I don’t get angry very often, and sometimes that pisses Kim off. On occasion, she says, she will do things to provoke my anger, just for the hell of it. Kim has always been good at exploring new experiences. Just las week she tried to instruct me in how to be angry. In anticipation of a meeting with a sales rep to
request demand a refund for an unsatisfactory sofa
we bought, Kim had me practice sounding angry as we rehearsed the conversation.
I couldn’t do it. Kim laughed at me. Again.
I wrote about anger over a year ago in a post about Darkness:
· Anger. I go to a dark place whenever someone it angry with me. This is bad enough when I don’t deserve it, but even worse when I do. Now, what? I do remember one time when Kim was angry with me about something or other and I was angry with her for being angry with me. “I hate feeling this way,” I told myself. So I decided to stop feeling that way. It worked, almost instantly. Doesn’t always work for me, unfortunately, but I sometimes use a Jedi Mind Trick to change someone else’s anger to love, or at least tolerance.
What doesn’t anger me?
· I am not subject to road rage because 1) I am seldom in a hurry, which, come to think of it, may provoke road rage in others, and 2) when I see foolish driving, I think to myself, Yes, I’ve done that.
· I am fairly immune to personal snubs and insults, mainly because I am unaware of them – one of the many advantages of being self-absorbed. When it’s explained to me why something should have hurt my feelings, I understand, but that’s my brain’s understanding – my heart, or whatever organ is involved in anger (the Greeks thought it was the belly), does not engage. And my poor memory of prior insults also protects me from anger.
What does anger me? I’ll skip the obvious targets – plastic packaging I can’t open, Trump’s boorish ignorance, litter. Kim tells me that when someone feels anger, it’s usually because he or she feels hurt. That makes sense, but I don’t think it applies to me very often. I’m too insensitive to be easily hurt.
I do find myself getting angry when I get lost. When we travel, whether on a road trip or just around town, I am in charge of logistics. It’s my job to get us there on time. While I have given over much of the workload to Gertrude, our GPS, I still feel the brunt of responsibility. In fact, getting us places on time, along with the television remote, are the major loci of my power. So it gives me a great sense of accomplishment when we do arrive at a place on time, so much so that what we do when we get there, whether it’s a dental appointment or a B&B, is much less important than my logistical success. My work is done.
So I get angry when I can’t find Max’s Appliance Store in Traverse City even though we’ve been there a half-dozen times. I get angry when I turn the wrong way leaving the store selling us windows for our new cottage. I get angry when I miss our exit on the Interstate, usually because Kim wants to discuss sex or money. When this happens and I curse, Kim laughs and shrugs it off, but not me. I fume, which makes Kim laugh even more.
Notice, here, that my anger is usually self-directed. As I mentioned, I do sometimes get angry at Kim when she becomes angry at me, usually for something I’ve done wrong. It’s convenient to deflect that self-anger outward at someone else, much the way guys worried about their own sexuality become homophobes, but it’s still, essentially, for me, self-anger. The alternative is to see myself as a victim, hurt and therefore angry, and that’s no fun. By blaming myself and becoming angry at myself, I maintain the illusion of power and control, expanding my range beyond the car and the tv remote. And I have the power to end it.
What do I do when some asshole really pisses me off? I try to reason that it’s probably better to be angry at an asshole than to actually be the asshole who angers people, and with that dubious reasoning, my anger dissipates. Somewhat. Or I think of encounters with assholes as similar to encounters with bad weather – it makes little sense to become angry with a tornado.
I suppose the bottom line here is that I am conflict-averse, so I play these mind games to avoid conflicts that might make me angry. I blame myself. I shrug off assholes. I use my GPS. Emotional constipation works for me.
P.S.: Wrath, an extreme form of anger, is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. When I was a Starbucks barista I would give customers a 10-cent discount if they could answer my daily trivia question, one of which was to name the Seven Deadly Sins. Few could. My theory was that the one they named first was the one they found most tempting.