[ Above photo / text by unknown. I found it online somewhere. ]
I could write a whole book about my experience with anger. It’s the emotion most accessible to me, and it’s safe to bet I’ve felt it more than anything else in my life. Much of my “creative career” was motivated by it. (While a lot of my Sir Millard Mulch music seemed very “goofy” I assure you I was not in a good mood while making it. At one point I remember calling that process “Artistic Fury.”)
I’m almost 39 years old now — and even though the specific number doesn’t matter — it’s a reminder that I’ve been around for while, and that I might want to re-evaluate my behavior.
On a mechanical level it seems anger is a response to threat — a survival mechanism. With that in mind, I must feel threatened by people who darken their car windows, add custom black rims, and park backwards. (Those three elements tend to group themselves together in parking lots, if you haven’t noticed.) I’ve called it “The Holy Trinity of The Lower Class” and also “Batmanism.” I’ve spent some time giggling and collecting photographs of this phenomenon.
While the relationship between a dude and his cheap car has no direct impact on my life (the car isn’t physically attacking me), I DO feel threatened. It’s my old friend, social alienation. The feeling that “he belongs here and I don’t.” It’s a reminder that I’ve always leaned towards Autism. There are so many behaviors in other people that I just don’t “get.” And as I said, a lot of my creative process of making music was a self-administered (and sometimes) therapeutic method to express that. But often it only made me feel worse.
People wonder why I stopped making music, and my answer is pretty much: “It made me unhappy.”
This is also why I got rid of my Facebook profile, and why I’ve stopped reading comments.
Being pissed-off might not seem like a big deal when you’re a teenager or mid-20s — and if you’re pretending to be a mysterious artist / musician you can make the excuse that it somehow helps. But anger is just not physically healthy in the long term. Stress takes its toll, and when you’re past 30 it’s a killer. (When your organs suddenly stop working, don’t be surprised.)
Anyway, alienation has always been a problem for me. In Kindergarten, when “playtime” started, I’d run to the teacher and cry: “No one wants to play with me!” Never failed. Boo-hoo. And here I am, 35-ish years later, and feeling like that every time I go out in public. It’s not that I don’t have good friends (mostly online, unfortunately) — it’s just that I look around and am overwhelmed with how much I don’t relate. The organism is threatened!
And then the fear becomes anger. But it’s not a strength, it’s just covering a weakness.
Same thing my dog does: she barks when a stranger comes in the house. She’s just afraid. Fight or Flight, eh? In my case, this mechanism is hyperactive. I can manage to turn most daily situations into some sort of inappropriate fight or flight.
I’ve only recently developed some skills for coping with this:
1.) Don’t look at / listen to stuff that makes me mad. The world is a big enough place that I can avoid most of the things that bother me if I just ignore them. I’m not talking about real problems that I can potentially address and solve. I mean, for example, the awful journalism on the CNN website. The events themselves don’t bother me (the death, the violence, the disasters) — it’s the way they’re reported. I could devote a parallel-universe-career dissecting the logical fallacies in those articles. It pushes my buttons, and I can’t resist. The problem is, I don’t think it would do any good (I probably wouldn’t defeat CNN), and I’d just be more angry. So, I try to stick to problems I CAN solve, like cleaning up after my pets.
2.) Accept that I live in a world full of people that are not only motivated primarily by emotions, but are also anti-intellectual! Hollywood (which has several good vegan restaurants), with its delusional promise of “being in the right place at the right time” is a place that attracts the irrational: those “dreamers” who don’t bother to get their shit together, and bumble through life expecting everything to work out (while someone else fixes their mistakes). According to Myers-Briggs (the third continuum) those people would be the “F” or Feeling element vs. “T” or Thinking. I am an INTJ, which basically means I shouldn’t go to lunch in Hollywood unless I want to be in a bad mood. But if I do, I can do my best to remember the T/F continuum.
As simple and obvious as these are, they’re not easy for me to put into practice. My trained reaction is to explode (I mean raising my voice and complaining and banging my hands on a horizontal surface like Alex Jones) — but that’s getting old, and it annoys my wife.
So: I will go forward and attempt to apply these two ideas. Best of luck to me!