November 6, 2009

occasional smiting is healthy

i'm finding in myself right now a readiness to be angry.

there are so many reasons i do not let myself show anger. i think it is a weakness to allow rage to be displayed. it rarely gets me what i want from someone. i do not appreciate other people's anger, so why would i let mine spew everywhere? control is a virtue, i tell myself. it is a sign of my intelligence and discipline that i can control my anger. i remember a zen book by charlotte joko beck which discussed anger. in my poor paraphrasing, a student asked "what about that kind of anger that is like a clean sheet, sweeping over everything, burning away the old and broken?" and charlotte responded something to the effect of "how often do you see that anger? i see only the kind that burns carefully built connections, that wrecks days and relationships."

all in all, the votes cast anger out into the realm of 'bad emotions', or maybe just 'good to know you have 'em, bad to share'. but in the delirium of being ill, my temper was shorter, and i let anger, no, that is not how it went, i do not feel like i 'let' anything... and anger slipped through the cracks of my veneer of control. and it felt wonderful. now i know some kinds of 'good' feelings are dangerous; addictive, seductive, implying more power-over. but i have been reconsidering my ruthless abolition of anger.

for one, anger is generally regarded as a step up from depression. not an ideal state to stay in, but a wonderfully effective stepping stone. stepping to where? if you follow david hawkins (i don't, but i like his chart), on to pride and then courage. if you follow elise lebeau (whom i quite like, despite or perhaps because her ways are so simple), on to boredom, doubt, frustration and impatience. i'm more annoyed at lebeau's path, which suggests something there for me to learn. frustration is not my favourite emotion. i would rather strike it with lightning and move on.

both hawkins and lebeau stress that the emotion you are feeling is less important to your mental health than the direction you are heading in. so i am choosing to see the anger as a healthier step in my development. also, i am trying (and it is quite easy) to let off short bursts of anger rather than smiting someone in a fiery pit of foreverness. and for two, if you value our social interactions as learning, it's important to show people when they have overstepped their bounds. i don't have to scream about their mother, but letting my annoyance show is valuable feedback, and feedback most people will remember.

on a lovely side note, the people closest to me are the least annoying. SF is incredibly warm and loving with increasing notes of attractive vulnerability, and the wife i am moving out on is impeccable in her support. i do not wish to smite these lovelies. rather, i wish to strike with divine lightning people who drive too fast and kill the cats on my street, people who assume i wish to see them when they show up unannounced, people who sneer at the homeless or flaunt their newfound knowledge of beat poetry (okay, maybe the poetry thing i can swallow).

my internal grandma insists that i respect the power of anger: what is done cannot be undone, and apologies certainly mean less to me the more i am hurt. a new toy is fun, says grandma, but what if you hurt people? how will you feel then? however, there is another part of me which suggests that to deny my anger when it is a reasonable reaction is to disrespect myself and my intuitive response. so when is it reasonable? grandma raises a valuable point when she wonders whether i will use anger when i shouldn't: when i am having a 'bad day', when i do not wish to accept that i am wrong, when expressing that i am hurt would be more of an honest reponse. damn, grandma is wise. i absorb this wisdom, hopefully.

watch me flex the sword of anger with care. watch me grow.

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