When I first started working in LA, somebody asked me if I could fax something for them. Of course, I have no idea how to properly work a fax machine and I guess I ended up sending it upside down. The guy I’d done the favor for lost it. He started pacing back and forth and cursing. Someone came up and tried to explain but he was just inconsolable. Nevermind the fact that all the person had to do was flip it 180 degrees when it came through the machine.
He went back into his office. When he came out hours later, he turned it back on, muttering and shaking his head so everyone could see he was still mad. That he was a Big Swinging Dick. That he was angry and that we ought to know.
I remember being struck with how incredibly pathetic it was. He is throwing a temper tantrum. A grown man. I didn’t want to be like that.
Driving in LA is awful. Especially for me, near Korea Town. And so I will catch myself ranting about how horrible someone is in front of me. I’ll realize that I’m the only one in the car. I’m hoping for the attention of a non-existent audience. Sometimes, when I’m writing I’ll throw a chair because my computer is glitching for no reason or I’ll slam my arm down against the table. When I settle down, it’s strikes me that there is nothing lamer than trying to use physical intimidation on inanimate objects. I guess in retrospect I can laugh a little bit for screaming at the automated DMV phone operator “to listen up you stupid piece of shit, I already repeated my number six fucking times” but more comically sad than anything else.
There is that Marcus line about “not turning this into something” but I think it’s more than that. The saddest part of that Bill O’Reilly video is the end where he gets up and tries to rip off his microphone. The camera pulls away right as he’s doing it and we can see how frantic and ridiculous and insignificant he looks. All that ego, all that money and he’s still five years old trying to fling his jacket off so it knows who’s boss.
It’s about who you want to be. Animals can get angry and snarl and bite at the wind. That’s easy. One of the things I respect most about my girlfriend is how she can reprimand my puppy calmly, as it’s biting her. Me, I have to react emotionally or pull away. To be in control – to know what you want and not indulge – that’s hard. That’s worthy of distinction. If you could pull away and look at yourself, what would you rather see? I know I don’t like seeing the guy screaming to himself in the car, stupid enough to think it makes a difference.
I read your posts as often as I can because I enjoy watching an intelligent young man evolve.
Uncontrollable anger, especially when you hurt someone, even yourself, is unacceptable. It sounds platitudinous, but I remind you that anger is a valid human emotion, and under the right circumstances may be necessary.
I think you are being a little judgmental about anger in general. Did you know very much about the guy with the fax machine? You are a smart young man, and I applaud you for learning the facts of life so early. I’m an old guy who discovered long ago, I will make mistakes with people, because people are the primary source of frustration in life.
Common venting “…physical intimidation on inanimate objects” is much better than taking out your frustrations on people. And I’m guessing you know that anger is depression turned inward. Even old guys (and gals) get pissed off when the lawn mower won’t start, or whatever mishaps may occur with machines. What is the underlying source of my anger? I don’t know, and I don’t have time to worry about it. In fact, cussing is enjoyable sometimes. Then I walk away knowing, this is a speck of dust in the overall scheme.
Controlled anger, in my opinion, is necessary on occasion to let a person know you mean business, and will tolerate no nonsense. There is no need to curse, raise your voice, or do anything other than say exactly what you mean, with the voice intonation and facial expression to match. On more than one occasion I have had to adjust the attitude of an employee by asserting myself.
As a young man, I often made a fool of myself arguing with people – and of course anger usually followed, and we each walked away convinced the other person was beyond repair. Young testosterone driven men do these foolish things.
From Hamlet “…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” The bottom line is, at times anger is justified, and the best thing you can do with an angry person is walk away.
Of course there will always be pricks and assholes in the world. I don’t know what makes them tick, and I don’t care. But I think first of tolerance before passing judgment.
My best friend is awful for this. Every single thing in his house and in my house was either “retarded” or “gay” for many years. He once threw a video game out the window because “it screwed him over” (ie: he lost.)
I have the exact same problem with my anger and the lack of control I have over it. The worst problem I find is that I let the smallest things push me over the edge and yet the big things don’t really get to me. I’ve always wondered if I should switch that around and then work on learning to channel my anger into something positive, or if I should just learn to channel my anger and not worry about transferring it to the big things.
My paternal lineage is quite interesting for anger mangement.
My grandfather came back from Kokoda with PTSD that was never diagnosed or treated. We’re fairly sure he’s repressed strong homosexuality. He’s spent his entire life in a storm of fear and anger, making every person he meets miserable so that he won’t be alone is his depression.
My father is the life of the party and generally very nice guy. He taught for years and was favourite teacher and later lecturer to thousands and thousands of students. He is a fantastic speaker and does radio and television bytes on a regular basis and his audience loves him. His temper is almost invisible until it flares.
Dad has what he describes as ‘Joan moments’ – they’re called joan moments because when Joan of Arc was on the cross, about to be burned, they said to her ‘Say you’re sorry, and we’ll let you live’ and Joan looked at them and said ‘Fuck you. Somebodies going to die, it might be me, but somebodies going to die’. When dad’s temper flares – he has no sense of self preservation – something gets destroyed – no matter the cost.
I once saw dad raise the height of a doorway in our house, with a chainsaw. He’d hit his head three times in a row on the door frame, the third time hard enough to put himself on his knees. He didn’t say a word as he stormed out to the yard, grabbed the chainsaw and extended the door frame. My mother was standing near by, trying to convince him to check if there were any electrical cables in that wall, or if that wall was perhaps structural. He didn’t pause.
On one hand, that anger makes him one of the most ruthlessly effective people I have ever known. As a manager – he is stunningly effective as a head kicker and change motivator – and he has some surreal gift that still makes people love him even after working for him.
On the other hand – I’ve seen his temper cost him tens of thousands of dollars, over the most retarded matters of principle.
My temper is a long, slow fuse. I am incredibly patient with people I like. But my anger is the biggest driving force behind my creativity. Rage has inspired every really great piece of writing I’ve ever produced. Rage has been the main motivator behind some of the proudest moments of my life. Rage has given me clarity when everyone around me was blind.
I think Anger is like any emotion – it makes fools of the foolish, but it’s still a perfectly useful tool if you can make it work for you.
The ability to stand back and objectively assess situations while withholding an emotional response is one of the most important interpersonal skills that I’ve been developing. It’s an unending process, of course, but I’m getting better every day. Great post.
While controlled anger can be very useful and necessary I’ve recently had a lot of couples in my practice who report no yelling or anger at all. Coincidentally these couples rarely have sex. Why? Both anger and sex are extreme forms of passion and these couples seem to have too much control over their emotions. Sometimes I’m too controlling over my anger as well. Except when the Jets lose. Which is most of the time.