Friday Thoughts on Being Angry and Getting Past It
“If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life.” – Wu-Men
I wrote on letting go last Friday and I like the idea of writing a somewhat serious post on Fridays. Even though I work on weekends and my days off are usually Tuesday and Friday, I still see the week as starting on Sunday, and Sunday as a day of rest. I like to see the weekend as special. And so I see Fridays as a day to look back on my week and contemplate a little. So, here’s my serious thought of the day:
One of the things that gets me into trouble a lot is my need to defend myself.
This is on my mind today because of a couple of situations this week. I sort of hate to admit my struggle with this, because it’s probably one of the things that I don’t like to admit about myself and that I try to pretend isn’t there. I like to seem like a pretty reasonable person. Whether anyone is buying it, I don’t know… But I thought I’d be transparent today. I don’t want to come off as too self-indulgent in writing about all my inner workings. It’s just that I had some thoughts about this and maybe I need to write what I need to hear. And I may also not be the only one to ever struggle with this, and if anyone reading this is in any way inspired that would be a definite bonus.
I think a lot of times when I get annoyed and when I get snarky, it’s not that obvious to others what the problem is. But after thinking about it, I realized that usually it’s because I’m feeling defensive.
I won’t bore you with all the details of the situations that sparked my thought for the day, but here’s the quick lowdown on a couple of them:
– Not liking the way a particular professor addresses the class, feeling assignment wasn’t clear, receiving a bad grade that I felt was the result of his inadequate explanation.
– Cranky bus driver and me very sarcastically saying thank you while exiting the bus after he yelled at me and another student to exit at the front of the bus rather than the back (this after people had been getting off the bus at the back without a problem).
You get the picture. And I’m starting to realize when something happens a few times in a row, this might be a good opportunity to check in with myself and see:
1. How I contribute to the situation
2. How I could handle the situation better
3. How I allow it to affect me
This is hard to do when you analyze the situation and feel that you’ve been wronged, you’ve been at the receiving end of somebody’s bad judgment/questionable teaching skills/general unhappiness and it just is. not. fair.
The problem is this: When I react to things, I allow my mood and my thoughts to be dictated by something outside of myself. And while I like to hold on to my right to be right, to be angry when I am wronged, the question that I ask myself is: Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy and feel good about myself?
And that’s not to say that I want to stop myself from having emotions about bad things. I think emotions are there for a reason, and they give us important clues about what’s going on. If something makes me angry, there probably is something that needs to be dealt with. But after the initial experience of how something makes me feel, I have a choice of where I direct my attention. And I’ve come to believe that whatever I focus on, I get more of.
It’s a very simple principle, but not always so easy to live.
The problem is also that when I am reactive, I put myself in the place of a victim and I end up feeling small. There is a certain energy to being angry and it can feel good for a little while. Yet, at the end of the day, when it lingers longer than it should, it’s not a very creative energy. So, I am trying to stay in the creative part of being angry, that part that gives me the energy to deal with it, and then move on.
So, I need to keep in mind that I have power in a situation, but only over my own thinking (and my feelings are a result of what I think about a situation).
I need to realize that I always have options in how I react and that my reaction plays a role in the process. I often can make it worse or better.
I need to remember that my energy (which includes my thoughts) is precious to me and I don’t want to waste it on something that isn’t helpful.
So, this isn’t about being ‘good’, it’s about being conscious of what I want to create in my life and where I focus on.
– In the case of my professor? I choose to learn from him what I can even though I don’t like his delivery, or the grade he gave me. But I choose to believe he’s doing the best he can.
– Cranky bus driver? Why did I even let it get to me? Well, I was tired and his way of addressing me and other students was unnecessary. But I choose to remember that I would probably be miserable if I was a bus driver and I might be unkind to people who don’t deserve it (in fact, it happens) so I can look at him with compassion (actually a much nicer emotion than resentment).
So, Happy Friday everyone!