Sometimes I think that the more I feel, the less I understand others’ feelings.
I have known for at least a few years that I do not “get” anger in the way most of my peers seem to experience it. Anger only makes sense to me under very specific circumstances (involving, among other things, the sense that one rightly expected better) and those circumstances rarely occur in my life. I have generally found that angry adults in real life are immature and it is best to remove oneself from the situation until they can calm down enough to have some chance of possibly communicating.
Since I remove myself from anger in person, my main opportunity to understand it comes from reading blog posts etc. That has never worked. Instead of “getting” it, I have sometimes had to reread multiple times to realize that someone is serious and not writing a parody of others who respond like petulant 4-year-olds rather than someone old enough to handle getting what they want, never mind deal maturely with situations they do not like.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself angry last week.
Since irony is the only way to be (don’t correct that line, it needs to rhyme more than it needs to be grammatically correct!) I found myself angry with a situation facilitated by someone whose anger I was not able to understand mere weeks before. In her anger she tried to reach out and inadvertently (perfectly innocently, I imagine) created something incredibly self-centered and quite likely harmful to others.
And I was angry. I carefully explained to Josh just how wrong the whole situation was. I could tell that he did not “get” it. He said that he expected such things and that adults should expect to be hurt in such situations, so what was the problem?
I wrote an email to a friend. I justified it by including details that would help her not make similar mistakes. And then I made myself deal with the fact that there was no chance that she would make these mistakes anyway, and that I was clearly angry and trying to share my anger with someone who might respond with more sympathy than Josh’s blasted maturity. That was far more pathetic than ironic, so I stopped myself and just thought about the layers of emotion and what was going on with me. People mess up. Good-hearted people plan things that hurt others. This is typical. Why was I expecting more? Why was I… oh, wait. That was it. I was expecting that the anger of others would cause them to not do the very things that aroused their anger.
But anger does not work that way. Anger blinds us to all reality beyond the burning within ourselves. Anger can be channeled in such a way that the passion is productive rather than destructive, but it is still the productivity of soldiers who burn an entire village down in order to stop terrorists. Of course you can be angry without burning down villages, but I have never seen someone carefully rebuild a village while anger rages on inside of her.
And for the briefest moment, I understood.
I deleted the draft email. I am not angry anymore. I do not know when I will be angry again, but I hope that the next time I am filled with rage I will immediately be filled with loving pity for those who experience this emotion frequently.
It turns out that there are many things I do not want to understand. I would so, so much rather help than understand.
- Not on not apologizing (or ewwww, gross!)
- Old and Familiar