I got really angry last night; I was angrier than I’ve been in about three months. To (apparently many) people outside my situation it seemed that I was angry over nothing, or something that wasn’t a big deal.
The problem is that they were outside my head. They had no idea all of the reasons behind my anger or why I was so disappointed.
Since I was expressing my anger in a semi-public forum I got a lot of responses along the lines of “don’t be angry”. Chances are you’ve heard them all before. I venture to guess that if you are anywhere past 35 you’ve been told at least once to chill out, stop overreacting, let it go.
Now, if you would like to think about this with me for a second, I invite you to indulge me. Would you walk into someone else’s home and tell them to paint their walls a different colour? Would you take a curling iron and can of hairspray up to a casual acquaintance and begin to restyle their hair while they were eating lunch?
Unless you are certifiably insane or irretrievably rude, I bet you wouldn’t. So, why, then, is it considered appropriate to tell someone how they should feel about a certain situation? To decide for another person what her emotions should be?
I am trying to live peacefully within myself, and that has meant curtailing a lot of my former activities, not inviting into my life the things I know will bring me quickly to anger. But that doesn’t mean that I think ANGER is a bad thing. I happen to think that in and of itself Anger is a neutral element. It is like water or fire in that it can simply be, or it can be channelled. Water can drown; it can also power a mill that grinds grain into flour that makes bread and feeds people. Fire can burn down a house. But it also warms the cold and bakes the bread ground from the grain by the power of the water.
Anger is like that. Countless times in human history anger has been the engine to drive reform. Anger played its part when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Anger gave us the Magna Carta, the War of Independence, the end of slavery in the United States. Anger when channelled properly is one of the greatest tools we have for righting great wrongs.
There is a school of thought made popular by Oprah and some therapists which says that you are solely responsible for your feelings. That nothing can “make” you angry if you choose not to let it. This school of thought reminds me of the Health And Wealth gospel. Because it makes it seem as though you the individual are in complete control of everything in the world around you. You can decide to be rich, healthy, never angry or sad. If, on the other hand, you are poor or sick or mad as a wet hen it is a failing WITHIN YOU. Nope. Sorry. I don’t buy it. You know that popular PG-13 phrase, “S–t happens”? Well, it does. And “s–t” makes people sick. Makes them lose their money in the stock market downturn. Makes them angry. That’s part of life. Maturity doesn’t come from ignoring anger, poverty and sickness. Maturity comes from working through those things and making them work FOR you, not against you.
As for me and my anger last night, I was able to channel in positive directions. Not the least of which was blocking from my life some of the people who told me I had no right to be angry.