Before I start, I want to apologize for the lapse of time between episodes. As I mentioned in the last episode, I’m moving to another location, only it’s taking much longer than I anticipated. I still haven’t moved, and because of the powers that be, I’m unsure when it will all happen. So, I decided to unpack some boxes and record and publish one or two episodes in the meantime. That said, my studio will be a makeshift set-up at best. So, apologies in advance; the quality of the recording may be lacking a bit. Lastly, if you enjoy this podcast, please leave a Review or Rate it on Apple, it helps support the podcast, and please share it with others.
This is episode #33, entitled, Addicted to Anger.
He walked into the dinner party looking like a rooster; red in the face and prepped for a cock fight. It made sense, something happened between us the day before that set him off. He was probably stewing all night about it. I said something he found offensive. It doesn’t matter what I said because he finds just about everything offensive. Yes, everything’s a personal affront to him. Indeed, he has strong opinions which he keeps in a vice grip. You can’t budge him even if you tried, in which I usually don’t. Although I couldn’t resist the urge this time to counter his beliefs, which I regretted doing. I should know better. Most of time I listen objectively, and perhaps find some truth in his words now and again.
You see, my friend is a dry drunk; he has a big ego and low self-esteem. He’s only tolerable when you agree with him. And all is fine and dandy until you disagree with him. Then you turn into the target of his anger. Then there’s no talking to him, no matter how far from the truth his view of you or what you supposedly said or did might be. In the past I would have fallen victim to his attitude in circumstances like this one. I would have been sucked into his vacuum of heated anger toward my disagreeing with him, fighting him with all my might, defending myself to the death, so to speak. But now, I step back. I can see that he carries a strong distrust of people. Indeed the new me and improved me, if you will, even tried to sort things out with him, I made efforts to talk it out, in a rational and reasonable way. But as it turned out, he’s too far gone. Likely, he will never speak to me again.
But I don’t take it personally. This is because I’m now able to consider the source, and see the common denominator; he doesn’t speak to his former wife either, or his two kids, or his old boss, or the car mechanic we both go to in our neighborhood. I’m just another on the list. No doubt, he’s an angry guy, whose angry at the world. But I’m not angry at him though, not because I’m above him, and not because I’m taking the high road, no, it’s because I understand him. You see, back in the day, I was just like him. I would’ve carry a resentment around toward him heavier than the wooden cross Jesus carried to Calvary. It’s a weight I’m happy to no longer bear. I spent most of my adult life being angry, just like him. And it was a terrible way to live. Not only am I not angry, and not resentful toward him, but I don’t judge him either. I am instead very grateful, grateful that I no longer live that way. Indeed, for some reason or another, I was graced. I’m a lucky man.
No doubt, anger is a powerful drug. It can be just as addictive as heroin. I’ll never forget when my spiritual teacher and friend first said to me years ago, “Carl, you love being angry.” Of course, I rejected the notion. But overtime, as he continued to point it out again and again, I realized he was right; I did get great satisfaction from being angry. In fact, I spent much of my day being angry. I would get angry at bad traffic, bad drivers, long lines, slow cashiers, incompetent people, uppity people, inconsiderate people, rainy weather, you name it. And I held resentments toward people; those who personally offended me, crooked politicians, condescending elitists, bad governments, and even God. I was always hot-headed and bad-tempered. You could count on me to go off on heated rants or debates. “Religious people are ignorant and brainwashed, God is sadistic, and life is absurd and meaningless.” I was the death of many dinner parties. Yes, every day was filled with cynicism and anger. I remember having a bite in a late night diner with a friend once saying, “Guys like us will never be happy.” And I really believed it.
Over time, through the help of my spiritual teacher, I began to see how I felt in-control when I was angry. I felt powerful, strong, righteous, and justified in being angry. “They were unfair, they were condescending, and they are to blame.” Yes, I was right and they were wrong. Anger felt “empowering.” Or so it seemed. More than that, anger was a familiar and comfortable emotion. It was my go-to whenever I felt threatened. I lived in the fight or flight mode, always quick to anger, always quick to blame. I lived there as far back as I can remember.
But things were starting to slowly change. My denial was breaking. An awareness, a heightened awareness, was coming forth. I was beginning to see how I was avoiding other emotions by going to anger. Anger was covering up uncomfortable emotions, namely, feelings of hurt and fear. Most certainly, I was unaware of this. I was unconsciously and automatically going to anger, not letting myself experience my true feelings, not giving myself the chance to sit with the vulnerability. Yes, now that I was taking my teacher’s advice, I was experiencing emotions which made me feel too open and uncomfortable. I felt groundless, in that I felt as if I was giving in or giving up control. Whereas anger made me feel in control and powerful. Yes, anger was my way of defending myself against the enemy. But in essence, which I couldn’t see, I was defending myself, or more accurately protecting myself from feelings of hurt and fear. And so anger kept me from my real feelings, it kept me blinded.
More than that, I began to see that I lacked self-worth, I had low self-esteem, and my pride and ego were compensating for it. In fact, I had a huge ego, and so it always got in the way and was easily bruised. My ego was so big that nothing could get around it, or over it, or roll off it. And so everything knocked against it and got me angry, which blocked my view of reality. I couldn’t see that I didn’t value myself, and didn’t love myself. And so, as it turned out, I had a lot of work ahead of me.
Anger blocks us, it blocks us from our hearts, from compassion, from clarity, wisdom, insights, and personal growth. It hardens us. Anger makes us say harmful things that we regret. Anger, and the resentments that we develop toward others, have the power to turn us into monsters. They make us do horrible things. Anger is no doubt a destructive emotion. Sure, it can help us in a crisis, like when our family is being physically threatened in some way, or when we are trying to save a drowning person. But otherwise, anger is harmful to us and others.
Sure, when we’re threatened, hurt, offended, or criticized, our go-to will be anger, and that’s normal. What’s not normal, or healthy minded, is reacting without thinking first. See, that’s the default mechanism, which has kept our species alive; the fight or flight mechanism. But in a modern, civilized world, our primal part of the brain gets us into trouble. It destroys our well-being. Left to our default mechanism, left to our own devices, without some type of training, understanding, and discipline, we react to every perceived threat. But not everything or everyone is a threat. And we don’t live in the jungle, no, we are dealing with moody bosses, cranky bus operators, rude people, and overtired spouses.
See, when we’re a slave to anger, resentment, and fear, it’s because we lack self-control. Others become subject to our unpredictability and turn fearful of our anger. Which brings up another reason many of us like to be angry; we think it’s “empowering.” But anger is not what it’s crack up to be. It’s a weakness. Shouting, screaming, and yelling are signs of laziness in a sense. It’s easy to be angry. It’s easy to fly off the handle. Try self-control, not easy. Try pausing, not easy. Try not succumbing to your primal, animal nature. It’s not easy. If you want easy, count on being angry, resentful, and un-awakened for the rest of your life. Count on avoiding feelings of vulnerability and ultimately not experiencing true love. Well-being, that is, good mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health take hard work. And our cravings to go to anger, like all addictions, will take a life time of work to overcome. But hey, the choice is ours, we can do the hard work, or not do it.
If we choose to do the work, it won’t be easy changing our ways, never mind seeing ourselves objectively. It might take a miracle. For sure, it will take time. And so we need tools and coping skills, because many of us are deeply addicted to anger. We can start by observing our thoughts, words, and actions, objectively evaluating them. Putting the wrongs of others aside, at least for a time. Looking at ourselves. Getting honest about our feelings. When you get angry at someone or something, try pausing before saying or doing anything. Feel the anger, but don’t feed it. Notice your thoughts, but don’t aggravate them. Just look at them. Feel your emotions, your hurt. Just try being, without adding or subtracting anything. Do this, keep doing this. Sit with the vulnerability. Just be uncomfortable. Feel it in your body. Don’t make it worse. And for God’s sake, let go of the anger. This is a practice, and we must continue. We will learn from this, grow from this, we will find strength, change will come, a confidence and trust in ourselves and the world will come. If you want to understand yourself and grow, do this. If you’re sick and tired of being a slave to anger, do this. If you want to be a positive force and shine like a bright torch, then do this, and do it every day.
Well, that’s all I have, as always, thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, please visit my website, carltvreeland.com, among other things, you’ll find my blog there, which includes some podcast transcripts. Again, thank you so much for listening.