Letting Go Of Anger
My sister came to visit for a week. It was a nice trip until she left.
Then I found myself dissecting and replaying all our conversations in my head. I felt anger, defensiveness, and indignation - the usual emotions that come up whenever I’m around family.
I thought back to specific moments during the week, like when I was putting photos into my son’s baby book. I asked Jessica if our older sister had a baby book for her 2-month-old daughter. Jess said, “She’ll probably make one. Alexis has always been the creative one in the family.”
I felt angry.
Sam Harris asks,
"How long do you want to be angry for? Anger has arisen. Are you simply going to be identified with it, motivated to say the angry thing that deranges your life in that moment and your relationships to other people, or do you want to actually just let it go, and literally let the neurophysiology dissipate and act with a clear head?"
But I didn’t let it go and act with a clear head. I was motivated to say the angry thing that deranged my life in that moment. So I said, “I’m creative.”
It felt petty as soon as it left my lips. Jess rolled her eyes. “Wow, Charlie, way to make it personal.”
This made me feel even angrier.
Unfortunately, anger doesn’t solve any of my problems. Ryan Holiday explains:
“There are very few problems to which anger is the solution. And the most serious problems, the ones that are the most aggravating, are the ones that require the most discipline and the least amount of anger.”
I tried to take Holiday’s approach during another interaction with Jess and reacted with the least amount of anger. I did not meet her defensiveness with my own defensiveness. Instead, I apologized for making her feel bad.
It was really hard. I was proud of myself for being vulnerable with Jess.
But later I was stewing. Anger and indignation bubbled back to the surface. I had been vulnerable with her but she hadn’t been vulnerable with me. I wanted appreciation and reciprocity. I wanted my vulnerability to be rewarded.
I was missing the point. The goal is not validation. The goal is peace. I don’t want to be an angry person. I want to be a calm person.
Brene Brown defines calm people as,
“People who can bring perspective to complicated situations and feel their feelings without reacting to heightened emotions like fear and anger.”
I don’t want to be fearful or angry. If my goal is to be a calm person, how my sister reacts has nothing to do with it. Every time I feel angry, every time I snap, every time I defend myself, I’m being a person I don’t want to be.
Upon deep reflection I was able to recognize this. But I spent a lot of brain space and energy feeding my anger and insecurities.
I’ll try to be better next time.
My parents are visiting in two weeks. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to let go of my anger.