Saturday, May 8, 2010

Anger management

This is something that should be a specialty for me. Or, as Tigger would say, (pronouncing every syllable), "That's my speciality." Or maybe I should say that all the various ways of expressing and feeling and repressing anger are my very own speciality!

Anger that consists of hostility directed toward others is a problem. However, not all anger is automatically to be condemned, because strong emotions are the spice of life, and they always are informative. My friend Karen tells me that emotions should not be labeled as "good" or "bad." They just are. Hmmm... this sounds a lot like Buddhism, but she's a Catholic.

This reminds me, incidentally, of a little book called "The Tao of Pooh"* (messed up and had to edit this post to correct the book name)
that explained how Winnie the Pooh is actually a Taoist, an Eastern religion. (Who knew?) He's not mad, not sad, not this or that. Pooh just IS. He is fully present in every moment and always there for his friends. Funny that "He's a bear of very little brain." Perhaps a Buddhist would say, "Very little mind." Which would be a compliment.

Back to anger -- a life with no anger is probably a life not worth living anymore! Time to go on to something else, if you're through feeling passionate about what is happening around you. Where would the world be without righteous anger? I tremble to think.

But understanding anger is important. I am calling this "anger management." It's halting the emotion from becoming an immediate call for action. Especially when it's an emotion that threatens to sweep you away with its power, it is best to take a deep breath and pause for a moment. Pause. Breathe. Julie. (I'm trying to listen to my own advice here.)

I grew up in a family where anger was used to exert power and control over other people. This is a typical use of anger, but it is inappropriate. In fact, I think it is usually wrong to use emotions, in general, to gain power over others. Emotional arguments are used all the time to try to influence people and that's a little different (though still manipulative), but an angry outburst should not be used as a way to intimidate or threaten other people. So the trick is to express anger in a way that is not hostile or threatening to others.

Now, the interesting part is when you catch yourself doing just that: using anger to intimidate and control. I do it. You do it, I guarantee. It's that moment when you have had a long, hard day, and someone treads on your last nerve. It feels so satisfying, for a moment, to just let them have it. It's justified, isn't it?

It's easier to see faults in others, so much easier! So, I see an anger "issue" in my oldest son, and it is convenient to analyze that rather than look in the mirror and realize where his problem may originate. (With my entire family line, actually, and possibly some of Dwaine's as well.)

I have been working on this issue for years. I know in my head how I should behave. It takes forever, seemingly, for the knowledge to trickle down, slowly, slowly, into daily practice. It is so hard and painful to break old habits. It takes such a force of mental concentration, and the greatest focus is required at the times of greatest weakness. When I'm tired, hungry, cranky. That is when the stakes get so high, and I am most at risk of slipping back into lifelong patterns of abusive behavior. Expressing anger is important. Letting it take over my life is not a good option.

Daily practice is the only way to solve impenetrable problems. Every day is a new chance! You get a do-over, over and over again. Embrace the day and the new opportunities.

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