I yell at people who drive like unsafe morons on the road. I yell, and I put my hands up in the air with the classic “what the fuck” hand gesture, and sometimes, if I’m really mad, I’ll even give them a big sarcastic thumbs up if they are being really egregious. Sometimes, I’ll honk too, if I feel that their poor driving is going to be hazardous to someone else. I get mad. I get angry and I erupt for about 3 seconds, and then something miraculous happens, I just let go, and I just go back to whatever I was saying or thinking right before. I just forget.
I refuse to trust anyone who tries to tell me they do not get angry. Anyone who says “I just don’t get mad” is a liar, plain and simple, and I do not trust liars. Anger, in my humblest opinions, is a healthy, natural, often important emotion that I believe deserves as much weight, merit, and acceptance as any other. Anger is key, sometimes, and those who try to force it out of you, who try to relegate it to the minor leagues of acceptable emotions, are just flat out wrong. Luckily (or not lucky at all) for me, there is a great deal of science new and old that supports this claim, that backs up the idea that in fact, anger is healthy, and is just as vital to our experience as human beings as the rest of them. Anger can help us survive, it can calm us, it can actually expand our emotional intelligence, help us solve problems, and even learn to cooperate. It can also energize us, and in a twist of fate that seems almost cosmically comical, it can inject optimism. How strange, that allowing ourselves the temporary expulsion of the magma of our discontent, can actually be something that increases the amount of positivity and optimism back into our souls?
This, this fact here, is the opposite of what those toxic positivity campers would like you to believe. In their forced and false zen-ness, they are actually doing nothing more than stifling their body or mind’s natural reaction to the situations they are encountering. In short, they are procrastinating a reaction, and it’s this waiting that is so damaging. Look at the top of the highest mountain of compassion and calm, the Dalai Lama, as even he believes that anger can be helpful, and that he experiences it, and often. The difference, he believes, is in the way we approach the situations, the situations we allow to bring us to this point, and the way we handle them going forward. He’s long been a proponent of “compassionate anger” and believes that it can help lead to the fixing of injustices far and wide. What matters most, as I mentioned, is knowing which situations actually call for anger, and which do not, and I Love this quote, however, on his views on that:
“So the important point to bear in mind is that these feelings are not destructive in themselves; they become destructive only when their intensity is out of promotion to the situation, or when they arise in situations that do not call for them.”
Holding on to anger, many Buddhists texts said, is “like grasping a hot coal to strike another, you are the one to get burned.” It’s here, in this little distillation of a much bigger text, that the key point emerges…Holding On To Anger.
To rise into anger is normal, it is natural, and happens dozens of times a day or week. It’s the holding on that hurts us, and it’s the holding on that steals not only our own calm, but our health in the process. I’ve long believed, and I consider myself an insanely gentle human being, that having a bit of an edge, a line we refuse to let others cross within ourselves, is actually massively important. If we do not stand for something, quite obviously the cliche is true, we can fall for anything. I swear at cars, I raise my hands into the air in disbelief, I honk, and then I let it go.
Perhaps, and science is again proving this with new studies all the time, it is the suppression of emotion, much more than the expression, that is what hurts us. It’s the constant attempt to be more positive, to only see the silver linings, to force away our natural instinct to defend ourselves, or those we love, that is to blame for stress levels that rise, blood pressure that accompanies it, and causes so much angst. If we let some of that lava out, slow and when it needs to leak, we relieve pressure. If we do not, if we bottle it up and suppress it down, eventually we will all erupt. We become volcanic and dangerous and along the way suffer anyways. To feel is to be human, to be happy, sad, lonely, energetic, kind, and sometimes, incredibly pissed off, is to be a member of this species, and for too long the message has been that anger is only negative, that those who feel it are broken in some un-fixable way. Why?
I’ll never trust someone until I’ve seen them angry, and it’s not the anger itself that is what leads to the trusting. Instead, it’s the dissipation of it after, the speed at which they return to the person I know, that lets me know the contents of their character. It’s the way they handle the anger to people face to face, the way they treat people, either compassionately or not, that helps me understand who they are. For me, I might yell in the car, raise my hands up in disbelief, but I would never go further, I would never wish harm, never cause harm, never feel a rage. My anger in those situations is about the safety of those around me, those with me, and as quickly as it rises, it goes.
Wary, I am, with those who the anger does not fall away, or with those who carry it more than all other emotions. Cautious, I become, when I find someone only driven by this, or driven by it in a malicious way void of compassion.
Bottom line, it’s ok to be angry, my goodness how could you not given the state of things in this place over the last few years? It’s ok to feel what you feel, it’s ok to be what you are, to experience life as you naturally experience it. Feel it, burn, let it out, but then let it go, then forget. Maybe this is the key to this place, the forgetting, the letting go, the refusal to hold on. To be alive is to feel, and I’m just saying, maybe it’s ok to feel ALL of what we feel, and to stop trying to hard to be some bullshit view of perfect.
And dammit, stop driving like idiots.
We must let it out
erupt without holding on,
burn bright then forget.