Maybe you get a thrill from it? I know I do sometimes.
When I’m angry about something, it makes me feel powerful. It feels good when I’m judging something or someone – making them wrong and making ME right.
Especially when I’m afraid of the world, anger provides a moment where I feel like I have some control.
It’s survival, right?
But the problem is that most of the time, my anger is completely out of control. In other words, I don’t even know it’s happening until it’s too late. Someone says something to me and it sets me off. I read something on social media and I’m compelled to write back instantly. Even when I don’t react right away, I bottle it up thinking that I’ve done the right thing, but really I’m just a ticking time bomb waiting for someone (who is usually not the intended target) to trigger me so I can unleash. Then I’m angry at myself because I can’t control my anger. It’s unconscious anger that’s the real problem.
If only I could create some space, so I can see it coming at me from farther down the road, giving me time to formulate a response.
Of course, nothing changes until we hit a bottom. I had to come to the realization that the anger payoff wasn’t worth all the problems it caused. For me, it became clear that anger was putting up walls and causing me to miss out on opportunities, because I was too busy in my head, wasting time being angry. I also started noticing that my thoughts were sounding like a bunch of bullshit stories. Yes, things happened, but I was responsible for the story I told myself about the thing, and I was really good at making things worse.
It’s all about awareness. And now it’s important to me.
So, I started to question the thoughts that pop into my head. I became skeptical. Not everything I think is true. It’s a lot of old programming that doesn’t serve me, and I don’t always need to listen to it.
And I started practicing making space in between my thoughts by actively trying to not think for as long as possible, and as often as possible. Little by little, I started creating more of a gap in between each thought. Instead of it being one long stream – like a voice constantly talking to me, there are quiet moments. There’s space.
Now when something happens, there’s a gap between the time that I feel that emotion surge through my body and the words coming out of my mouth. I’ve bought myself time, so I can respond instead of react.
Being married, I get to practice this a lot! We can be out, having a great day, until my wife pushes one of my buttons. My first thought might be, “that bitch, who does she think she is!” But now (usually) I don’t react, I just remain present, and maybe say to myself, “well, I know that we love each other, so maybe I’m misunderstanding the situation.” What! Who the hell is this new person I’ve become? Where did that calm sanity come from? That’s the magic of awareness. Now I consider all the possibilities before I react. Did she mean to push my button? Did I say something to cause her to push my button in the first place? Or maybe the idea of a button is just a bullshit story altogether.
But this change didn’t happen overnight. It took practice. But, once I started putting consistent effort into creating more awareness and space, I noticed I was making better decisions in all areas of my life. I now have more peace and I connect with other people more easily. It seems that I attract more opportunities and feel more useful in the world. I feel like now, by being able to step back and notice situations, instead of reacting to them, I have real power.
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I can’t figure out if by anger you mean your weltanschauung or losing your temper.
I can understand both because I separate them. Yes I have hair trigger temper that gets set off by the smallest thing. The tantrum lasts for only a few minutes then dissipates as I calm down. For instance when I am working on my old Triumph sports car. I get very frustrated because it was engineered nearly 60 years ago by a British engineer who was looking to get even for the War of 1812.
But my anger is also existential. I believe as Schopenhauer once proclaimed: “Life is given not to be enjoyed but rather to be gotten over.” So I am angry at life in general because it is not what I wanted it to be. It’s too hard and the rewards, unless you have some fantastic genes or family associations, seem not worth the effort living takes. If there is a God it is a cruel and evil taskmaster. An enemy of the people. In life we have all been cheated, lied to and deceived.
Life is not a beautiful gift, a gentle lamb. Rather is a vicious snarling beast that you don’t grab by the horns and ride for all its worth but rather one to grab by the throat and squeeze with abandon until it stops breathing.
Vulnerability is the magnet to form relationships. You will attract others as you allow the “Man in the Mirror” to tell you what is right and what is wrong. We all struggle with this, especially ego charged men.
Count to ten and then react. Too many conversations I have with people seem to be a competition to who can dominate. Sit back, relax, and listen twice as much as you speak. Your thoughts inside your head will be there and you don’t have to spew them out.
Careful consideration and willingness to not win the fight will keep you in a more peaceful place. At least until the kids come screaming out of the playroom and your quiet place is ruined!
Good Luck and Good thoughts
Thanks Scott! I love reading your words, it brings me back to conversations we had years ago – you’ve helped me so much since I’ve known you. You’re right about vulnerability, whenever I put myself out there, things seem to go better, even though it’s scary. I love the count to ten then react thing … thanks!