I don’t get explosively angry anymore. Mostly I credit floating, eating right, working out and all that but also the learned experience that anger doesn’t work.
We’re conditioned unconsciously as children that anger creates fear and fear creates control. It’s why some kids only listen to their parents when they’re really mad.
When kids grow up and live out this training with their peers however it runs into the fact that everyone thinks someone trying to be controlling is a twat. Even if someone is legitimately out-of-control angry we still all resent that they are now the center of the universe until we deal with them.
People will be nice to an angry person during and after the anger (which also contributes to the sick cycle and the blind spots of it all) but once they’re out of the room they seek control of their own. They aim to take away the status of the angry person over them by letting everyone know what a twat they think that person is.
Anger and arrogance are closely related in that both can make someone act like a spoiled brat and both can be dealt with by humility. Arrogance makes even your friends want to see you fall and humility makes even strangers want to see you succeed.
Deliberate and non-deliberate displays of anger are about trying to shape the world to suit you. Through force, through fear. And there’s this terrible somewhat Randian idea that if everyone acts this way the world will shake out fine. Not only is there the toxic idea that the shitty behaviour of one can validate the shitty behaviour of the other, it creates the fear that non-shitty people will get ignored and trampled by the people who react strongly rather than wait.
This is wrong, it arouses contempt in the collectivist heart. Although if that heart is enlightened enough it should be beyond contempt at least at first.
The fact is the tortoise wins the race. I see angry people quickly build things up then destroy them and move on, feeling victimized by all, onto to new things and new people who don’t know them which they will then destroy. All the desperation to shape the world to their exact comfort leaves them exactly where they were 10 years ago, just with different supporting characters. Meanwhile the calm, low-key people are riding out the waves of shittiness and their lot in life improves year by year.
That’s who I want to be.
There’s a story told in The 48 Laws Of Power about a Japanese village conquered by Christians. The villagers took the forced conversion easily, they all donned their crosses, they converted the temple to a church, they went about their lives. The Christians were repelled after a few years, they causally removed their crosses, reconverted the temple, and went on about their lives.
That’s the level of non-petty I aspire to be.
So, as promised in a previous post I’m going to talk about what I do when I notice I’m upset.
First, I tell myself not to keep reinforcing it. Sam Harris pointed out after the initial shock of whatever happened to make you angry what people most often do is start telling themselves the story over and over again, living out imaginary arguments in their head, dragging up past problems, all to stay angry.
As I’ve said before: Anger Aspires To Be Useful, all feelings do, your mind tries to stay angry because it thinks you need to go fight, to defend yourself, to do something. Most of the time when I’m angry though, doing something is the wrong thing to do. So every time I catch myself pushing the replay button I tell myself not to.
Instead I think about something I could be enjoying right now. If there’s music playing, do I like this song? If the weather’s good I just take a second to feel the breeze, if I’m not hungry I’ll take a second to be grateful for it.
One thing that gets people in trouble is that when they’re mad they only think in the moment. There was a day recently I was raging under the surface as I went about my day and I thought of someone I don’t like, who had done nothing to bother me that day, I thought about how I’d love it if they said something dumb so I could just crush them. And then I thought what do you think is going to happen immediately after that? You’ll look like a crazy asshole out-of-the-blue and then what, we all have to drink in that awkward moment and file out of the room, is that going to feel good?
And finally I’ll engage with somebody else and see if they need help with anything, simple advice or if there’s just a favor I can do them. It’s a quick mood booster because usually anger comes from a perceived loss of status and/or identity so recasting yourself as someone helpful, useful, and strong takes away the incentive to go ‘fix’ whatever irrational thing one is upset about.
If something is really a problem then it’ll still be a problem when you’re not angry and you can look at it from all sides and find a solution. Try to do that while angry just means you’ll plow through with the thing that makes you feel like a big tough guy. That’s where you get stupid ultimatums, bullying, and self-destruction.
I’ve been there, it’s costly. It doesn’t move the chains at all. Most of the time anger either holds us back because we attach it to our pride or we let it hold us back because we’re scared to move forward.