Anger Comes from Pain

Why is it really important to understand anger? Because:

  • Understanding anger is the first step in dealing with your own, so that you can behave decently, and so that you are not controlled by automatic responses to other people.
  • Understanding anger gives you helpful insight when dealing with angry friends or family members.
  • Understanding anger is important in the bigger picture of society—for preventing the formation of, or responding to, masses of angry people.

Think about what anger is: Anger is an emotion, a very intense feeling which summons your attention and energy; it is your subconscious talking to your consciousness while it rallies your body for what it expects your response will be. But if you have this detached perspective, then you are not bound to act as your feelings seem to tell you to act.

Emotions exist to serve us. They say, “Hey Master, here’s something you should pay attention to. Don’t you want to do something about this?” That’s true for happiness, sadness, love, anger, or any emotion. “Hey Master, there’s a good-looking person, don’t you want to make contact?” “Hey Master, there’s a fun game. Don’t you want to play it?” “Hey Master, this food tastes great. Don’t you want to grab another helping?” “Hey Master, notice how great if feels when you receive a compliment. Don’t you want to do that again?” “Hey Master, you’ve tried this already. Don’t you want to give up?” “Hey Master, that person stepped on your toe, causing you a lot of pain, and she didn’t even notice. Don’t you need to kick her so she doesn’t hurt you again?”

But we are to be the masters of our bodies, not leave emotions in control. The first part, “Hey Master, notice this,” is rather automatic. The second part, the “Don’t you want to___,” is trainable. Untrained, we tend to be selfish and superficial. We grab what’s fun and strike back when hurt. But we can train ourselves to look beyond the surface before responding, and to be kind when hurt.

What does it mean to be “kind when hurt”? Apologizing for existing because someone bumped into you, is not being kind. Being kind is taking note of your anger and telling it, “Okay, I got your message, now go back to work. I’ll handle this.” Then you look for more information about who hurt you and why, consider their point of view as best as you can see it, and offer some response which might actually help the other person to feel better—even if such a response has nothing at all to do with what they did to you.

Here’s the natural, untrained, emotionally reactive cycle of anger:

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Person A has a problem which generates an angry feeling, and so lets those feelings explode on whomever is handy. Person B, feeling the pain of being unjustly blamed (exaggerated by feared future consequences), yells back about the injustice they feel. Person A, being far from calm enough to admit an error, gets even angrier from the pain of being accused of unjustly yelling. Person B, feeling the pain of being in a hopelessly negative situation, yells about how absurd person A is acting. Person A not only continues to defend his or her self, but also feels additionally pained/angry because Person B has not seemed to care about the original problem.

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But when a wise person gets unjustly yelled at, the thought patterns goes something like this:

“That person is angry and it’s not my fault, which means they are dealing with something more painfully difficult than their level of strength or wisdom at this moment. They are not an absurd person normally; they are only acting on emotions right now, so there is no point in responding directly to their absurdness. I’m going to look for ways to reduce their stress, and try to figure out the real source of their pain so that I can find a solution for their problem. Then their mood will return to normal.”

When you realize that an angry person is actually a person who is in some sort of pain, you can shut off your retaliation instinct and proceed with empathy, love, patience, and possibly assistance.

Acknowledge to yourself your own anger, but shut it down by working to alleviate or eliminate the underlying pain. And if that underlying pain is someone’s unjust anger vented on you, work to alleviate or eliminate THEIR underlying pain, and everyone’s anger will vanish.

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Further reading: Here is an article on the value of seeing people’s offensive actions as stemming from ignorance and poor assumptions rather than maliciousness, thus allowing yourself to avoid reacting angrily: http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2009/10/falkenblog-epictetus-the-life-coach/

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© 2014 Noname Porter-McShirley

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Happy Endings Have a Purpose

December 19, 2012


My nine-year-old son and I both “booed” after finishing a short story which started with two children being left alone on an island, and ended with them still there, abandoned by their only visitor, and one of the children vowing to find a way off of the island some day. I tried to console my son by saying that when I experience a sad story that ends without an “ending,” it makes me resolve to get busy making something happen in real life. I asked him, “Do stories always have to have a happy ending?” I continued, “Real life doesn’t have happy endings—it just keeps going and going.” To which he instantly replied, “That’s why we turn to stories!”

I think he’s right.

Most adults are busy, and we can sometimes accept taking a piece of a story to ponder its points as we go on with our activities; but remember being a kid, when a year seemed like eternity? Adults may have been around enough to know a hard time will pass in a day, or week, or year; but it’s hard for a child to hold out for relief which might be so far away—so they turn to fantasy. Time goes so slowly for children that they can’t always grasp from their own real lives, the sense of hope and joy they need; but they can get it from a happy ending to a story.

We all want to know that things will be okay in the end—the end of a situation, the end of a season of life, or the absolute end of one’s earthly life. We need hope for the future in order to keep going through anything less than perfect. We fuel that hope with stories, real and fictional. Stories give us a rest from our reality, and ideas to take back into reality. Sure, we can draw positive thoughts from a story that stops sadly, but that’s work, not recreation. We all–adults and children–need happy endings to feel relaxed and happy.

Life does keep going and going, but with lots of little happy moments, if not “endings.” For those who say that kids should not be taught to expect happy endings in life, I’d say they should be allowed the uplifting pleasure of happy endings in stories, AND taught to both look for and create happy passages in real life.

It doesn’t matter so much that life isn’t “happy EVER after” ONE struggle. It does matter that we CAN get through a struggle, and be happy—and so then we must be able to get through another struggle, and another. A happy ending gives hope for multiple happy endings to multiple struggles.

So don’t feel guilty for filling your kid’s heads with happy endings. And do make happiness come true, even in difficult times.

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©NPM

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Holiday gatherings, and the month of dread which comes beforehand, are some of the most frustrating and depressing times for many people. These are supposed to be celebrations and reunions, but one of the biggest contributing factors which makes these events problems, is that so many people are measuring themselves and others with the wrong measuring sticks.

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Tradition is to compare and judge others’ lives against one’s own life, based primarily and superficially on physical accomplishments, because these are the easiest things to put into words and are most similar across humanity in western cultural terms.

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Examples: awards and educational degrees earned; prestige or money from jobs and number of promotions; home size, toys, and cars; money spent on gifts; kids and their growth, involvements or accomplishments; fun activities and places visited; number or class of friends; club memberships; books read or written; childhood dreams realized; etc.

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But you can HAPPILY look like a failure by all of those standards, IF you have gained (or know you are gaining) understanding of humanity and of God, your reason for existing, and what will outlast the fleeting years at hand. For if understanding a good chunk of those things is what you pour your time and resources into, you can feel confident in your abilities to be an honest benefit to fellow humans and to the entire universe.

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Communicating a meaningful measurement of your life is often hard, because there’s so much value in the fleeting moments which are like little pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and just as hard to remember or explain their context.

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Examples: the times you made someone smile, were kind to a clerk, gave a hug, answered someone’s nagging question, realized the answer to your own questions, forgave someone, lovingly sacrificed your own desires for someone else’s good. The times God’s Spirit embodied you and shined through to lighten and enlighten the world with love.

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So gather with grace, confidence, compassion and love for everyone, wherever they measure up at the moment–or think they measure up–on any yardstick. Hope for meaningful progress.

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Happy holidays!

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© NPM

You can say you are walking up a mountain, and if you sometimes (or oft-times) stumble, your statement is still truth—if it is your intention to walk up the mountain, and if you are applying yourself to it with what ability you have, because you are in fact taking steps toward the top (even if progress is slow). Likewise, if you say you love someone, and sometimes show it but also sometimes mistreat them, your love can be true—if that’s the best you know how to do. But if you have a hiking partner and you intentionally trip repeatedly in order to trick that partner into carrying you, all the while saying that you love them, selfishness and meanness is the reality you are creating; your statement of love is not truth, is not reality.

How would we like it if God said that He loved us, inviting us to heaven, only to laugh upon our arrival saying “Just kidding; get out!”? But that’s sometimes how people treat people—stating love, but not fulfilling the statements; not making love real.

It’s easy sometimes to be lazy, choosing what amuses or comforts ourselves, rather than what is honestly good for everyone. The seeds of love might be in our hearts, but might never have a chance to blossom if we water and eat the fruit of selfishness instead. 

Helpful perspectives:  
1)  Every act that is truly good for others, is also an act of love toward oneself, because true acts of love and kindness benefit everyone in the long run. Selfishness is mediocre because it seems good from one perspective–our own–but is not good for everyone. We all receive better, when we’re willing to give up mediocre.

2)  Why stop at wishing for, or day-dreaming of living in loveliness? We each ensure the presence of goodness when we are the embodiment of it (when we choose continually to let it embody us). And if goodness/loveliness is present, we can all enjoy it and feed off of it.

We need to make real what we really want to be.

Be a blessing.

It’s easier to hand God one’s reins in order to be restrained from selfishness, when one focuses one’s heart and mind’s eye on the benefits—the benefits to others and to oneself.

© 2012 NPM

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GOAL: Positive Balance

July 23, 2011

I want to share thoughts that aren’t yet part of my books.
I want to make people aware of what is in my books, and the value of them.
I want to help people with my writing.
I want to post rather freely, but not shallowly.
I want to earn so much that I can help many people—not only with my words, but also with the tool of money.
I want to be free to give, but not give everything for free.
I want to receive positive feedback, and valuable interaction.
I want to radiate goodness, and attract appreciation.
I want to point to the source of goodness.
I want to think personal, and think big.
I want to act on my beliefs, without crushing anyone else.
I want my blog to attract customers for my books & artwork, and friends for my spirit.

© NPM
Noname Porter-McShirley, Artist and Writer