It looks like a few months ago I was going to write a post about anger. Not just about feeling angry, but about its stigma and how this stigma leads to an unhealthy denial of what I think is an extremely important and powerful emotion. But as you can tell from the excerpt below, it just kind of turned into a little vent session, a diary entry, if you will, that I hadn’t revisited until now.
I’ve been thinking a lot about anger lately. Probably because I’ve been feeling a lot of it. I know why. Mostly, because I’ve been back from my Peace Corps service for more than a year and still haven’t been able to land a full-time job. I’m pissed that I’ve had companies and organizations ghost me after several rounds of interviews. Where is the professional courtesy or the human decency in that? If I screwed it up somehow, after so much time and effort, don’t I deserve an explanation or at least a little note saying thanks but they’re moving in a different direction? I’m pissed off that I walk through the streets of San Francisco stepping over dirty needles through the scent of urine among the countless humans living on the streets. The impacts of drug addiction, trauma, and poverty are draped over them more noticeable than the dirty clothes they wear — while I read articles that Apple became the first American company to be worth $1 trillion and a guy like Jeff Bezos has to spend twenty-eight million dollars a day just to stop amassing more wealth than he already has – who is not stepping up to try and solve our worst societal issues and is going to focus on space exploration. And we pick on Donald Trump for Space Force? What kind of logic is “I’m not going to solve those problems because I actually have the resources to do it?” I’m pissed off at the spiritual fuck twats in my yoga community who try deny my anger because “everything is going to work out in the end” and “I’m just in the middle of a spiritual transformation,” which translates to, I know you’re struggling and I ain’t gonna to do shit for you. Guess what yoga model, you’re not my fucking spirit guide and I don’t care what quote you read on Instagram this morning. Stop using snippets of yogic philosophy and cherry-picking aspects of various religions to justify your self-absorbed brand of spiritual elitism. I don’t need your advice. How about you just lend me an ear and let me vent for five minutes about the things that are making me angry so I can feel it, process it, and hopefully move into a healthier emotional state?
Obviously, I was a little angry. But honestly, unapologetically so. Here’s why:
- I found a healthy outlet for my anger. Writing helped me give my anger an identity that had a source and could be nurtured into something different. I was able to stay motivated, reflect on what I truly wanted out of a job, and discern my own missteps in the job hunting process. Ultimately, I did get a job, and in a field helping to resolve the homeless crisis in San Francisco, which as you might recall, was one of the sources of my growing anger.
- It was honest. Although Apple isn’t bad because it’s profitable, Bezos is probably a good person, and I respect everyone exploring their own spiritualities and becoming more mindful, there was truth in my anger. Homelessness is a huge problem in American cities, exacerbated and partially caused by extreme income inequality. Inequality made possible by a financial system that allows a mere few to accumulate vast amounts of wealth over the many who are required to facilitate that kind of wealth creation in the first place. And, I do believe I can say matter of factly, not judgmentally, that the business and sexualization of yoga has damaged the image of what could be a powerful lifestyle practice for all. So, if I can recognize that my feelings are valid, then I can get beyond a point of anger at individuals, systems, or flawed movements and move on to action and healing.
- It helped me. This anger created an opportunity for me to learn about myself and grow as a person. Isn’t that the beauty of anger? It gives us that burst of energy and willpower needed for self-improvement. I am starting to believe that anger is close to if not the exact opposite of complacency. What can change or improve without a general uprising against the status quo? What uprising doesn’t have anger as its source? And not everything has to be about large-scale social change. Can’t I use anger to improve my relationships? If I am angry at a friend or a partner does that have to mean that I don’t love or care for them? Does that have to mean that I am unfairly projecting my own insecurities on them? Can’t it mean that I value what we have so much that I won’t accept it deteriorating to a state of thoughtlessness or bitterness or disrespect? Can’t I use frustration or anger with myself at having bad habits to transition into a healthier lifestyle? I think I can. The last thing I ever want to do is to sit somewhere stewing in my own anger, and I don’t think it’s good to deny or suppress it either. So, what other purposes can it have in this modern world other than as a tool for improvement? I’m open to thoughts on this.
I imagine there are probably a lot of ‘buts’ and ‘what ifs’ going through your mind right now, so let me try to clarify some of my other thoughts to try and prevent any potential misconceptions.
- Being angry is not an excuse to mistreat people or be abusive. Learning how to effectively express feelings of anger or disappointment in a healthy fashion is a responsibility we all have to ourselves and each other.
- Being angry with another person does not mean that that person has done something wrong. We all have unique histories and what bothers me might not bother you and vice versa; therefore, being angry is as much an invitation to assess your own self and personal experiences as the cause of your anger as much as, or more so, than the behaviors of others.
- Hate and anger are not one and the same.
- Anger can be misdirected. I believe this happens because we aren’t really taught or encouraged to deal with the complexities of this emotion. This causes us to deny our anger until it boils over commonly in the form of rage. I also believe that a lot of times we misdirect our anger towards people we trust because we feel vulnerable when the true sources of our pain are revealed to us. Unfortunately, this creates a heavy burden on those closest to us, who might feel they need to fix our problems or just get fed up with being an unfair target for our emotions.
At this point, I want to make it very clear that I am not an expert in any field related to psychology or counseling. I’m just offering up some of my own thoughts on anger and how I’ve had to learn to process it in an attempt to make it a positive force in my life. Truth be told, I’ve always hated feeling angry because I connected it with people in my past who would lose their tempers, often violently. I never wanted to be someone who made others uncomfortable around me because I could fly off the handle at any moment. As a result, I tried to bottle everything up – which never works. The result ended up being that I was still angry and holding onto it, and since I hated that feeling I started hating myself…no bueno.
I don’t lay this on you for any reason other than to express my motivations for writing this piece. There is a lot of shit going on in the world that might piss you off, that probably should piss you off. I hope that we can all find healthy ways to deal with the things that cause us pain. More importantly, I hope we can start to make changes in our lives that work on the root causes of our anger, thus improving our quality of life. I personally don’t want to walk around in denial all day long, but I’m also sick of being a little negative sourpuss all the time. So, I’m trying to work out my shit and I wish you all the best in doing the same.
Thanks for reading,
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