We’ve learned to be aware of the warning signs: Ivan’s face tightens, the pupils of his eyes become pinpoints of white-hot anger, he paces as if he needs to go somewhere but can’t seem to remember where that is! Ivan’s whole life has been ravaged by his anger! In frustration, he has smashed the backdoor window, breaking not only the glass but his hand as well! Once, while he walked along the street, he became so irritated by the stray cat circling his legs that he hauled off and kicked it, sending it sailing through the air and into the path of an oncoming car! An out-of-control dispute with someone over possession of a cut-glass Waterford bowl caused him to go out into the garage, return with a hammer and bellow as he brought the hammer down, “THERE! Now NO one has it!”
Most of us have learned that it is not safe to tease and taunt the neighbor’s dog. So why does it seem so hard for us to learn to not entertain any degree of anger? In the beginning anger can be as minor as irritation with someone or something, but just as flicking a lit match at a puddle of gasoline will result in an out-of-control inferno… our entertaining of even a minor irritation can suddenly morph into a rage capable of burning down the whole house! Over the years I have come to see that I become whatever it is that I focus upon… for good or for ill. I have learned that for me to keep revisiting that which annoys me seems to prime me for flat-out anger. For me to continue to indulge in what irritates me makes as much sense as to continue to eat unripe persimmons while complaining all the while about how bitter they taste! At some point you just have to stop!
But how? Sitting and writing down the angry scenarios that have happened can enable you to see a pattern… “Whenever someone takes such-and-such a tone with me I ignite! Whenever I am thwarted from achieving my goal I ignite!” Whenever… whenever… whenever. Change begins when I get fed up enough with the chaos that my anger causes and determine to be on the lookout for any trace of its approach. This means that as I am becoming irritated I slap myself with the thought, “Stop it! Let go of it! Quit being such an idiot!”
In the end, even irritation is not insignificant and we don’t have to be a hostage to anger. At some point we need to stop blaming others and circumstances for our anger. Politicians and laws cannot produce peace if we are intent on finding an enemy! In the same way the discord of my inner life has but one common denominator, and it is not others, it is not circumstances… it is me!