Saturday, January 24, 2015

"Hello My Name Is..." or, Can You Hang On? I'm Getting a Call

I need to give credit to nametag.me for the generator

In a sense, this is the post where I get to act like Yoda, since he gave warning about giving into this particular set of feelings. If Yoda is any kind of reliable source, there are only bad things that come from giving into one's anger.

If you like this, it's a free download at FBCoverStreet

But it's true. My name is anger. I'm a very angry man with a nasty temper that I inherited from my father. I've spent years watching my dad, studying what sets him off. And I have spent years trying to understand myself, studying what sets me off.

I know that admitting this about myself is an uncomfortable thing. It is uncomfortable for me and it is uncomfortable for everyone else. I have tried to admit this before and people tell me "Tom, you can't possibly be as angry as you say... you look so calm and you handle yourself so well... I know you, you're not that kind of person." That always rings false for me, since what they say doesn't line up with what I feel about myself. I know what my anger can do, so I have spent time subduing it and relieving it so that it does not build up and explode at a time that I can't control it.

Where does this anger come from? I mean, I can admit that I am an angry man, but I also want to make it clear that I do not allow myself to be defined by my anger. My anger is not me, so where does it come from?

Over years of trying to understand myself, control my reactions, recognize the way that I unconsciously react to people and situations, I have begun to recognize that my anger is the result of my frustration. When frustration sits too long it become fecund and the anger grows out of it.

What about the frustration? Where does that come from? I get frustrated when I see the suffering of others and I feel like there is nothing I can do about it. I get frustrated when I know that I will be separated from someone I love. I get frustrated when it seems like there is no impact from what I do and say. So the frustration is really just a cover for fear and sadness. I am afraid that my actions have no impact. I fear separation from those I love dearly. I am saddened when anyone goes hungry or find themselves unable to clothe and shelter themselves.

So I guess that means that I'm almost perpetually afraid and sad. And so I get frustrated often. And all that explodes when my temper snaps and my anger comes out, whether I want it to come or not.

I have done a lot of work with this. I know that simply resigning myself to the statement "I'm an angry person" is only a small piece of the larger picture and I know that that statement might get me out of situations I don't want to be in. So I've done work to make sure that I don't snap. I frequently go running or swimming to let the pressure off and channel my anger to something constructive. And so I have come to a place where I realize that my gift is my anger. It is, undoubtedly, a kind of energy. If I let it out only when my temper snaps, then I have no control over what happens, even though I need to live with the consequences. However, if I can let the pressure off little by little, if I can learn to subdue and channel my anger, I can make it work for me. And usually, it feels like that energy is limitless. But to rest on that would be folly.

You see, even if I try to siphon the energy from my anger and use that to accomplish the things that I want to accomplish, sometimes that kind of energy is still not enough to get to where I want to go. That kind of energy has little to no finesse; it's really just forceful determination. Sometimes, the task before me is a matter of navigating a system. And while I may be able to grit my teeth and use my anger to power my fatiguing limbs, there come times when it's not the physicality of my anger that's called for. Sometimes there are situations where I need to delicately navigate a system, and the perseverance to succeed in that environment takes a whole different kind of energy.

So what do I do in that case? When I know that my anger is not what is called for or I know that that kind of energy is not what will drive me to persevere, I think I need to return to the source.

My anger comes from frustration. My frustration comes from sadness and fear. Those two things are, in fact the source of my anger. That means that, if I can train myself to react differently to the core emotions, I may end up in a different place, right?

Recently, at one of my formation meetings, we did this exercise that was based on each person having two name tags (really, that's where the first image in this post came from). We watched this video and identified what we have been and what we want to become. I wrote down "Hello, my name is Anger," and then wrote that I want to become "Contemplation." And I think this is still true. I have admitted that my anger stems from those core emotions of fear and sadness. So If I'm really aware of that, can I practice more mindfulness, acknowledge the things that I am afraid of and saddened by, and then move past my own ego with compassion for myself and those around me?

That's a pretty big ask for myself. I'm not there yet. I'm not perfect when it comes to acting with compassion. But I think that's the next choice that I need to live into.


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Do you want to share your story of "becoming" something else? Is it a story of redemption and resurrection? Did you like the video I shared from my formation meeting? Please share as much or as little as you feel called to in the comments below. Otherwise, you can join with me in conversation on Twitter or Facebook! Additionally, you can subscribe to my blog by email with the subscription bar in the navigation menu on the right-hand side of this page, and/or send me a friend request/follow me to make that social connection and participate in a deeper dialogue that way. Thanks!