A Statement of Personal Self-Concept
One thing that I am not always happy to admit is that I have a lot of anger. This is not to say that I am an angry person. In the past, I have been an angry person – I allowed my anger to control my vantage of the world and those who inhabit the world. It was a familiar filter through which every decision, every perception and every relationship would have to pass through. I was not a happy person, nor was I a pleasant person to be around.
These days, I try to pass the world through a different filter – one of optimism. You see, optimism is the space around anger.
Anger is not a primary emotion. I learned this through acting. When you are angry it is in response to something else. Surprise – say, when someone cuts in front of you on the freeway – leads to fear at the possibility of harm, and then anger at the individual that presented the threat of that harm. The anger is not really at the individual, but rather the aggressive counter to fear. Fight or Flight.
Frustration is another good instigator for anger. For me, ignorance and social injustice are mammoth triggers of frustration. Mostly because the aforementioned evils serve no real purpose other than as camouflage for the further aforementioned fear. Become a bully before someone else is given an opportunity to bully you. When faced with ignorance or social injustice I am faced with two options.
Option One: Make like the Unibomber, wrapped up in isolation and my own sense of superiority and proceed to destroy all those I deem unworthy.Problems – aside from all illegality murderous, sociopathic, hypocritical and generally not productive or helpful.
Option Two: CHOOSE to assume that ignorance is not self-imposed and can quite nicely be swept away with knowledge and/or constructive disapproval. Social Injustice – well, can be solved with a little active justice – don’t you think. A big rally is not always necessary, a single person saying, that is not acceptable – and then calmly explaining why it is not acceptable, that can work too, AND ANYONE CAN DO IT. Problems – takes an awful lot of patience and extremely thick skin.
Option One is a choice made within anger. Option Two, a choice made from the space around anger. But how do you find the space around anger? That is the big question, isn’t it?
Think about a fight with a loved one. JJ can make me so angry that I see the entire color spectrum behind my eyes, I lose any and all ability to string words into a sentence (that is a BAD thing with me) and I lose motor function beyond banging my head (fist/foot) against a wall. But the thing about it is… I love the man. As social creatures we always get angriest with those we love the most, but we still love them. We forgive them because of that love. With JJ, whenever I am the most angry – and this is a direct result of my time with the Medical Examiners Office – I think of him as no longer there. I have no choice in this vision, my grief for those lost in war has become the home for my anger. Whenever I go down that slippery slope of rage, it is here where I settle. In that moment where I envision JJ as no longer alive in this world, my anger cannot survive – it is after all, a secondary emotion.
My love, my grief at the loss of the man far outweighs any temporary anger I feel toward a situation. And in an instant all of the anger I was feeling vanished, replaced by an overwhelming gratitude that he is still in my life, alive – pissed beyond all measure – but breathing.
This works with JJ, my mother, my sisters, my friends…. heck… if you think about it,if I want to stay away from the hypocrisy of the Unibomer (isolation, absurd sense of superiority) – it can work for the entire human race.
The space around anger