Your Anger Management FAQ
by: Max Burbank
Anger is everywhere these days. Who hasn't been the object of or even experienced road rage? Is there a co-worker everyone tip-toes around at your office? Might you be that person?
Here's a joke that's making the rounds: "I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out!" It's hilarious, because it's so true, or it would be if Hockey weren't only marginally more popular than curling. Besides, if you're anything like me, you certainly don't need a sporting event as an excuse for brawling. You can get a good punch up going at church if you know what you're doing!
But what if your anger isn't there when you need it? What will you do when your Boss blames you for his own lack of preparation at the 10:15 meeting when you totally blew your entire rage wad at your kid when she refused to leave for school on time because her socks 'felt funny'? How are you going to respond to the wife's needless provocation regarding your failure to pick up sour cream on the way home having barked yourself hoarse at commuters you don't even know who can't hear what you're saying anyway?
Properly managed, anger is the ultimate clean burning, renewable fuel. The following AMFAQ, or Anger Management Frequently Asked Questions, should keep you from the face blistering you'll get by asking me just about anything directly. See? I'm managing my anger right now by not wasting it on the likes of you. Read on and pretty soon you'll be able to coast through your day on a fine cussion of near constant rage.
If you recognize the above illustration as Z-list Marvel superhero 'Rage', you are a wiener.
WHAT IS ANGER?
FUCK YOU, YOU USELESS BAG OF CRAP! I'm kidding of course. I'm hardly angry at all right now, just sort of the idling level of general irritation I use to keep myself from passing out. Simply put, anger is response to stimulai. You wake to the alarm going off, get angry. A coworker says 'good morning', get angry. See a pretty sunset, get angry. While it's true there are many, many other reactions to stimulai a human being can experience, they are all a complete waste of time. Time you could be spending angry.
This cute puppy probably doesn't make you mad. You need to work on that.
YEAH, BUT SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS ANGER?
You're starting to piss me off. If that makes you mad, great, we're getting somewhere.
Anger has three components.
Psychological. This is the emotional component of anger, and it's a really good emotion with a nice meaty taste. It's not a wussy emotion like fear or happiness and research shows it is far less gay than love.
Physiological. This is how your body responds to anger. Muscle tension, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure as your body releases adrenaline. Mmmmmm-Doggy! FEEL that! It's like a WOOD STOVE on a WINTER DAY!
Cognitive. This is what you think about as you experience anger. Your extra chromosone boss, your deeply unappreciative family, Dave in the cube next to yours who everybody knows would best serve humanity as a systems analyst sized heap of ground meat, the great big shaft that God thinks it's funny to give you every damn time you look for an even break, whatever! It's all BUTANE, baby! And this weenie roast is WAY behind schedule!
OKAY, YOU'RE STARTING TO SCARE ME NOW.
Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is, that's just where I want you, and anger management did it for me. The bad news is, people who are scared of me are less likely to have the sack to do something that might piss me off, which means the fire of my rage is banking. But wait! MORE good news! Telling me I'm scaring you IS NOT A DAMN QUESTION, IS IT?! DID THEY TEACH YOU WHAT A FAQ WAS IN MORON SCHOOL?! NEWSFLASH! THE 'Q' STANDS FOR 'QUESTIONS'!!
Mama! THAT's some good anger!
SO, IT'S NOT 'BAD' TO FEEL ANGRY?
No, being angry isn't a bad or negative thing. Being angry can motivate people to listen to your concerns. It can prevent others from walking all over you. And it can motivate people to change larger societal issues. It's anger management that can be a problem. Because should you ever run out of anger, even for an instant, you will never again get a single thing you want. Plus, people will probably use the moment of your weakness to kill you on account of what a dick you've been.
WHAT ARE COMMON METHODS OF HANDLING ANGER, AND WHICH ARE HEALTHIEST?
While there are many ways to deal with anger, they all fall under two major categories, Expression and repression. Both are perfectly healthy in some circumstances and unhealthy if they involve a swiftly moving blunt instrument.
I like to think of this as the pay as you go method. Stimulai in, anger out, like the proverbial 'shit' through a 'goose'. Another metaphor I like is based on a toy from my childhood, the Hotwheels Supercharger. It was a little housing that fit on the track. Inside were two battery powered spinning wheels, and when a car went into the housing, the wheels would grab it and shoot it out, giving it a giant boost in speed. Or, if you like, you can use the gravitational slingshot analogy, wherein the stimulai is like a space probe using the gravitational field of a planet to accelerate and become anger moving at thousands of miles per second! Combine the Hotwheels or gravitational slingshot metaphors with the goose metaphor, and I think you'll see how it's possible that if you hand me a cold cup of coffee, I'm able to yell at you so loudly your whole face peels off.
Are you familiar with the Mentos/Diet coke experiment? Imagine for a moment that instead of allowing the coke foam to come jetting out the top of the bottle in a giant arc, you quickly screwed the cap on. The pressure would build up, and build up and build up until eventually the bottle exploded!
If you find your rage isn't impressive enough when you express it, repress it for a while. The longer you hold on to it, the bigger the fireworks!
In third grade, a school mate who's name I can no longer remember opined that the Partridge Family was superior to the Beatles. I very reasonably leaped across the lunchroom table, and tore a sizeable tuft of hair from the offending head. But suppose I'd simply said "That's one opinion" and repressed my rage? I could have revisited the memory regularly, stoked the flames of my indignation and in middle age gone completely Tunguska on an unsuspecting and utterly innocent food service employee.
Most likely caused by the air burst of a large meteoroid or comet fragment,
The Tunguska event was a massive explosion that occurred near the Tunguska River
in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, at 7:40 AM on June 30, 1908. Suck on that.
THAT is the beauty of perfectly managed repressed anger! Think of your brain as a vast storage tank for seething grievances, grudges and slights, held under great pressure for years until the rude coal of simple incident becomes the diamond of FURY! And you can give a diamond to anyone!
HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED TO WORK ON MY ANGER MANAGEMENT?
How bad do you want it? If you're okay with the occasional snippy retort, then no, you don't. Anybody can do that, and most of them are sissy-ass gaylords.
But do you mind that when you think you've absolutely blown up, your spouse describes you to her friends as being 'pissy'? Ask yourself this: How angry do I want to get, how often, over what? Myself, I'd like to be able to burn with the white hit fury of a super nova on demand because my sock snagged on a toe callous. And THAT, my friend, takes a whole lot of anger management.
IS ANGER BAD FOR MY HEALTH?
Yes. So is red meat, television, liquor and sex. Don't do any of those things. But when in the instant before you die you're hit with the realization that your life never amounted to shit, don't come crying to me.
Max Burbank is the editor at large of 'Unusual Bowel Obstructions Quarterly' and a frequent contributor to 'The Atlantic Monthly', 'Harpers' and 'The New Yorker', if by contributor you mean someone who contributes chewed wads of gum to those magazines on railroad station newsstands, 'cause that's what I do. He does. Screw it.
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:
Yeah, sex and red meat are nice, but you forgot sex with red meat didn't you.
Still it was a good read regardless.
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