“You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.” ~Buddha
I went camping recently, something that I was really looking forward to, but I didn’t last long. Due to health conditions, my friend and I had to abandon camp at three in the morning because the cold got to me in a big way.
This awful experience has left me feeling dejected and rather ashamed of myself. Who the hell can’t manage a couple of nights camping? I’m being too hard on myself, but the point is I’m feeling angry.
You know what that whole anger thing is like:
Your kid goes over the other side of town with friends when you’ve asked them not to because you don’t want them to get hurt. Your sister borrows your favorite top and spills wine down it, then hides it back in your wardrobe. Your best friend nails that promotion after saying she wouldn’t apply because she knew you were desperate for it.
There are countless situations in our lives that can give rise to anger. It’s up to us to recognize them and do something about it before it gets out of hand.
I admit it: I am an angry person. How angry you ask?
A young girl walked up to me in my village and asked me to buy her cigarettes the other day. The bile shot into my throat and I yelled at her without even thinking, furious that a child had just asked me to illegally purchase a dangerous product for her.
I was livid to see that a man went on to buy the cigarettes for the girl, and pretty much boiling over with rage at the shop keeper who knew the kids were trying to pull a fast one and didn’t bother to question the man. I watched the whole thing happen and then I seethed for the whole day over it.
I thought about how I wanted to thump the girl for being so stupid, the man for breaking the law, and the shop keeper for being so apathetic. I indulged these little fantasies for the whole day. They virtually consumed me until my best friend pointed out that I was seriously overreacting and setting myself up to be ignored, when all I want is to be heard.
I consider myself to be a good person but my extreme anger makes me intolerable—I know this. I frighten people when I lose my rag.
But why am I like this?
As I ranted on to my friend, I explained that all I ever see is destruction, war, death, and suffering. I see liars and those who just want to fill their pockets at other people’s expense.
I see the knowingly selfish and people who don’t care about others. I see an unjust world where people, animals, and the planet all suffer at the expense of the seemingly few. It makes me wild.
My friend was quick and right to point out that, because I see all of this, I’m blinding myself to the good things in life: the people who do care about the planet, those who do uphold a strong set of morals and live by them, and others who are just and do the right thing.
I forget about myself too—the good things I make happen, like writing here and sharing my experiences openly and without shame.
My anger stems from my passion and desire for a better world. I want things to be better for everyone (including myself—especially myself). But it’s my current inability to express these things and be heard, to be taken seriously, that give rise to the firestorm that is my anger.
Nobody is pulling me up for it, nobody is telling me off for losing my temper so easily and frequently. (I’m not surprised by this actually, because I’d certainly not confront me for it!) Odds are, nobody is going to.
In the meantime, I am suffering because of my anger:
- People won’t listen to me or take me seriously because all they see is an incoherent screaming ball of wrath.
- The incoherence is another point. How can I articulate myself over the things I believe in if my anger stops me from getting my words in the right order?
- Because I’m hung up on my anger, I can’t let it go, which means it affects me physically. It makes me feel sick as my blood pressure soars; I begin to go deaf and everything starts to get fuzzy around the edges and I even get chest pains.
- Being angry all the time is a lonely business. Not many people want to be around someone who can snap at the smallest incident.
- Anger causes blindness. I can’t see the whole picture when I’m hell bent on venting my fury and exacting my will.
- I always say things I regret when I’m gnashing my teeth, usually to the people I love the most. Everything comes out; nothing is censored.
- I have little joy in my life right now because everything gets under my skin and annoys me, and then I get irritated by this fact.
I don’t want to be like this for the rest of my life and I can guess that you wouldn’t either.
The first step of moving away from my punishing anger is admitting that I’m angry, understanding why, and forgiving myself for it—which I’ve begun to do, thanks to my best friend who took the time to stand up to me and show me my reflection.
The next step is learning to let it go and be the person I want to be.
Deep breath, here goes…
Photo by Robert Couse-Baker