"Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel
The quote by Mark Twain was something similar to what my mother taught me. It always stuck with me. The following are my thoughts on anger. They've served me well.
When someone treats us rudely or incorrectly judges us, we feel disrespected. Lack of respect makes us feel unappreciated. Lack of appreciation boils down to feeling undervalued. Peel one more layer back and what we have is feeling misunderstood. No one likes that. Being misunderstood is wholly contrary to the core of being human. Even if we don’t agree with one another, we want to feel understood and we want to understand.
The desire and need to communicate are both inherent in our nature. And at the center of successful communication is establishing mutual understanding. So when something happens or something is said that dismantles, distorts, or disrupts “mutual understanding” the result is pain, often first experienced as anger.
Anger may be the mind’s defense mechanism to stave off impending pain the way adrenaline will strengthen the body and put it on high alert preparing for a fight or flight response. A healthy mind and body will let go of the anger and the adrenaline will subside in order to resume functioning in normal range versus a sustained ‘heightened ability’ range.
Anger is fed when emotions are ignored and by avoiding rational thought. Anger actually shuts down some of our brain’s ability to correctly process information, so rational thought isn’t an option in the heat of anger.
"Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry
In a healthy person, anger is typically short lived. But some people intentionally buffer themselves from pain by focusing on their anger. (You might experience passive aggressive behavior versus outright anger, but anger is central to what they feel.) Others keep the pain continually at bay through a relentlessly tight grip on anger. This persistent anger is actually unprocessed pain. This is key. It’s key to understanding angry people and it’s the key point I want to make. So let me repeat that. “Persistent anger is actually unprocessed pain.”
I encountered an angry person the day I wrote this article. I know him well. He is someone who has a lifetime of unprocessed pain. He has been a broken soul since childhood. When he unleashed his anger on me this morning, I did not feel a need to reciprocate. I immediately recognized that I was being misunderstood and misjudged, and knew that his own brokenness was manifesting his anger. He has been an angry person most of his life, yet to the public eye, he has kept his anger often hidden. It correlated into being an unhappy person, but he also hid that through other emotional plays.
When he lashed out at me today, my reaction was to bypass anger and go straight to my pain. I was momentarily stunned as he sped off in his car. We’d been at a gas station. I was standing next to my parked car when he yelled at me. At one point, he actually puffed up physically and got nose to nose with me, poised to strike, like I’d seen him do when he wanted the other guy to know he was prepared to make his point with his fist. I didn’t flinch because he’d never raised a hand to me. I just knew he was over the top with anger.
"In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already
A witness to all this stood near my side as completely confused as I, knowing that I’d done nothing to provoke such a reaction and even tried to offer words in my defense but was also quickly shut down by his spewing wrath.
Amidst the proverbial dust left by his speeding tires, I began to tremble. Tears rushed like a flood, so quickly in fact, that they simply fell from my eyes without the normal roll down my cheeks. I’d collapsed into the driver’s seat, and sat engine off, eyes blurry trying to figure out what triggered his outburst and to make sense of what felt like a stopover in the Twilight Zone. A thousand and one things flew through my mind flashing like poorly edited movie trailers. I took a few deep breaths and exhaled with some loud guttural sighs and somewhere between the stream of consciousness and analysis, I found some composure and then came the strength. I never once felt anger. It never occurred to me to cuss him out. I never thought of vengeance. It was a crazy display of misplaced emotions. It doesn't excuse it... only half way explains it....
When I realized his anger was not my problem or I should say, I wasn’t going to let it become my problem, my pain subsided. Those thoughts aroused an inner strength and I stopped dissolving. I wasn’t going to let his dysfunction take me down. All this came in the first fifteen minutes following the explosive scene. I drove a couple of hours back to my home and even took a long route that I hadn’t taken in years and photographed some birds along the way and enjoyed the beautiful mountain scenery. Letting go can feel like a gift we give ourselves on days like this.
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