‘Tis the season that we all spent a little too much time with our family, our co-workers, our acquaintances, and likely, someone said something that caused that No Good, Very Bad Feeling: ANGER. Our family made us ANGRY, because we told them we wanted to open presents at 10 AM, and they showed up at 1 PM; our co-workers made us ANGRY, because they spilled A LITTLE too many beans at that holiday party; our acquaintances made us angry, because they revealed their political affiliations to us, even though we made a rule NO POLITICS.
(As a people pleaser, and an Enneagram 1), something I’ve had to come to terms with is: It is OK to feel ANGRY. Just like all the other human emotions–joy, contentment, sadness, embarrassment, amused, bored, satisfied, triumphant–I’m ALLOWED to feel ANGRY. It’s a part of being human. I’m ALLOWED to feel ANGRY when my family shows up late to the already-tightly-planned holiday celebrations because they decided to sleep in; I’m ALLOWED to feel ANGRY when I find out my co-worker received a little extra bonus for doing my work; I am ALLOWED to feel ANGRY when the acquaintance tanks the atmosphere of the party–and won’t leave. It would be silly (and very Fahrenheit 451) for us to think our lives should be sunshine, rainbows, and unicorn glitter all the time. ANGER is an unescapable human emotion that we WILL feel.
While I’m allowed to feel ANGRY, I’m also not allowed to do certain things with my ANGER. What I’m not allowed to do is cast the blame of the anger on The Offender. Anger is a self-induced emotion; I must recognize that, if I am angry at YOU, it is not actually YOU in which I am angry at, but rather something internal within myself that I must address. While the interaction we had may have been a catalyst, it is I who drummed up the anger, and therefore, it is I who must take care of it. Say, for example, I run into that acquaintance, and they happen to say to me, “We need to teach kids life skills, like putting together a mortgage, instead of teaching books, like To Kill a Mockingbird. ” This comment would definitely offend ME, because as a teacher, I find the work I do very important, meaningful, and of course, I believe everyone needs to read about Atticus Finch <3. But, the offense does not come from the person exactly, but rather a comment that causes ME to reconsider how I value my work. I’ve been teaching and studying the same books for ten years, but PERHAPS there is a better way to do that? I’ve been thinking of myself as a public servant, a life-saver, a motivator, but PERHAPS I’m not actually that important in the world? I’ve been seeing myself as serving a cornerstone in adolescent development, but maybe I’m not? Rather, the ANGER in this situation would come from unrooting my own beliefs, sense of self, and of purpose in the world. And, while I can recognize that feeling as ANGER, I should never cast blame on The Offender, because the reason I got ANGRY had everything to do with an internal struggle and insecurity within myself.
In addition, I’m not allowed to cause direct and conscious suffering towards The Offender due to my own personal anger. Because angry is self-induced, and is an emotion that I, myself, must take care of, other people should suffer because of something I’m going through; they should be treated the same way that I treat those to whom I’m not angry at. Take the hypothetical situation with a co-worker; you worked on a project together, and over some holiday libations, your co-worker reveals (whether truth or not) that they received an extra little bonus for the work on the project that you did not receive. You are ALLOWED to feel ANGRY in this situation–you are ALLOWED to feel confused, taken advantage of, and under-appreciated. But, what you are NOT allowed to do is treating your co-worker differently than any other co-worker. If you text in the GroupChat, that co-worker should receive the same messages. If you invite everyone to happy hour, that co-worker should be invited the same. If you say “Top of the Morning to Ya!” to everyone else, that co-worker should also receive the same greeting; I should not require other people to suffer due to my anger.
Last, I’m not allowed to sit, stew, ruminate on the ANGER, and not let The Offender know; otherwise, what happens is my behavior changes towards The Offender, they can sense something is up, but if I’m not up front and honest with them about WHY I’m ANGRY, and WHAT occurred, then they sit and wonder, I harbor ill feelings towards them (and, if I’m a girl, I tell all my friends about what a ***** they are), and nothing can be resolved. Take, for example, the situation at Christmas with your family members. Because everyone has fractured and blended and split families, you planned your Christmas strategically so that you could open presents with your parents, then go to your Significant Other’s parents’ house for Christmas brunch, visit your grandparents for Christmas dessert, and meet all of your friends for some mulled wine at the end of the night; any delay of those plans means you aren’t able to make it to grandma’s for her special pie. So, when your brother shows up late to opening presents because he “slept in”, you are ANGRY, because it means your whole day will be backlogged.
While Christmas Day may not be the time to mention it, you must be honest with your brother and let him know WHY you are ANGRY. You are ANGRY because you know this was grandma’s first Christmas without grandpa, and you had a special event to make her feel better, and his tardiness disabled all of that. He needs to know WHY your behavior towards him is about to change–how can he apologize and resolve the situation IF he doesn’t know that you are ANGRY?
Because we live in a world of other people, and because we are wired to be human, that No Good, Very Bad feeling of ANGER is unavoidable. No matter how hard we try to be positive and uplifting, and how frequently we post memes and sayings all over our social media, no matter how much Om-ing and essential oils we breathe in, someone WILL do something that ANGERS us. As Buddha says, “holding onto ANGER is like grasping a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”. So as you move into the New Year, take care of your own ANGER.