I think of all the feelings that we have to manage, anger is the trickiest. Anger is a chameleon. Sometimes, it’s easy to spot. Your inner toddler comes out for a screaming fit, and everyone knows you’re angry. In some ways, that kind of display of anger should be easier to deal with, because at least one would think you don’t have the option of pretending you’re not angry.
Then again, I know people who are so deeply committed to maintaining denial about their anger issues, they can literally throw things around a room in a rage, and immediately insist they weren’t angry. It’s a little hard to know what to do with that person. Because as we were discussing earlier this month, feelings have a purpose. Anger has a purpose. But it’s kinda hard to divine that purpose when you’re so deeply in denial that you can’t even acknowledge that you just had an epic tantrum.
Sometimes, anger is harder to spot than that. We’re so conditioned to hide our anger. As I said earlier, our American cultural personality is Type 3, which is all about appearances and image. It’s hard to maintain a successful, attractive image when you’re red-faced with teh angries. So we reduce and condense our display of anger to subtle hints of body language and tone.
But of course, if you’re a hypersensitive person, those subtle signs might as well be the epic tantrum. To us, they’re similarly obvious, but of course, they’re a lot more deniable.
Which, again, brings us back to the essential problem. A message is trying like hell to get delivered. But the person feeling anger is blocking the message by hiding, ignoring or denying their anger. Whatever situation needs resolution just gets further buried and farther from resolution because you’d first have to disarm the anger bomb sitting on top of it, and who wants to sign up for that fun task?
Surely not a hypersensitive person, for whom those subtle body language hints might as well be a blaring siren and a full-out tantrum is literally nauseating.
We do have some tools for dealing with anger safely. Humor is actually one of the best tools for diffusing anger. Like any tool, it can be overused and become a crippling crutch of its own (ask an unhealthy Type 7). Exercise and physical exertion can be another tool that can at least burn off some of the excess testosterone. Exercise is good for your sanity in a ton of different ways, which is probably why Americans are so crazy. If we exercise at all, we usually turn it into some typically Three win/lose game, striving for Epic Achievement. (**cough**P90x**cough**) Instead of merely seeing it as a healthy outlet for our desire to play.
Anger, properly focused, directed and expressed, can create a lot of energy and creativity. Because of all that potential energy, keeping it suppressed requires a similar outlay of energy. I’ve heard depression described as “anger turned inward.” In some cases, in some ways, that’s literally true. But it’s also true in a more abstract sense. You have to summon a ton of energy to hold your anger inside. It doesn’t leave a lot of energy for much else, including creative work. In my experience a lot of “Writer’s Block” is actually me working so hard to suppress my anger that I end up suppressing pretty much everything else.
Thanks for walking along with me on this pondering journey lately. I’ve really appreciated the comments, both here and on Facebook and email. This week, I’m going to be focusing my attention on diffusing anger, and creating energy for creative projects.
I’ll let you know how it goes.