I kind of like me when I’m angry.

I inherited the worst parts of the temper from both sides of my family. I have the hair trigger, I have the explosive rage, I have the deep malevolence and I have the lasting spite. On top of that, I’m bloody huge. From time to time I have had to replace hinges or latches on a door because I walked into it or got caught on it as I walked away. Not mad, just clumsy. The combination of these qualities has made me terrified of my temper for a long time.

Consequently I have clamped down hard on my temper. For over 15 years I have kept it carefully in check, rarely letting it out. Since this is over half my life, most people have never seen me actually lose my temper. Still, even a little flash makes alot of people visibly uncomfortable. Controlling my temper is actually a fairly simple process, although for many years it took hours a day. It was a matter of careful meditation (not in the mystical sense, in the disciplined mental training sense), ordering various things that triggered my temper, systematically justifying or rejecting various responses to each. A few things were chosen carefully as legitimate targets for my anger; intentional harm or physical violence, particularly when directed against anyone unable to defend themselves, personal failures, neglect of children/animals. On a relative scale with these, other issues are easy to see as petty frustrations. Time and repetition brought significant control.

For a long time, I equated most of my anger with the worst of my temper. All anger needed to be reigned in. This is mostly because it was actually true for a while; I used to have to check my temper when I realized that my car needed gas- why should that make anyone angry? And even if it does, why did that necessarily trigger my temper and make me respond in ways I did not want to? I honestly still don’t understand it. More recently, an awful lot of that sort of thing just doesn’t register at all. Even when something does, maintaining control has become trivial. Which is good. I like that I have changed in this way. I hope it stays.

But it also means that most of the anger I have left? It’s the righteous kind. I had my pick- I could have been angry at anything in the universe. I really did have it all when it came to fury. What is left is mostly the anger that I chose to have. I’m angry when kids are neglected and threatened. I’m angry when kids are mutilated. I’m angry that as a child, I was lied to about atheists. Like Greta, I’m still angry about Galileo. If the church wants that set right, I’ll be more amicable in 2351- provided that the apology stands for as long as they neglected it. I’m angry that the very word ‘atheist‘ is controversial. I’m angry that a U.S. Army soldier was murdered in Texas, and I’m angry the suspect said it was for not believing in god.

I’m glad to be angry about these things. It is the best part of me that is angry about these things. Those who know me well know that Don Quixote is held highest by far among my heroes. The ability to be enraged by the right things and ignore the petty trivialities of the world strikes me as incomparably valuable.  Man of LaMancha has shaped me as much if not more than any other single work of art.

Still, even when I managed to get everything under control, I didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything. This is probably the biggest personal flaw that I have ever overcome, but the remembered connection between my anger and my temper still caused me to be ashamed of my anger. Then Greta Christina fixed that for me. If you haven’t watched her talk about it (linked above), you should. Now she has a book coming out about that. Old man Bais don’t usually cotton to thems newfangled technologies, but he will still definitely check it out. Super-fancy early adopters can even get it in ebook form now.

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8 Responses to I kind of like me when I’m angry.

  1. a coward says:

    I can recognize the value in anger that is directed towards righteous causes as a motivator to correct the wrongs that stirred the anger. I fully admit that, at times, I should feel more anger towards injustices and wish to act upon them. However, I will also claim that, at least in the vast majority of cases, that any value that could be taken from acting in anger could just as equally, if not moreso, be taken from tempering that anger and instead acting out of other emotions or perceptions — ideally love. Someone who beats children fully deserves an angry beating back (or if not the beating itself, the clear intent that it’s what you feel they should receive), but the idea of “payback” generally seated in anger, even if out of justice and not revenge, never settled well with me. Acting in anger perpetuates more anger, which is only useful if you become the goddamn Batman, and even then, anger is dependent on conflict. And that’s assuming you manage to always use anger for solely good causes — it’s, at best, making yourself a walking weapon that you must remain utterly self-vigilant to use for good.

    So, in short, I don’t like people when they’re angry. To me, it shows they’ve lost control, and I’m not quite ready to buy into the Dexter philosophy.

    • Because anger is definitely always used to fuel violence/malice and logically flows to an end point of serial murder. Toward the end of her talk, Greta even starts throwing babies at audience members. She may not look that tough, but she’s wiry. Also, this post was in no way about the development of self control and the separation of violence and revenge from anger to permit constructive expression.

  2. Pingback: You made me do it you fool! « HOW TO MAN UP

  3. a coward says:

    I did not say always and I acknowledged the ability to channel anger for constructive use. Please do not twist my intended message with sarcasm if you don’t wish to answer it as it is.

    • a coward says:

      Also, in this context, I feel your blog’s tagline of (welcomed) anticipation in being proven wrong and joy when you are falls short of honest of your intentions. Regardless of whether your point here is true or not, your sarcastic and attacking reply to my response comes off as less a desire for a conversation and more a declaration that you are in the right and I am in the wrong, which I would say is against the collaborative pursuit of truth. I say this because 1) I wish you to clearly understand how I perceive your response so that 2) I can do what I can to help strengthen said conversations and collaborative pursuits. If, however, this blog is meant purely as a means to vent (I know it is meant as this to some extent), then I would suggest you set your blog to private.

      If I have misinterpreted your intent in your previous reply, I apologize for arriving at the wrong conclusion, and in either case, hope we may better communicate — speaking and listening — in the future.

      • You got a response because you equivocated between anger and violence in a way that significantly oversteps what I consider justified and then scolded me for acting out of anger instead of love, as though they were mutually exclusive. I suppose that might arguably be the case if my only available expression of anger were to run around beating or threatening people, but that seems like a poor caricature of someone who likes the fact that his temper has gotten easier to control.

        It is stunning how effective it has been for me to just tell people that something they did made me angry. Love fuels anger when there is injustice. If you’re careful, patient and paying attention, that anger can heal and foster new love. The notion that acting in anger can only perpetuate anger is absurd on its face.

        You got snark because you closed your response by comparing the half of my life I have spent separating my temper from my anger, so that I could be angry when justified and be constructive without losing control, to being a serial murderer. You earned that snark and I would never take it away. I don’t mind arguing gloves on or off, but if you don’t want sarcasm, you need to leave the hyperbole at home.

  4. a coward says:

    I also compared you to Batman. Want to scold me about that hyperbole too?

    Seriously, though, I used both references as examples towards how I feel about anger, not about you personally, and I am not discounting that you a) can make anger effective and b) took a lot of well-spent effort in tempering anger towards good causes. Those are both good. I am, however, failing to see why anger should be “liked” when, as I see it, it’s an emotion that /naturally/ draws action towards conflict, and I don’t solely speak of violence. Anger rises because there is a disconnect between an ideal and an actuality (I want a cookie, but there are no cookies — ARGH! I want people to get along, and this one guy keeps beating up children, NOT COOL!).

    I will correct myself and say that I should not have said acting IN anger vs. acting in love, but rather, acting from a SOURCE of anger vs. acting from a source of love. I understand how you could bring up love and anger as not being mutually exclusive, and that seems true when, for example, one could love their mother and then be angry that she said a racist remark, and that anger would SEEM to be fueled by the fact you love her (as you wouldn’t be nearly as angry with a stranger). However, there is more anger because there is a greater conflict between the trust and love with the mother and the hatred towards the wrong, racist remarks. You then go on to talk about being patient, careful, and paying attention….which sounds like to me you’re saying “well, if you repress everything it means to be angry and encourage everything it means to love, you can turn anger into love.” Am I missing something there?

    I know I’ve earned the snark, and I know that criminals deserve punishment. I will still never personally /desire/ criminals to be punished, especially if I think /ultimately/ a reward to reform for the better is an option. Anger is a beast I have no intention of “liking” no matter how domesticated and useful it can be.

    Just remember: you’re not the blog the people deserve, you’re the blog the people need.

  5. a coward says:

    I should also say that I used the Dexter example as what I thought was the most workable example I could come up with that involved taking some “inner beast” that had to be satisfied and channeling it towards relative good. I brought it up because I happen to think the idea that people have inner beasts that have to be satisfied is crap, and your situation, to a far far lesser degree, seemed to imply to me “I have to satisfy my anger in some fashion” instead of “When I can help it, my anger will shrivel up in hunger.”

    As for saying anger leads to more anger? I say it because, generally, when you do something that makes you feel good or gives you a reward of some sort, you want to do more of it. If acting through anger made you feel good, especially if an alternative is harder, you have little reason to not want to turn to anger again. And, again, anger is not naturally and normally an emotion that encourages good things, so I see no reason to ever “like” anger. I will applaud control over it, but not approve of anger in and of itself.

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