What is anger?
What is anger to me?
Anger to me is the heat that rises up from my stomach into my throat.
Heat that tastes like habanero soaked nails.
How can I keep that down?
How can I not spew that out?
The heat radiates from my throat and wraps its unsuspectingly cool hands around my neck.
The fingers squeeze… and relax… squeezing then tightening then relaxing then caressing, over and over until...
It’s taken me almost twenty-five years to recognize and channel my anger. I’ve been reading this book on anger – Anger: Taming A Powerful Emotion by Gary Chapman – which has put a great deal into perspective for me. There is a common misconception that anger is bad or wrong but in fact, anger is natural and can be used in incredibly powerful and constructive ways. Knowing this, I have began to categorize my anger. Now that I can recognize the physical sensations that occur when anger creeps up, I am able to STOP and talk myself into productive expression of this complicated emotion. Transforming my anger begins with my recognition of the anger and expressing to myself out loud or in my head that I am angry. After this realization, I usually get down on myself for 5-10 minutes, sometimes longer if I am VERY angry, or sometimes not at all if my anger is immediately proven to be justified.
For the sake of this post and complete transparency, we'll discuss the types of anger that I have experienced and the reactions and responses that I have had. Being triggered by someone making a vague comment about the blackness of my gums, taking me back to being tormented by my older brother and his friends chanting "bubbalicious bubble gums" (funny now, not so much when you're 9 years old) created a specific type of anger within me. Individuals that question my actions or offer unsolicited advice, throwing me back to a time when (because I am the youngest in an adult family) a lot of my actions were controlled or manipulated, ignited another kind of anger in me. These types of anger are different – but both have caused my ego to grow unhealthily in its reactivity. For example, when people today are commenting on the purpleness of my gums or giving me advice that I did not request, I perceive them to be ill-intentioned when it is very likely that they are not. Gary Chapman, author of the aforementioned book that is resonating with me right now, calls this type of anger, distorted anger.
As I'm getting older and growing emotionally, I can see how confused and hurt those around me become when I snap and/or curse them out for seemingly insignificant occurrences. This brings to my awareness that I have to at least try to not be this person that's seen as a "firecracker" or a "pit bull". For the most part, I am an incredibly bright, open, and vibrant person and for that reason I have justified the passion in which I express my anger when someone does not agree with my personal choices or beliefs.
It's a distorted perspective to have but I often believe that I am expressing myself and that others are entitled to feel how they feel but I am always entitled to respond however I please. That's the word - respond. Everyone is entitled to feel angry about something, but the time between feeling that anger and expressing it is crucial because it will determine how most people categorize the entirety of your character...
Imagine meeting a new friend for dinner, you two are having great conversation over dinner and drinks, throughout the night you are thinking how lucky you are to have met someone that is on the same wavelength as you and then bam! the waiter spills the neighboring table's order all over you and your friend. You see it as no issue because you are both wearing black cotton clothing, you realize the night is coming to an end and you can avoid having to move through the night with spaghetti all over your clothes AND you are certain it was an accident on your waiter's part. Your new friend does not delay their anger with such ease and rationale. Instead they begin to curse the waiter to the end of their life, telling them they will not amount to anything and that their lack of skills is why they have landed themselves in the lowly position of a waiter. Your new friend sits down and then proceeds to finish the conversation you two were having as if their outburst never occurred. Regardless of the status of your own temperament, ANY ONE would be at least a bit turned off, maybe embarrassed and even slightly disgusted.
This is obviously an uncomplicated example of an angry response and to some reading, may be justified. Had your new friend delayed their anger, or at the least inquired to discover it was the waiter's first day on the job or that the waiter had been notified of a death in their family thus being incredibly distracted, the outburst may not have occurred in such fervor, and you would not be sitting across the table in horror, believing your new friend is an elitist psycho.
Situations with the waiter, and those more serious like your partner not disclosing intimate information, leaving you to discover it by chance or circumstance, could of course bring anyone to a place of immediate distorted anger. What I have come to realize over these past couple weeks (and even the past couple days in writing this post) is that anger will occur, but for my benefit it is best to feel and notice my anger, then move to a place of intentional inquisition.
First, I begin to ask questions (as calmly as possible) that place me in the mind of the person that has angered me. I do my best to stay away from accusatory or inflated questions like, "why would you do something like that?!"or even better "do you like to make me angry?" I find that in most cases, especially when the person you are dealing with is not used to your emotional expression, their responses to these questions can in fact make you more angry.
Next, I really try to take their responses at face value. There is no point in interrogating someone that has angered me in hopes to get an answer that will appease my ego and allow for me to lash out - that's not the point here. I allow them to tell me their truth and I leave it there.
Finally, when I have asked the appropriate questions and taken enough time to cool myself down to feel comfortable enough to respond - I do.
Now remember, there is nothing here that says I will not curse a motherf**ker out, BUT I am doing my best to make sure that this response is reserved for an appropriate situation. Although, as I journey through my emotional responses and how they affect my spirit, I am not sure if telling someone they're not shit is ever an appropriate response.
I've gotten the delay part down... mostly.But now I'm doing my best to work on presenting the response so it is heard clearly. I'll let you guys know how it goes.
"Anger was meant to be a visitor, never a resident."
– Dr. Gary Chapman