This week has been a hilarious exercise in anger and irritation for me. Call it spring (hello, liver), call it hormones, call it whatever you want, but the level of frustration I have felt towards people, situations and animals (OHMYGODIHATEMYCATS) has been monumental.
I would say that if I could pick two emotions or human qualities that have historically challenged me the most, it would be anger, and anger. Sure there has been a lot of fear and sadness and anxiety and impatience nestled amongst the fury, but anger has always been there, right at the root; my quick-fix go-to tool for dealing with whatever seems to present itself. I have really liked being irritated in the past; I have actually sought out situations wherein I could justify getting bent out of shape, or even subconsciously put myself in places and with people who might trigger everything that pissed me off about the world.
Why? Well, to deal with it and work through it, I'm quite certain. And because it was something that was completely suppressed in me for a long while. Cause you see I--like many people, I'm sure--come from a family where anger was and is just not super accepted, especially coming from females. Not that there was anything really overt or suppressive about my family, but that I think my mom always knew there was something more to being angry than just freaking out at people. That there was something to be learnt personally from it.
Now the reality about anger is that it is good, I know. That it is an effective response at times, and even the most compassionate thing that can be done when someone (or something) is doing something that isn't fantastic. My cats on the kitchen counter eating my goat cheese, for example, need to be yelled at. Rotten goddamn little bastards.
HOWEVER, because there is always a caveat to all things, especially when it comes to spiritual growth, anger is also an equal and opposite opportunity for us to direct strong energy inwards, and to stop and take a look at what it is we are dealing with, and how we might have contributed to the situation. Instead of responding with indignation and blame at what has been done to us, there is always something that we can come to better understand about ourselves in the circumstance, utilizing that fire to burn away the internal resistance and ego-based reactions we possess instead of trying to scorch through someone else's.
I think a lot of people would read that quote from Epictetus and find it offensive; that they would think it was an attempt to suppress or limit our emotional expression of anger, but I firmly disagree. When tempted by anger now if I can fully remember to turn it inwards (not being 'angry' at myself, per say, but sending that intensity of awareness within..) it is absolutely certain that whatever I was angry about will have not only faded away within 5 or 10 minutes, but that I will have come to some greater understanding of my process that I could not have had that situation, person or experience presented themselves.
I realize that what I'm saying here is highly paradoxical. On one hand that anger is necessary and good and sometimes exactly what that person or situation needs in order to change their behavior, and on the other that we should only turn our attention inwards to fully understand what we may have contributed to the experience and thus may actually be able to change (because we can only change ourselves). But because I think mostly in paradoxes and I like it that way (and because life is just nothing but one big paradox after another…) I enjoy this definition and exploration.
Yes, be angry. Yes, respond to situations and people. And yes, take responsibility for your contributions and influence on the situation, and direct that same intensity of energy inwards so that you may better understand why and how that situation came to be; what exact part you played in the creation of that experience.
So on that note, I am going to scream at my cats. And then I am going to reassess whether me letting them on the dining room table has had any influence over why they think they can go on the kitchen table…