Anger is insidious. It masks emotion and it can be masked by emotion.
There are a few things I've learned about anger I'd like to share:
- Anger is not a base emotion. If you climb through the tree of emotions, seeking the root cause of a particular emotion, it will never be anger, it will always be some other emotion or condition.
- Anger masks emotions like fear and emotional pain, but anger can also mask anger.
- Anger makes us feel justified in any action.
- Anger blocks awareness. Some emotions enhance consciousness, but anger blocks it, they are mutually exclusive.
- Most human reactions have an anger component.
I guess a little background is needed. I'll talk about me because it's the easiest way to relate my knowledge.
Like every other three and a half year old on the planet I get mad when certain psychological buttons are pressed. The buttons come from genetics and from childhood but I'm not going to focus on their origins now, because its only relevant to our intellectual curiosity.
One of my big buttons is inconsiderate or ignoramical (yes I made that word up) drivers. These are the folks who deliberately drive like an ass or drive like an ass because they don't know any better. You'd think it would be easier to forgive the ignoramus and resent the inconsiderate, but as I'm about to explain that's not the case.
My Car Sociology buttons caused a real problem for me when I first arrived in California because a large percentage of drivers here are recent and first generation immigrants. These recent and first generation immigrants have absolutely no understanding of American Car Culture. Americans use their cars as extensions of themselves. We communicate with our cars. I'm not talking about car horns (although that is one of our louder messages). I'm talking about everything from how we pull into traffic, how we stop at red lights, how we merge onto highways, which lane we use to pass, when we use turn signals and a plethora of other things which have evolved in the US since World War 2.
Because new and first generation immigrants don't grok American Car Culture, they consistently make sizable faux pas while driving.
I grew up in rural and semi rural Pennsylvania where everyone knew the unwritten rules. Sure there were jerks, but jerks are understood and welcomed because you were justifiably allowed to curse them and if necessary flip them off. It was often a highlight of your day to be justified in flipping someone off. Justification feels good. Getting used to guys who steer into my lane even though I'm going ten miles an hour faster, forcing me to put on my brakes, instead of being courteous and waiting a few seconds for me to go by took a great deal of time and effort.
But these folks aren't jerks, they simply don't know any better. Damn that's frustrating. We are angry but don't feel justified. It causes all kind of inner conflict. Does anyone else hear that milk churning as the gods and demons pull that big snake (you have to have read a previous blog post to get this reference).
Sure some just shout out obscenities (especially to the one who feel it necessary to merge at twenty miles per hour under the current traffic flow even though they drive a BMW 3 series that is quite capable of merging at traffic speeds) and give racist names to the ticket they wish they would give those people not in the know about American Car Culture. But those of us who empathize with their plight. The fact that the roads they used in their home country were dirt and driving was an endeavor you made very cautiously means they simply don't understand why they should keep up with traffic, pay attention to the drivers around them and be courteous. I can't blame them for not knowing. Its like if I went to some other country and committed a reckless Faux Pas because I'm just some dumb American.
Yet. I used to get so mad. And amazingly the madder I got the more it happened and the more reckless I'd get. Talk about unhealthy driving habits.
At the surface of these attitudes was my anger with the other driver's inability to drive well. Very early on I decided I wanted to work to control that habit and end it. Years and years passed by and even to this day I still react. I usually predict when someone is going to do something stupid and I still get upset when they do.
Each time I feel the anger I dig within myself. I dig as deep as I can, searching for the underlying feeling, the cause, the mechanism in my mind that causes the reaction and I look for the button. Because I know if I bring my awareness to the button, I defuse it and it shuts off. The anger remains but suddenly there is breathing room and a distinct separation from the anger. Instead of owning it or it owning me I just watch it. I become an observer of my experience, instead of being the experiencer.
During these sojourns I almost always realize the reason. And for those who like to talk Psychology, let me just say that my Dad is an angry driver... I inherited his buttons.
But that's not important. They are mine now. Where they came from is truly and wholly irrelevant.
There are other reasons I get angry, here's a short list of things I've discovered:
- Fear of being hurt (physically, emotionally or psychologically)
- Memory of being hurt (physically, emotionally or psychologically)
- I perceive that my character is under attack (fear of someone hurting my reputation)
- Someone crosses my safe boundaries (this is fear related as well).
You can see that fear is the root of all my anger. Fear of many and varied things, yet fear is itself the cause of the anger.
My friend Ken Milner who died of ALS many years ago said that fear is the root of all affliction. I haven't been able to prove him wrong yet.
Summary: anger bad, anger caused by fear, therefore fear bad. Must face fear.
"Must not fear. Fear is the mind Killer." -- Paul Atreides
Causes Brian McKee Supports
I support the cause of peace via peaceful means.