This post: not about Angry Birds, the app I’ve never played. I have enough addictions without adding an angry one. No, this post is about anger and how infectious it can be.
So why birds? Maybe because birds of an angry feather stay the flock together. Maybe because when people get really angry, they flash a bird or two to express their rage. Or maybe I just thought the title Angry Birds was a good way to draw traffic. Who can know?
So where was I? Oh, yes, anger. Anger is sticky. I usually save my anger for two groups of people: those who I love most and those I don’t think I’ll ever see again. I’ll yell at the guy in the car in front of me who waits two seconds after the light turns green before getting started. (It’s green, you moron, move . . . TODAY!) I won’t yell at the pizza guy who doesn’t realize my pizza has been sitting on a shelf behind him for 10 minutes. I won’t yell at my neighbor for failing to clean up the giant pile of firework crap he blew into my yard, but I will yell at my kids for not eating their dinners expediently. Or I’ll raise my voice.
See, that’s another thing about anger. We don’t admit to it. I’m not angry, I’m frustrated. I’m not yelling, I’m raising my voice. I’m not punching the wall, I’m looking for studs with conviction. DON’T LAUGH AT MY DANGLING MODIFIER. I wish there wasn’t this stigma with anger. It should be okay to say, Yeah, I was yelling. Yes, I’m mad. Because it feels as though half the madness of anger is the emotional combustion that results when we feel prohibited from expressing our anger in the first place.
But permission to be angry isn’t the solution to all our problems. In the “people I don’t know” category, I could tone down my rage just by relaxing a bit about trivial things like traffic and Cubs baseball.
The real challenge, though, is the anger we feel and express at home within our families. I get angry when my kids don’t listen, when they disregard rules they’ve known about for years, when they get angry with each other. Yeah, that last one’s fun. STOP YELLING! But anger feeds itself. I get mad, she gets mad, they get mad until we’re all mad. Those are the best days..
I think (I don’t know, it’s just a theory) that the best way to diffuse anger is not to use it. I mean, when something makes me angry, I tend to use that anger to fuel my response. Hence the yelling. Or the biting sarcasm. Or the breaking stuff. But when I do that, I pass my anger on to the next person. It’s crazy how it works. If I yell at someone, nine times out of nine and a half, I’ll get yelled at in response. And the yelling dissipates slowly once we all realize we’d rather not be yelling. We really would enjoy the not yelling, if we could give it a try. We all know this. But when we all begin sharing our anger so generously, it’s rather difficult to return to stinginess.
I think I’d find myself less yellish if I could use my anger only as motivation to act or speak, not as fuel or the guiding force. Like, I’m angry, I should do something. Why don’t I take Thing 1 aside for a chat about throwing food. Or, why don’t I think up a reasonable punishment. Not, I’m angry, ROAR, SMASH!
It’s just so difficult sometimes. Okay, always. Our family’s been a gang of four for four years now, and each of us has gotten really adept at knowing exactly what makes the other three angry. I suppose we should be learning what makes us all happy. And we do know how to make each other happy. We’re happy more often than angry. But when the anger does inevitably flare up, it’s just a matter of taking the time to think before responding. Maybe.
I think it’s possible. You know those people who always manage to stay cool no matter how angry everyone else gets? They make me so mad. But I guess they’re on to something.
UPDATE: I figured I’d add a Friday Playlist of one to this post: Broken Edge, “No Shelter,” from the Karate Kid soundtrack. Because it’s so angry.