Don't get mad -- get constructive
Published: Friday, December 9th, 2005
My water bottle froze on the nightstand. One of our goats was dancing on the trough that holds their water — iced water, that is. I etched “this stinks” into the frost patch that formed on the inside of our kitchen window. Yes, it’s cold. And it makes me angry. So I yelled at my boyfriend. Alas, we’ve all seen this phenomenon — no, not necessarily a goat dancing on water — but the curse of misdirected anger. We lose our car keys. Then kick in a tire. We get a bad haircut. Then hurl things at the mirror. We stub our toe. Then punch out a cop. Some people even engage in public displays of misdirected anger. These include the man who feels he’s waiting too long in the coffee line and pushes and screams his way to the front for his first dibs right to cream and sugar. Or the lady at the community event who blows her top for some deep, hidden reason inside and lashes out at innocents who just happen to be closest. The public display people always seem to have eyes that bulge out and sweat beads carousing on their brow, like we see in cartoons. If they are not yelling at us, the scene is actually comical. Laughter aside, misdirected anger can actually be pretty dangerous. Look at Columbine. Not only does it injure those who don’t deserve the wrath, like the poor dog who just happens to be standing by the tire when someone loses his car keys, but it doesn’t solve any problems. In fact, it creates others. Now not only would we be faced with lost car keys but a busted tire, a bad haircut and a shattered mirror, a toe that throbs in pain and jail time for clocking an officer. Misdirected anger is also known to result in broken friendships, widespread hatred and festering ulcers. Thus we must find a way to deal with the misdirected anger. It’s not as if we can choose not to feel anger in the first place. Bad haircut rage can never be avoided. Besides, it’s what makes us human. We get anger, but we also get love. We get sadness, but we also get elation. And boy, do we need those elations. But we do have a choice of what to do with that anger. First things first, let’s get rid of the misdirected part of misdirected anger. Rather than lashing out like a poison octopus tendril at everyone around us, we need to step back and see what — if anything — deserves the ire. Please note this is not a free pass to lash out anyway, but at least those who have nothing to do with the situation won’t get erroneously entangled and we’re sure to end up with many less broken mirrors or kicked-in tires. We need to feel the anger. It’s the only thing that will ever make it go away. Sit through the anger. Heck, seethe in it. Just be sure no one else is around and you’re preferably in a padded room. Once the initial shock of being so enraged wears off, we become coherent enough to think of a solution. For the car keys, call a service or get a bicycle. For the haircut, wear a hat. For the toe that was stubbed in the doorway, it’s a wonderful excuse to stay home all day and read true-crime novels. If no solution seems to exist, we can still be constructive by channeling the anger into a demanding project or task. Some of the best houses were built by teed-off people. And wow, please check out some poems written by Sylvia Plath when she’s seething. As for the mad-at-the-cold situation, I am investing in a thermal water bottle, making my boyfriend put up plastic to stop frost patches on the window and joining the goat in his dance on the frozen water trough. Not only will that break the ice, but think how much anger that will wear off and warmer I shall be after a briskly invigorating jig.
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