6/19/2007

Some thoughts on anger

I’m a relatively angry person. I’m not lunatic or a psychopath. But I’m angrier than the next guy. On the anger scale, I fall somewhere between Alec Baldwin (after a phone call to his loving daughter) and a tweaked-out wolverine.

I’ve tried to eliminate anger from my life. Anger is painful. It’s poison to the mind and soul. Anger is detrimental (unless you’re John MnEnroe or a civil rights leader, in which cases anger is virtuous. Rosa Parks got angry and sat on the cotton gin, or whatever the hell she did. The point is, we got a civil rights movement out of it. And that was good). I, myself, have never done anything I’m proud of while angry. I’ve done a few things in anger that are, in retrospect, funny. I’ve also done a lot of things that have brought me shame. For example, I once hurled a bagel at the back of an old lady’s head. Her wheelchair was blocking my path to the newspaper stand. This is a fine example, as it tends to be both funny and shameful.

I began my task of reducing anger with adherence to the scientific method. Specifically, I began with 3 postulates:

1) Anger is detrimental (as discussed above).
2) Anger is a product of “junk thought,” irrational thoughts like unreasonably high expectations, self-centeredness, over-emphasis of setbacks, inconveniences, failures, etc.; and the popularity of Sanjaya.
3) If anger is a product of one’s thinking, and one’s thinking is under one’s control, then one can influence the amount of anger in one’s life by directing his thoughts.

Holding fast to these 3 postulates, I analyzed whatever thoughts occasioned my bouts of anger. I often employed a digital voice recorder (the same one I use to record my blog ideas) to capture my angry thoughts in the raw – without inhibition or judgment, and before I had time to edit them for rationality. Example: “This pole-smoker cut me off without using his turn signal. I guess he’s running late for his handjob gig at the YMCA. Rent must be due. That’s why he’s driving like an inconsiderate prick.”

For several weeks I recorded my angry thoughts, or wrote them down when I was close to my computer, which was so often the case, as my computer is the cause of so much anger. My Mac is wonderful. But my printer, wireless keyboard and mouse, digital camera, speakers and other peripherals are a bunch of silicon-based cocksuckers who take great joy in aggravating me. In fact, I often fantasize that inanimate objects like the ones I listed above can feel pain. Then I smash and shatter them with my bare hands and assure myself I’ve exacted justice. Incidentally, the best thing about brutalizing an inanimate object is that it can’t give testimony in court. Heck, it can’t even cry out for help.

As time passed, I found myself with quite a collection of angry thoughts. I analyzed them. I discovered something peculiar. First, I’m a bit crazy. Second, my angry thoughts reduced to one of 4 themes. Eureka! Whatever my angry thoughts, and however diverse, bizarre or unique the circumstances prompting them, my thoughts were easily categorized into one of four themes. Each theme is a dominant attitude, a perception of existence, that gives rise to the thought and the associated anger.

This stands to reason. After all, anger is more than just misplaced car keys or a stubbed toe or some other mundane frustration. Something significant must take place for anger to manifest. Anger is a psychological event. It’s a recipe. The ingredients must come together in the right proportion in the right order and at the right time. Then, bam! You’re effing pissed.

Were this not the case, we’d all be equally angry, as we’re all dealing with basically the same shit. But internally, we’re all different. Our mental schematics are as unique as our genetic makeup. So are the themes which give rise to our angry thoughts. I’ll list the 4 themes I discovered below, along with a brief discussion of each:


The Uncanny Force

This is by far the most common theme to my angry thoughts.

The Uncanny Force is the perception that some higher power is conspiring against you. Maybe it’s God. Maybe it’s an ultra sophisticated alien race. Maybe it’s a wizard behind a curtain pressing buttons and levers and watching you inside his crystal ball. Up yours, Gandalf! No matter. The point is, you’d swear some intelligent being is deliberately trying to piss you off. And when he serves you a crap sandwich, you rise to anger.

Example: My backyard. Every thing I want to grow, dies. Everything I want to die, grows.

I once had a lawn. I nurtured it with rich soil, an irrigation system, fertilizer, etc. Still, it looked about as healthy as Bea Arthur’s twat patch. So I’d replant my lawn with new seed and nurtured the sprouts. They died faster than Bo Bice’s singing career. So I dug it up and buried my yard in decorative rock. Now thick, plush patches of grass erupt from under 4” of rock – with no fertilizer, water or direct sunlight! Uncanny!

I’ve also been trying to kill a lime tree for six years. I’ve trimmed it to the ground buried under rocks, poured bleach on it, put it in a judo choke hold, lit it on fire, and spoken to it in harsh, abusive tones. The results? The thing grows faster than the national debt. I’m not kidding people: nothing kills this tree and it grows like a weed. It does produce some great limes, though.

Why is this uncanny? Because my yard should be one of two things: 1) an inhospitable wasteland in which nothing survives (too acidic, poorly irrigated, too much sun, etc). or 2) a fertile nursery for plant life in which everything, both aesthetic and unsightly, grows.

Instead, I get the worst of both worlds. Uncanny!


From the erroneous to the absurd!

Absurdity is another theme of anger. I can handle everyday errors, foibles and shortcomings. We all make mistakes. We all fall short of perfection. For example, somebody might cut me off in traffic without signaling. I don’t get angry. Others do, but I remind myself that this was a mistake, that the last 100 times, this guy probably remembered to signal and drove courteously, and that I, too, from time to time, forget to signal or fail to see a car in a neighboring lane. No harm.

But when this same driver spends the next 15 miles unnecessarily braking, weaving from his lane, throwing trash out the window, blaring his stereo and brandishing what appears to be either an early model cell phone or a firearm, I become angry. Why? Because it’s no longer just a mistake. It’s a lifestyle. It’s inconsiderateness to an absurd degree. Now I’m pissed.

Examples of other absurdities:

• Government overspending is a given; Six trillion dollars is absurd.

• Annoying, big-mouth people in Hollywood are a given; Rosie O’Donnell is absurd.

• Automobile breakdowns are a given; the Ford Focus is absurd.

• Earning a living is a given; working 40 hours per week is absurd (stop and think how long 40 hours is).

When everyday aggravations escalate to an absurd degree, I become angry.


The Big Rush

When I’m in a hurry, I’m disposed to anger. No mystery here. When time is short, every inconvenience is a major imposition. For example, I was in a Circle-K waiting to buy a Thirstbuster. Some old hag was buying lottery tickets. No big deal. Old hags and lottery tickets are part of life. But this hag is buying like 20 tickets, each with a permutation of her grandkids’ ages and whatnot. She’s filling out cards and telling the cashier how to work the machine. I swear, I refinanced my house with less paperwork and bullshit. Look, grandma. You can play all the significant numbers of your life. At the end of the day, you lose. The state keeps your 20 bucks and now you have to remove your teeth and suck your landlord’s prick so you don’t have to sleep in the streets.

Why the need for the above hostility? Because I’m angry. I’m angry because I was in a hurry to get to class and grandma was taking inordinate time to buy lottery tickets. Interestingly, were I not in a rush, not only would I not have been angry, I would have helped the old broad pick her numbers. “Hey, you’ve got 3 teeth left. Why don’t you play the number 3, grandma?”

The point is, being in a rush disposed me to anger when I otherwise would have remained calm.


The Emotional Profit Margin

This theme is difficult to explain. Imagine all the good things in life (sunsets, deep kisses, a great song on the radio, ice cream). Add them up into a lump sum and think of it as revenue. Now imagine all the bad things in life (paying bills, working a job, illness, failure, The View). Total them and think of it as expense. Now make a ratio of good things to bad things. Hopefully that ratio is greater than one. But so often it’s just a tiny fraction more than one. That is, the good things in life barely eke out the bad things. So you’re left with this razor-thin “emotional profit margin,” which roughly quantifies your happiness. With life’s vicissitudes, this ratio moves around like a stock price. Sometimes, life is good and you’re way into the black. Not much anger just now. Sometimes, something awful happens and you plunge into the red. You’re depressed – too depressed even to muster anger. You mope and question the meaning of life.

But most of the time, you’re in neither of these extremes. You’re in the middle, battling right at the margin, etching a small and precarious emotional profit. This is where you’re most prone to anger. The reason is similar to the Big Rush, above. Every disappointment, every aggravation, every setback – threatens the emotional profit margin. Specifically, it threatens to outweigh the good with the bad, to reduce the ratio to a quotient less than one, to make life unprofitable, to sap happiness. Indeed, the value of life itself hangs in the balance. Any pain-in-the-ass bullshit can push you over the edge. When such is the case, mundane frustrations anger you in exaggerated proportions. Just a commute to work can have you questioning the value of life, because the race between good and bad was such a close race, a traffic jam or a flat tire put the bad stuff into the lead.


Such is the why and wherefore of my anger: the angry thoughts themselves and the themes that gave rise to them. My strategy for eliminating anger became clear:
I must purge my mind of the 4 themes that give rise to my “junk thought.” No more destructive themes, no more irrational thoughts, no more anger. A little resolution and mental will power should do the trick. Once I dismantle the themes, I should be anger-free.

Easier said than done. I tried to dislodge the themes from my mind, but largely failed. It turns out those themes are stubborn things. Trifling with them only seemed to make me angrier. The truth is, the themes are innate parts of my psyche. They’re hard-wired in there along with the love of ice cream and foot rubs. Here’s a typical example: A while back I was angry at a computer keyboard. I was totally aware of the Uncanny Force theme in my mind. I understood exactly what was taking place mentally. I realized how silly the whole thing was. Even then, I still couldn’t dispel the theme or the anger. My efforts to diffuse the situation were fruitless. I felt like David Hasselhoff trying to eat that hamburger – helpless, hapless and messy.

My keyboard paid the price – in pain.

Such is the case with so much psychopathology. Awareness is great, but it’s not enough to change. This is why years of costly psychotherapy often fail. Becoming aware of one’s anger is great. Gaining insight to our psychopathology is wonderful. The problem is, we don’t change much. Ultimately, what we are dominates what we’d like to be. So it is with me and my angry disposition. I know how I get angry. I know why I get angry. I just don’t know how to prevent it. Those anger-causing themes endure despite my efforts. So wish me luck, dear reader.

30 comments:

ARM said...

I used to be angry all the time, too. I had to make myself get over it. But it is OK to be angry at certain times.

This was a pretty good read, LBB. And I am glad you're back.

Video X said...

You rarely write about yourself so much???

I love this post. I think I love you! That is bad.

"Anger is the result of fear." I do not necessarily put stock in this statement. I merely, at times, in my off time...since I get paid to think I don't like to do it for free you know...but no so merely ponder the statement. Actually, I think I MAYBE MIGHT HAVE blind faith in the statement. Not sure how to put it. It might be true, but I don't really believe it, but I haven't given up on it. I get angry. I know when it's wrong. I know when it was stupid...why'd I get so pissed? Well, because the stupid cunt at the mall ran me over with her stroller and I want to kick her in the neck! Unreasonable? That's up for debate.

I had so much to say before this comment...or I had a lot of thoughts, but I'm on free time...hehe...just kidding.

I was thinking though of when you were talking something about good times, bad times, and in the middle is when you (us, them, people, whoever) get angry. I couldn't agree more. There are good times (ups) bad times (downs) and the middle...flat line...dead...we must have something to let us know what's up and down, good and bad...I could go for a long time and still never get to my point...regardless...perfect post. Did you spend time writing this? Or was it automatic? ;)

Sassy Blondie said...

Wow. You did some serious thinking on this issue. Perhaps medication will help? ;o) It doesn't sound as if you are getting any angrier than the rest of us when life gets in our way. Although, I think this preoccupation with destroying peripherals might be worth a deeper look.

Controlling anger is not getting rid of it...control is the key.

Video X said...

Oh yeah...and the reason psychotherapy fails in my oh so humble opinion is...how the hell do they keep their jobs if we don't have so-called "issues???!!! I swear they give them to you...they meaning therapists, counselors, etc. They assume we are stupid, WRONGO.

Peter said...

"I’m a relatively angry person."
OK I can deal with this, LBB is mad at his relations, not all that uncommon.... Then I read on... and on and on... Geez LBB what are ya doin' you are in grave danger of making me THINK, now thats a whole lot of grave danger right there.
For gods sake man carry a pocket full of chocolate or your favourite snack food and chew on some when you start to get angry... if it doesn't stop the anger you can get angry about obesity and bad teeth for a change.

Mom of Three said...

I'm predisposed to anger (carrying the load my own mother dumped upon me from her own fucked-up childhood) and I'm a Buddhist, which means the anger problem has been getting much better the more I study. Oh, I still get angry, and about things I cannot change. But I stay angry far shorter periods of time, and certain things just don't pull me in anymore--like the aforementioned mother. I watch my sister continually go bonkers over this very defective woman, instead of seeing that the definition of insanity is beating your head against the wall and expecting a different result each time.

Letting go of fear was a huge one for me as well. Just not having all that nervous energy to begin with helped to keep me on an even keel.

Keep up the good fight, LBB.

tornwordo said...

I think knowing it does help though. I try to laugh at myself when the beastly anger shoots up. I'm not always successful, but especially in the uncanny force department, I can usually laugh at my misfortune. Good luck sir!

NWJR said...

Remember, my angry young friend, the words of the wise sage "Yoda":

"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

And eventually, you become this:

http://tinyurl.com/2qpgod

Don't let this tragedy happen to you.

Jeannie said...

Anger turned outward is better than inward IF you don't kill people and stuff like that.

Many people have to work more than 40 hours per week. In Cuba they work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Many professionals work probably 60 hours a week. Regular people in my grandparents day would have been thrilled with only 40 hours a week - limits are a fairly recent invention. I'm guessing you really hate your job to be angry about a 40 hour work week.
Maybe, like with the guy who cut you off accidentally, you need to get a new perspective on some things.

jali said...

Angry sex is great!

And people wonder why I rant...

Oh great One said...

Have I mentioned lately that I love you?

I would think that your Socom game would help alleviate some of that anger. WAIT! Do not play that game! When you do you leave us for long periods of time. :(

Susan as herself said...

I consider myself an angry person as well. My triggers come early and often, and certainly include the ones you listed. I also dish out pain to inanimate objects with some frequency. I once slaughtered my wooden clothes drying rack and my plastic dish drainer in one afternoon.

I can taste my anger---it mixes with the metallic taste of adrenaline and courses through me like toxic chemicals. I am not proud of this.

Thank you for trying to explain this terrbile phenomenon.

Jenny! said...

Ok, I wet my pants a bit...you are scary...but like good scary! I use ot be so fucking angry all the time, but it's getting better. Did the polesmoker get his rent in on time??? And Jali is right on...angry sex rocks!

Mama en Fuego said...

I too beat the crap out of objects and imagine they can feel pain.

I once destroyed a wooden bat ona cinder block wall. Another time I threw my car in park in the middle of the road, got out, screamed my head off, then got back in my car and drove away. I'm sure I was the subject of some innocent observers blog about an insane woman.

Niiiiiice.

Scottsdale Girl said...

For some reason I am craving ice cream now

Dixie said...

I think that as long as you can control yourself and not kill someone, getting angry is a OK.

Jon said...

If there wasn't any anger, there wouldn't be any comedians. You'd be writing little paragraphs about kittens and butterflies and none of us would be here reading along.

random moments said...

Sending some wishes of luck... and a few extra keyboards via UPS.

Have you tried running? In my college days I was a seriously angry person who instead of lashing out at her parents (my source as your computer accessories are yours) I would hit the pavement. Once you exhaust yourself you don't really feel like hitting anyone or yelling either for that matter.

Christina_the_wench said...

Isn't that the reason God gave us ex's, to unleash and release our anger? Nothing calms me down faster than the thought of running over my ex with a semi.

~deep cleansing breath~

See?

Chunks said...

It's too bad you're not a chick because then you could blame it on PMS like I do.

If I recorded all the things that pissed me off, it would take NASA's computers to store it all. The key is to finding some joy in your life and run with that. I agree with Tornwordo that it is important to learn how to laugh at yourself. Then it won't matter if you are kicking the shit out of something if you are giggling while you do it.

How we deal with stress impacts us long term. You could be the healthiest guy on the planet and if you can't control your emotions, you'll end up with a heart attack.

You can always try medication. Start with PMS tablets, they have a little mood elevator in them. And they reduce bloating. You know, from all that ice cream. :)

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

You had me at "working 40 hours per week is absurd".

I think I love you.

;)

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

PQ: Your site won't let me visit.

kissashark said...

With all those limes why don't you just dig out the blender and margarita your way right outa that anger?! Haha.....
I'm fairly angry too and I'm just glad that the cops haven't heard me screaming obscenities at the poor people in traffic! Road rage what?

Mo said...

I stopped fighting it long ago.

Ari said...

Screw it, just keep being angry and take up kickboxing or Brazilian jiujitsu. I think that's what I'm gonna do.

Damsel Underdressed said...

"Look, grandma. You can play all the significant numbers of your life. At the end of the day, you lose. The state keeps your 20 bucks and now you have to remove your teeth and suck your landlord’s prick so you don’t have to sleep in the streets."

Ok. Now my cheeks are hurting from laughing so hard! Is this what happens when you don't blog for a month? You come back with avengence?

Superstar said...

LOL :o)
What have you been keeping this PENT up or something?!?!?! LOL ;o)
Jesh!
Tell us how you really feel?!?!

When driving, I pretend that I have an OOzie and a gun...I say TTTTTTTTTT really fast and it makes me feel better.
~shrugs~
What?!?!?!

phlegmfatale said...

You know, I can think of a couple people I'd love to trepan and skullfuck with my wee little girl erection.

Angry? Me? Not so much.

Anyhoo, what I've been doing is lately when I feel the first roseate blossoms of rage washing over me, I sit down and write a nice card or letter to someone - usually a Thank you card. It helps me to redirect focus from the asshattery of others and to take time to appreciate the people who are meaningful to me and with whom I have productive professional partnerships.

It might look a little gay if a guy did that, but perhaps some variant? I dunno. It just seems to work for me, because an eternity of righteous indignation is wearing my old ass slap the hell out.

gusgreeper said...

good thing my psychotherapy is free being im heading into year five or am in year five.
great post MAN, from one angry person to another. it is NOT an easy thing to work on. as you know....
i used to have one of those hand held thingies as well because i'd always have great ideas for short stories and stuff while falling off to sleep but one day i got mad and it missed the tv by inches. phew.

Paul said...

There is nothing wrong with anger, like others said here, it is all in the way you deal
It takes a lot of guts to really look inward like that. Thanks for sharing.