Do you resort to the silent treatment when you are upset with someone or go hell for leather in a latin way? Is your stance to seethe like a boiling kettle or perhaps one volcanic eruption and it’s over?
Either way anger pushes buttons like grindr on speed dial. Don’t you just love people who express ‘passive aggressive’ under their tongue while ‘mopping & muttering’ cleaning the floor? This is likely to indicate “YOU should have done it”. Inter-personal relationships huh, no wonder they call them a “laboratory of learning”.
Passive aggressive types who can’t express in words what they want, really pushes buttons in those who do the volcanic eruption and it’s over. Trying to decode ‘shoulder shrugging’, ‘don’t know’, ‘not sure,’ ‘I’ll have what you’re having laziness’ can blow the whistle off any kettle in reaction, and there you have it – reacting – rather than responding, never works. Living with others who cause you to blow your top, making you feel irritated, ignored or victimised is difficult, but it’s even more difficult to accept that those feelings are not “given’ to you, you simply choose to employ them, because often you couldn’t get your own way.
Learning to accept the behaviour of others, rather than wish they acted out differently, is the key to emotional balance, and maybe anger is a luxury you can’t afford anymore. It always leaves you short changed. 12 Step Programme material talks about being ‘powerless over people, places and things’ which means we can only change our response to others, not change them. When you accept this at heart, it’s easier not to take things personally, if anger is around you. This reminds me of The 4 Toltec Agreements with Self, but the two that stand out for the solution to other peoples anger toward you, are these :
Don’t take Anything PERSONALLY. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you become immune to the actions and thoughts of others, you won’t be a victim of needless suffering.
Don’t Make ASSUMPTIONS. Find the courage to quietly ask questions and express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings and thrust anger.
Similarly another well read practiced tome, ‘A Course In Miracles (ACIM )’, states that “We are never upset for the reason we think”. This helped me a lot when in emotional turmoil about someone’s behaviour toward me. It stops me in my tracks to recall that what is happening in this moment, be it an angry client, or a late bus when I need it, is that getting angry is unlikely to make the bus arrive and that ACCEPTANCE is the answer to emotional wellness. This also means that when a client or friend is angry ‘they are never upset for the reason they think’ – it’s more about the unhealed back story. Whatever is unhealed in the past, like abandonment, abuse or guilt will resonate like a boiling kettle at some point. You just happened to be standing there. This does not mean that we avoid taking responsibility for our own actions, thoughts and behaviours – we are not exempt- but it does offer the facility to view the bigger picture of a quarrel or internalised angst.
Recovery from codependency also means creating boundaries in order to perceive a situation correctly. Checking out your role in someone’s anger toward you, means yes you might have responsibility here, so if you are wrong own it. If you feel ‘wronged’ question it, then recognise whether, this is ‘their stuff’ or ‘your stuff’. Getting defensive is not a solution but a fuller understanding of the bigger picture, including ‘you are never upset for the reason you think’, and not inviting debate, can end the game. Let feelings pass, see the facts and reconcile later.
There are occasions where anger has relevance. I remember a time in the AIDS years when Larry Kramer rattled gay cages when he said ” gay men weren’t angry ENOUGH” over AIDS and created ACT UP in 1987, a direct action protest organisation over apathy to the solutions of friends dying, with the slogan SILENCE=DEATH. 78 years young, he is still is a fiery, angry, wonderful, beast of passion. So yes there are times when anger has a purpose! Some say we are not vocal enough about rising HIV rates when we live in a world of information about the virus, and the current rise of social media and armchair activism, though often criticised, has at least lent fervour to our spirit of injustice on world events.
Perhaps we need more Larry Kramers’s to remind us of our silence, where it’s wise to express anger and if WE don’t do it – who will?
http://acim.org in many languages.
This blog of mine was first published in HIM-MAG on October 1st 2013 : http://www.him-magazine.com/2013/10/01/put-a-lid-on-it/