“Get mad, then get over it.”
~ Colin Powell
This holiday season has been fraught and no mistake. The weekend was a good chance to sort of recover from some personal stuff last week – many thanks to Margot whose Christmas present to me was a ticket to a concert that we went to together. Christmas music is wonderfully soothing.
And I needed to be soothed because last week I was angry. It’s not very Christmas-y but deal, kittens, holiday mirth will soon resume.
I think anger is a hugely underrated emotion. It’s something we’re supposed to tamp down, turn away from, or disavow. I disagree. Granted there is a difference between allowing yourself to feel anger and being consumed by it and that should be appreciated, but if you are a healthy, balanced person who is in control of yourself and your actions I say: go ahead, get angry.
I don’t mind feeling it. I jokingly (but semi-seriously) refer to it as my “backup emotion” because when able to choose between feeling hurt or sad or angry, I will always pick the latter. I don’t really get personally offended, but I do get angry. Generally feeling it means I perceive that a wrong has been done within my sphere of influence, and feeling it usually motivates me to do something to try and either fix or ameliorate the wrong.
It has practical benefits as well. The house is never so clean as it is after a particularly bad day at work. My involvement in events and causes is ten times more stalwart when I’ve been personally angered by a behavior or policy. I can cook a week’s worth of food in a couple of hours, to say nothing of a pile of baked goods, when properly hyped up on righteous indignation. It’s invigorating, it’s energizing, it gets stuff done.
I admit I’m usually pretty well in control of myself. I learned to control my anger as a teenager and change it from something that could be destructive into something constructive. To use it as a motivator instead of a end of itself; it’s one of the best personal lessons I’ve ever learned.
The trouble with anger, at least as I’ve experienced it, is that it’s a fossil fuel: it can get you a long way, you can power a whole Industrial Revolution with it maybe, but it’s a finite resource. Sooner or later, it’s not sustainable. No healthy person can feel angry all of the time – it takes up way too much energy! Oh, I’ve lasted months on it, but in the end it runs out, and if the thing that made you angry is still hovering around, meddling in your life, it can be really easy to feel exhausted, hounded, and generally just really disheartened.
And I’ve never really been able to get a grip on being disheartened, I’ve not learned to channel that into optimism or anything really useful. It mostly congeals into sad, tight little ball of stress that I tuck down somewhere and try to get over. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes not. Last week I managed a lot on anger, but I ended up disheartened pretty quickly and was surprised by how draining that was too.
Thank God for support teams, and no mistake! Husband, parents, and good friend do a lot to make you take heart again. Ultimately all anger burns itself out. I’m now trying to learn, when I start feeling grim, to just outlive the bastards.
But I’m curious. Does anyone else have a backup emotion, or something potentially bad that they have managed to harness for motivation? Is it healthy for you personally? Unhealthy, but it works? How do you cope?