Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tempering the Temper

Greetings all,

Another week another post.  Ah, but what a week it has been full of emotional highs and lows.  Speaking of emotions….

I have a temper.  Don't laugh its true.  Many people are shocked to find out this fact.  The Mooneagle does get angry.  Not that this happens a lot (barring traffic jams), but it does happen.  I'm one of those people that I describe as having a long fuse.  Imagine a long trail of gunpowder, you can light it and it may take a while but eventually there's going to be a very big bang.  Sometimes the longer the fuse the bigger the bang.

Anger is an emotion that often gets demonized.  It can be destructive and dangerous.  However it can also act like rocket fuel blasting us off into new heights.  We've all had those moments when we're fed up with a situation or relationship and we go off.  We either leave the situation or blow it up.  I've often said I don't burn bridges,  I napalm them.  Usually I wait till someone is in the middle of a crossing.  While very dramatic and emotionally exhausting this has liberated me from situations (and people) that might have drawn me back into an even more exhausting cycle of suffering.

So anger is useful.  It can be at any rate.  The problem I often have is that I go directly from peace time picnics to all out war.  This is just a tad bit less useful.  Anger inspires quick action, but rarely clear thinking.  Remember those bridges?  While I might have been dancing round the flames in celebration there are so many times where I remembered something important that I left on the other side of that now burning chasm.  I've squandered opportunities and had to start from scratch because I was just to eager to strike that match and stoke the fire.

The espresso shot of adrenalin that anger brings can be very habit forming, in fact recent studies suggest that catharsis therapy where you take your aggression out on a pillow or doll can actually make you more prone to outbursts of anger.  What happens is that you are creating and reinforcing those aggressive patterns in your neural pathways.  The more you do something the deeper the pattern is wired into you.  Of course bottling up your anger isn't such a hot idea either, or rather it is too hot.  (Remember that bridge before it was charcoal?)

So what to do?  If we fire up the flame throwers we just make ourselves more prone to anger, but if we suppress it we risk a meltdown.  This seems to be one of those smelly creeks that have boats with only a single paddle.  In metal working there is a process called tempering where a piece of metal is  cooled quickly, and then carefully reheated below a critical point.  This makes the metal more durable and less likely to shatter and break.  To simply not be angry is not an option we risk being inauthentic, and also being the world's door mat.  I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that if you don't stand up for yourself at times people will not treat you very well.  You also don't want to go around blasting everyone with vitriol because you're not getting your way.

One of the things that helps me is to ask questions.  Why am I angry?  Now my initial response is usually well person X did this to me, but you have to dig deeper.  Maybe someone did something that hurt my feelings.  Why are they hurt?  What issue did their actions or words bring to the surface?  What in me needs to be healed?  What do I need to address within me?  Don't think this means that other people get a hall pass though on poor behavior, because along with those questions I'll ask myself what actions I need to take to address whatever triggered the flare up.  Sometimes the answer is do nothing, ignore it, or let it go.  Other times the answer is confront and tell person X that what they're doing is unacceptable, and that if it continues other actions will follow.

So does any of this apply to you?  Do you hold your anger in until you erupt and drown Pompeii in fiery ash and ruin?  Do you regularly spit fire at friend and foe alike?  Do you temper your responses?  Why not look at your anger with the same lens you see any emotion with.  It has a job to do showing you where change is needed in your life.  If you loved what it did for you without being attached to the feeling would that change your outlook on anger?  What if you used the fire of anger to cauterize your inner wounds rather than inflicting more wounds?  Most importantly give yourself a little slack we all lose our tempers at some point, no reason to lose your cool over losing your cool.

Peace and Blessings,
Thomas Mooneagle

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