Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Source of My Anger

Anger has been an issue in my life from the time I was quite small. I can remember fighting with my sisters and arguing with my best childhood friend. I can even remember breaking the movable thumb of my Shopping Sheryl doll when I got angry and threw it during the middle of a tantrum (my doll was never the same but I did learn not to throw important things). As I've gotten older, the anger is still there, just much more hidden. It is only in the past few months I have gained the insight on it I need to deal with it in a much more contructive way, for I have been investigating the source of my anger.

In the past, I spent a great deal of time blaming other people for that anger. "He talked about me in a way that was unfair" or "she took credit for something I did" are the sorts of ideas I would use to justify my feelings. It seems rather obvious to me now, but the fact is until recently I have never actually taken responsibility for my anger!

As I look at anger in a rational way, there are two factors that seem to play a major role in it: my perceptions about how others should act and the way I feel about those actions. My question then becomes, how should people act? What are the standards we use to measure the actions of others and why do those actions make me feel like they do? My conclusion is we are taught by our culture what is right and wrong and we are taught by that same culture the appropriate reactions.

To illustrate my point, I'll give you an amusing example. When my younger sister was in high school, her best friend was a Chinese immigrant. In America, it is considered poor manners to burp at the table, but in her best friend's culture, burping at the table was considered a compliment to the chef. Even though the best friend and her parents were very Americanized, the best friend's grandparents were not. It took all my sister's self-control not to laugh whenever she ate a meal at her friend's house because the loud burps coming from the grandparents struck her as uncomfortable (although highly amusing).

As I walk through my own anger, I realize I am in judgment of others because of what I have been taught about "appropriate" actions. Anger is often justified when the other player is not following your rules!

My other thought is this (which I have already written about in great detail in my Sept. 15th, 2010 edition of this blog): the actions other people take are not really about me. The actions others take in life are a reflection of where they are in their human journey. Their actions and reactions which hurt me are also learned!

Like anything else, anger is a choice. I can choose to accept the world's evaluation of the situation as correct and become angry, or I can accept the actions of others as a reflection of their life's journey and go about my usual business. The source of my anger is not the actions of others. The source of my anger is me. Time to take responsibility for that anger and move beyond it on this journey of self-discovery.

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