Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stifling the Fire

Many go through life angry at something or someone, captive of a fire which rises undaunted through the cooling chambers of rationality eating away all that is pleasant and peaceful in their world.
In itself, anger is an irrational emotion; it literally takes over the individual and morphs the old self into a different person. If we really take a good look at an angry person objectively, all we see is someone deeply fearful.
We like to picture an angry person as a monster, someone we need to fight, but anger is, in reality, just an impressive and intimidating mask hiding a deeply embedded fear. A person who’s afraid of being alone will get angry at her partner for being late because she is afraid her partner is no longer interested in her company; the religious or political radical who goes around spewing righteous judgment and hatred against those who don’t agree with his views is nothing more than a fearful man who doubts his own beliefs, and needs people to agree with him to reconfirm those beliefs to himself.
So, should we condone others lashing out at us, simply because we understand they are victims of their own fears? Certainly not, but understanding that someone is angry in response to their own shortcomings, weaknesses, fears and doubts is an important tool to realize that we shouldn’t feel responsible for their outbursts. We can reassure them once, but apologizing for their twisted perception only enables the drama and allows it to thrive.
Two of the first weapons angry people use are guilt and shame; they dig deep, hoping to get a reaction which will justify their irrational position, and will go to great lengths to trigger the same emotion in their opponent. If their efforts don’t bear fruit – as we don’t allow the skin of our emotional response to break – their fire will simply mirror back to them, bringing the heat such an unbearable level that it will have to defuse itself rapidly in the name of self-preservation.
After all, others can throw the ball; whether we choose to catch it, and play the game, is ultimately up to us.

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