My title is a line from a great Public Image Limited song called “Rise” from back in 1986. I’ve put some links down at the bottom of this post so you can check it out. (Caution is advised: it may not be your thing.)
I have an anger problem. This is the main reason I gave up caffeine (the subject of a previous post, here). I have had less of a hair trigger since then, but I still can get quite angry. My number one priority right now is not to get carried away by anger. My resolution had been not to get angry at all, but a friend pointed out (and I’ve subsequently read similar views) that anger is just an emotion like any other emotion, and that it’s not possible or healthy to entirely try to eradicate it, as it would not be possible or healthy to eradicate any other emotion, like happiness or sadness. So my goal is to respond in a more measured way to things that piss me off rather than reacting too strongly or letting the anger fester.
The other day, I became very angry about something a work colleague did. Normally, I would have fired off an angry (and unprofessional) e-mail, or I would have let it fester in my brain, but this time I didn’t. I stopped myself and took a breath. I thought to myself, “as provocative as this incident is, I have made it my life’s goal not to get carried away into anger. I should try to defuse the situation rather than ratchet it up.” And so I wrote a very toned down e-mail asking questions about what my colleague was aiming at rather than jumping to conclusions. It led to a much more productive dialogue, and while the situation wasn’t resolved to my liking, it also didn’t lead to Armageddon.
The interesting thing about this incident, though, was the energy. I was fired up to respond with force, and then I didn’t do it. My energy level was super high, as it is when one is furious, but rather than turning it outward in rage and then inward in guilt and self-criticism, I channeled it more productively. First, I cranked through some work I’d been meaning to do…while listening to heavy metal. Then, I popped out of my home office when I heard the kids, and I chased them around for a while. There was an edge to my play, for sure, but I was more present than I often am with them. Then I wrote my blog post about meditation straight through with no breaks (You can read it here. The context is a bit different now, no?). My energy spent, I went to sleep. The next day, though, I was still feeling the residue of my anger, so I went for a run before work.
Given what I accomplished and the fun several hours I had, you’d have thought that I’d gotten some good news and was feeling joyful rather than ticked. I was a little bit giddy for the next few days as I practiced this alchemy at other moments of anger or frustration and experienced a rush of energy as though I had just drunk a cup of coffee or something. Each time, I thought to myself, “I am angry, but I have the option of being something else,” and then I figured out what the something else was–where the energy was taking me.
Very interesting, life. I’m going to do more study on anger as energy.
Ok, here are two links to the song if you’re still interested. First is the original song by PIL, which, as I mentioned above, might not be your thing unless you’re a fan of pretty jangly post-punk. (It’s especially bad through laptop speakers.) You can catch the line “anger is an energy” repeated at 2:28 and again at 4:04. I’ve also linked to a gentler Brazilian cover of the song, just below. It’s a medley, and “Rise” starts at 2:32, with the line at about 4:46.