everything or judging others' actions or losing their faith in the inherent goodness of others around them. Anger rips apart families, creates huge rifts in friendships, and tears at the fabric of relationships. And yet, we all feel it. We can't run from it, hide from it, or learn not to feel it.

I don't pretend to be an expert on anger. I don't pretend to know the right way to deal with anger. I don't pretend to know the most healthy way to experience anger. I do know that I can look back in my life at the anger I've felt and honestly say that I'm not embarrassed about feeling this emotion anymore. I can say that I have dealt with a lot of anger, and I have a fresh opinion about the emotion--a fresh approach to feeling it and a fresh perspective about how I let it effect me.

And, reading back over this post, I realize I've rambled a bunch. But the rambling has served a purpose. The irrational anger from 20 minutes ago on my walk home is gone. Not an ounce is left inside of me, bottled up for no good reason. It is true that I still bottle it up sometimes. I still harbor grudges every once and awhile without noticing right away. Like I said, I'm not a perfectly correct anger-experiencer. [that's my new word, like it?] But I keep learning about my way of handling the emotion, and keep growing as I find healthier ways to experience, express, and deal with anger.

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