Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Anger As Fuel

Last night, I came home and wrote an entire post about anger. About how, a few days ago, mind you, a woman in her sixties driving a large car flipped me off for no apparent reason. It made me angry, and enough that I would bring it up several days later as an example of how anger is just going to happen and there's no way to avoid it.

But then I thought, why? Why the anger? What's the point?

I wrestled with my feelings about anger for a while. Then, I didn't post what I'd written deciding to sleep on it. I woke up this morning still unsure of how I feel about anger. My first instinct is to say no to anger. Let it be, let it go. It's not worth it and it doesn't create a positive environment around you. And I believe that. I believe you have to let things go, as much as you can.

Interestingly enough, though, I also believe in strong emotion (I know, shocking). I believe that's what motivates us. Strong love, strong desire and sometimes, strong anger, have birthed some of the greatest movements in this world. When I work with cancer patients and their families one of the constant and most obvious emotions is anger. They are angry at cancer. They are angry at the way it changed their life, they are angry at what it took away. The anger may not be 100% of how they feel, but it plays an unmistakable role in the lives of those affected. Many times, I often hear the anger is what motivated a patient to be relentless in her battle against the disease. I cannot, having witnessed this emotion, say anger is wrong.

A strong emotion like anger is what keeps us from settling. It can happen anywhere, at any time. Josh mentioned in his Civic Duty post that he just couldn't stand to see someone blatantly littering. It made him angry enough to say something. And I think it should. There is always a chance of someone coming back at you with their own anger, but is that a reason to keep quiet? We are all too consumed with keeping quiet at the risk of danger when, really, the quiet is often contributing to even worse. Like Josh, I once told a guy to stop hitting his dog because it made me angry. It may or may not have been my business, but it rattled enough emotion in me to say something. And maybe, he feels something different before he goes to hit his dog now.

Once, the single and therefore having limited perspective girl I am, got all upset over how some women treat men. The comments on that were mostly on my side if a little mixed but I made the mistake (or had the extreme fortune, maybe) of sharing that post with a friend (yes, sometimes I share this stuff with people I actually know!). I received an email back that basically chastised me up one side and down the other- if that's even possible- saying how dare I think those things and how should I know, I'm not in that relationship. But I wrote it, and I stuck by it because I felt strongly enough that the behavior is wrong.

I also approached it in a much more constructive way, which I realized after my chastising. Sure, my friend may have ripped me but for what purpose? I seemed to get my point across without insulting or ripping anyone apart. Well, except for the women in denial because yes, I still believe you shouldn't treat a man like crap and then expect him to kill your spiders. And this, I think, is where the difference lies. It's never the emotion that's wrong, it's how you handle it. Do you channel it into strength and fighting for survival or do you channel it into negativity and hate?

It's tough, I know. I know when that sixty year old woman flipped me off I was feeling all kinds of negative. There was nothing in me willing to find a way to channel that into something better. But sometimes, there is.

So go on, get mad. Get angry at cancer and carelessness and cruelty. Get all in a tizzy about people and things that aren't right. Use that anger to get to a place where you can do something about it, even if it's only to hope for a change. I'm going to. It is what is supposed to happen. Keeping our mouths shut does not mean we are trying to preserve something. It means we are trying to preserve ourselves and that should not always be acceptable. Of course, keep you and yours out of imminent danger but also, make very certain that the cost of stifling the emotion isn't even higher.


GirlGoyle said...

Stifling emotions is not good. Like a hot pot of water those emotions at some pont will need a place to go. I think you are better off just handling them as they come. Anger per se is a dangerous emotion though not necessarily a bad one. It all depends how you channel it. You are right, it can be a great motivator. I bet the day that old lady flipped you off you went for a great run. And fueled by anger exercise and running come easy - at least for me.

Excuse the spelling...apparently today I'm sloooow.

Sizzle said...

well said!

Celina said...

Great points! I am constantly reminding myself to just "let things go" because I can get down about things that bug me or make me mad. I also "suffer" from moderate Road Rage. I call people names (out loud) all the time when they cut me off, tailgate, or do other stupid things, but I rarely honk the horn or "gesture" at them.
Of course, the One Person who can get me the maddest (I know that's not a real word) is R, and he knows it. So, I have to learn to just ignore some of the things he does, and just not let them get to me. I should develop a good physical release from all that (like running, or some exercise)!

skinnylittleblonde said...

Wonderful post with so many valid points!
Letting things go...knowing when & how to pick our battles.
I, too, have confronted strangers over abusing their dog. If dogs could speak English...that old dog would have said it himself!
'anger is a gift' are words from an old Pantera song...very true, when used constructively & in a manner that generates a positive outcome.

Great writings! I'm glad I stumbled on to you! I recently did a post on communication & it was born of anger, as was this writing of yours...'anger is a gift.'

Anonymous said...

Picking and timing your battles is an artform. One I have not yet mastered but I do seem to have gotten better at over time.

Standing up for others is one of those times when I tend to meat that battle head on, much like with your dog incident.

With a guy....well I like spiders but I don't talk bad about them and then want the roaches killed!! And if I need to talk to someone about a problem then that is one thing but you will NOT hear me say "So and SO is being such a ____ DO you know what he DID?!?!"

Anonymous said...

Son of a gun!! They have a way for me to comment from my regular account!! Yippee!!

justrun said...

GG- Strangely, people flipping me off is good running motivation. :-)

Sizzle- Thanks.

Celina- I have this little invisible road rage habit of shaking my fist at other drivers. However, I do this below the dashboard where no one can see- I don't need to be shot.

Skinny- I agree, there are some things that will just bring out anger, and rightly so. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Glad to have you here.

RGF- You like spiders? Wow. You are tougher than me. There are few things I hate more... roaches, maybe. Glad you can comment!

justacoolcat said...

Well said. It's easy to forget we have all of our emotions for a reason. It's hard to tell when they are getting the best of us.

Josh said...

Picking battles is an important thing to learn in life and Time and Place are very important in anger managment. Seeing someone hit a dog or litter are good times to get angry.

Getting angry about the Sudan Government allowing a genocide is a good thing to be angry about.

Getting cut off while driving is not a good time. Road Rage is bad news. On the other hand, getting cut off by a car while out for a run is a good time to get angry.


adam said...

Thanks for the wisdom. I think that channeling anger is the important part. At least in the case of sudden and justified anger like that which you experienced while running. I try not to let my anger overwhelm my mood. When a driver cuts me off and I nearly get run over I usually slap the side of the car to get their attention, then keep on run'n. People in cars forget that they are out in public and have to take responsibility for their actions, including their usually unjustified and completely irrational road rage. Anger and rage can stir up highly irrational emotions this is why they end up sometimes creating such horrible situations. Of course anger can also make me run faster, so it is not always a bad thing!

singleton said...

Absolutely Great post! Sometimes we have to pull the old tried and true "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore" and some times we just have to opt for peace,but in either case, we have to be able to live with it in the morning! The art of waging battles well...