Anger

I took my friend OBL to task for getting all whiny depressed on her blog, because dude, that’s my current thing and one blog site can only support so much of that at a time. She told me not to worry, because she’s switching over to anger, which I totally agree is a better approach than catatonia. I thought I might try it, too. But I can’t figure out how.

I mean, of all the things contributing to my depression right now, very few of them present a handy target for righteous rage. Should I be angry that 150 highly qualified individuals apply for every job that I apply for, and that they always, always choose someone else? Should I be angry about the things that maybe might make me look like a less attractive candidate than some of the others—like that I’m old? Or that I am a mother? Or that I’ve done a whole bunch of part-time contracting but not so much full-time jobbing? Can I blame any given employer for making the choice that seems best for their organization? That’s what they’re supposed to do.

Should I be angry with myself for having kids? Or for taking care of them myself? Or for abandoning my former career altogether? I made those choices with my eyes open. Sort of. In my defense, when you are 30ish it is impossible—completely impossible—to grasp what reality is going to look like when you are staring 50 in the eye. Nor could any older, wiser woman have informed me, because reality now is different from reality in different sociocultural and economic times.

Maybe I should be angry with the social media environment that makes it look like everyone else is doing impressively, spectacularly well. It’s an illusion, I know. Everything is an illusion. You never actually know what is going on with someone behind their carefully constructed image. It doesn’t matter how cheerful they are, how immaculate their home, how their family turns out at parties looking all Norman Rockwell, or how fantastic their career trajectory seems on their LinkedIn profile. You don’t know shit about them.

Should I be angry about the lies of our lives? Should I be angry that I apparently can’t have what I want? Does anyone really get what they wanted? And if so, does it turn out to be how or what they thought it would? And if it doesn’t would they ever admit it?

The truth of our lives lies in what we don’t say. Maybe I should be angry about that.

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15 thoughts on “Anger

  1. Yeah, you’re not as good at anger as I am.

    I don’t think anger has to be directed, necessarily. I mean, you have anger already, if you’re depressed, because pop psychology says depression is just anger turned inward. So instead of telling yourself all the reasons you shouldn’t be angry and can’t be angry and don’t deserve to feel anger and punishing yourself with depression, you just…feel anger, generally, aimed outward.

    Job search anger is especially hard because it feels like anonymous frustration. I mean, there really ISN’T anyone specific to feel angry at, usually. But I’m sure if you cast around long enough you can find a legitimate target for anger.

      • Well first, you start by reframing your conversations with yourself about your own feelings. Instead of thinking, “I shouldn’t be angry because…[insert 5,000 reasons you don’t deserve to have anger],” you teach yourself to think, “hmm, I have a feeling, it’s unpleasant, but it’s just a feeling and I’m ALLOWED to have feelings, even if I don’t like them or they seem unjustified or unladylike or bourgeois or entitled or [insert judgment about one’s own feelings].” Then you let yourself feel the feeling for a few seconds. Often the feeling is anger.

        Every time the logical part of your mind (the trained part) tries to break in with, “this can’t really be anger, because I made all these choices/other people have it worse/I have such a good life/I’m supposed to be grateful,” you just shut it down by reminding it that now is not the time to judge the feeling. Now is the time to just feel the feeling.

        Then you ask the feeling why you’re having it. Anger is usually very, very happy to tell you why you are feeling it.

        STILL DON’T EVALUATE IT.

        Instead, feel the anger. Feel the reasons for the anger. Write about the anger. Think about the anger. Pet the anger. Make a home in your heart for the anger. Don’t judge it. Just let yourself feel angry, even if the reasons sound stupid or juvenile or illogical to the other part of your mind.

        Then the anger recedes. Voila. Usually when the anger is done talking to you and gets petted a little bit and goes back into its cave, it doesn’t feel the need to wreak depressive havoc all over your psyche, and you can get back to work.

        • Dang, OBL, if the whole writing thing doesn’t work out you might consider going into the therapizing biz instead.

          The thing is, keeping the anger at bay and unacknowledged and especially unspoken is the only way to manage sometimes.

          • Everything I know I learned here: http://www.amazon.com/Anger-Cooling-Thich-Nhat-Hanh/dp/1573229377

            And look, you can find it on Amazon. So easy!

            I disagree that keeping the anger at bay and unacknowledged and unspoken is a way to manage it. I mean, feel free to try it, I won’t judge you…I tried to manage it that way, too. It didn’t get managed. Instead it broke out and stampeded all over my life and made me a miserable and possibly ill person.

            The thing about anger is the *causes* are unlikely to go away, realistically. It’s unlikely that life will suddenly and happily conform to our hopes and expectations. So it’s good to get warm and comfortable and snuggly with anger, like you would with a chronic illness, for example. I mean, what do I know. I’m just making stuff up as I go along. That’s why I want to write fiction.

  2. Anger, huh?

    I’m better at lies that soften harsh realities than harsh realities.

    Maybe we should put OBL in charge of all of us. Yeah, that Emotional Brain Training/The Pathway shit is the bomb. I’m not ready at all to tap any of my current powder kegs. I want a professional on hand in case my brain explodes.

  3. We have unreasonable expectations about life. Some of that is our fault (both individual and collectively), some our perception, and some the bombardment of the world surrounding those of us with intellect, skill, and time on our hands. That said, the old Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?”, a piece of middle-aged poetry leaned on for so many years as reason to be despondent, does include the line, “Then let’s keep dancing.” So…let’s dance. It’s stupid and irrelevant and nihilistic and spits in the face of the demons.

    • Yeah, this midlife crisis is so not all it was cracked up to be. If I wanted something easy like a fancy car or a year of meditation in Tibet, my problems would be so much easier to solve. This dancing–how is it done?

  4. OBL’s advice sounds a lot like what my sister’s therapist told her during her divorce: “Feel your feelings”. Which sounded a little silly to her, but after 12 years of trying to ignore and repress and mold her feelings into something that her husband liked or approved of or suggested, it was very liberating. And feeling the feelings really did let her move past them. She is so much happier right now than she was 6 month ago – I can just hear it in her voice.

    and sometimes I think, yes, this IS all there is to life. So finding a way to be happy with that is the trick. This is a TED talk that I thought was an interesting talkk about happiness and how it happens (http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work). Basically, if you try and find happiness in externals, NOTHING IS GOOD ENOUGH.

    I dunno. I am not looking forward to the midlife crisis thing. These last two weeks I have been looking at the skin on the back of my hands and it is starting to get a little bit OLD and almost wrinkly in that loose-skin aging way and that is more than my brain can process right now. I think a lot of the anger comes down to not being able to answer the question What makes my life meaningful? I am more convinced it is the little things, not the big things. It would be nice to accomplish big things (Hello, Louis Pasteur! My amazing new hero!), but a life well lived might be more the sum of all the little pieces.

    I hope you are having a good day today! That TED talk is only 12 minutes long – if you watch it, let me know what you think!

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