Friday, 9 March 2012

My Changing Views Of Anger

I suppose many blogs show a 'journey' of the person blogging.  I had never intended that for this blog, it was simply a way for me to relieve myself of many of the thoughts and particularly irritations in my mind.  It was also an outlet when I have felt powerless against what seems to have been an incessant chain of bad landlords and bad managers causing me such grief.  However, recently I read a quotation from Buddha that said 'You will not be punished for your anger, but by your anger.' and I realised that I now understood that statement.  In addition, in doing so I could see a great change from the attitude I had about anger back in October 2008:

Do not worry, this is not going to be some pitch about how I found God or Buddha or anything like that, it is simply me reflecting on why and how I came to hold an opposite opinion to one I held before.  Regular readers will know that it is rare for me to shift my opinion on anything which is what makes this case unusual.  At the time I could see the reasons for having anger and it did make me feel good.  I felt just as powerless as I do these days facing up to the weight of the economy, finding sustained work and maintaining a place to live.  Constantly I seemed to encounter people who wanted to rub my face in the mud and I had no ability to get back at them.  That has not changed, I have a manager who treats me as some combination between a rude idiot and an aggressive threat and picks me up on rules she has made up after the fact.  That is the second manager I have had like that and between them they have ruined my career.  I was able to get away from landlords in 2007 but since being made redundant in 2009 I have regularly faced the worry of having the house repossessed and have only be saved by loans from my family and HM Revenue & Customs accepting that it had wrongly taxed me £16,000 back in 2007.  Thus, problems have not gone away from me and, in fact, unemployment is far higher now and the economy in much a worse state than back in 2008 making the near future appear even bleaker.

What has changed is that I realised that anger was a drug.  Some people facing the difficulties I was facing and feeling so powerless of oppose them would have turned to alcohol or narcotics or over-eating, perhaps to violence or self-harm.  Some people are able to buckle down and simply tolerate what is being inflicted on them, but they are rare.  We live in a society where public anger is now incredibly commonplace.  Every time you drive, every time you go to a supermarket or try to check in for an aeroplane or to catch a train there is a good chance in the UK that you will see unbridled fury.  Typically it is not over anything major, usually the reverse, that someone is driving at a different speed to you or will not let you into a queue or is simply in the wrong car or you cannot find the product you want or it has sold out or the company has made a mistake on your ticket or the flight or train has been cancelled.  These are nothing compared to the anger you should feel against a government which is destroying opportunities, education, pensions and the health service and telling us we should be glad about it.  Yet, while we know we can do absolutely nothing to change David Cameron's mind, we feel, however unlikely, that if we shout and make a fuss, we can squeeze out some change to our benefit; the car driver will feel ashamed or we will be 'bumped up' on to a flight or a train.  Over the past decades we have been tutored to believe this by what we witness in public and on television programmes.  It is strength by the sense that is so powerful of resentment against those who are getting some that we are not.

Over the past few years, even before I went into counselling as a result of mistreatment in my current job, I came to realise that anger achieved very little, no more than getting drunk would do.  It made me feel good for a short time but the come down in terms of high blood pressure and constipation were just like a hangover after alcohol and actually made it harder to deal with the problems the next day.  Being angry you see things only from your own perspective.  You know your limits and forget that those around you do not.  This was the impact on the woman and boy who lived in my house.  They saw me shouting and hitting the furniture and wondered if it would be them next that I would hit.  They saw me revving the car engine and felt powerless as they had no control over whether I rammed into the car in front of me or not.  Reassurance and even repeated examples when nothing dire occurs makes it no less frightening to them wondering if 'this time' something more severe would occur. 

This links to the next issue is that even in a life when everything seems a battle there are scraps of light.  Not going all religious, this is simple things like having a good meal or just all of you sat in front of the television or just laughing about something silly or remembering a good day.  They may only be scraps but I found these were being over-shadowed literally by the 'fear and loathing'.  In turn this meant that I did not even have these scraps of happiness to fall back on so meaning that I then lacked the kind of resources I needed to deal well with all the nastiness I was facing, especially at work.  The two worlds were contaminating each other and that meant there was no refuge.  It was easy to get into a vicious circle.  Whilst unemployment dropped me into new problems it gave me the time to change things.  Partly it was because I was freed from having a nasty manager waiting to pick up any new imagined example of an error in order to hound me with it.  Instead I was in my home all the time and had reasonably behaving job centre staff to deal with once per fortnight rather than malicious colleagues every day.  In between applying for jobs, I also took the opportunity to look at anger management.  This came in part from prompting from the woman who lived in my house, but also from having just one too many anger hangovers - constipation concentrates the mind very well.

Then I found that it is incredibly difficult to get help with anger management.  My experience in this respect was very much the same as when I tried to seek help as I came closer to being unable to pay my mortgage.  I contacted the building society when I had enough money to pay three months' mortgage payments and they would not discuss  the issue with me.  They said I had to be down to the final month's payment before they could even talk about it.  To me this seemed ridiculous.  They did not seem to realise that talking about the situation would have taken some pressure off me and most likely would have meant better performance at interviews and so the chance of getting a job to pay the mortgage.  The same situation occurred with anger management.  I found that in my town the last courses in anger management had ended two years earlier and that nowadays they only train counsellors in anger management for counties around; I would have had to travel to London for such help.  Anger management in my town is only available to people who have been referred to it by the courts or social welfare.  Thus, as with defaulting with the mortgage, it was only at the final stage that help became available.  To me this seems short-sighted, but I guess it comes from targeting money at those who need it the most rather than preventing problems from developing.

Given that I could find no groups or individuals to help, I thought 'well, I am an intelligent man, surely there are some books or something I can use'.  Well it turned out that I could find no books on anger management, again except for professionals counselling people rather than for those suffering from anger problems.  I guess the sense is that someone suffering anger will not be able to see that they need help.  However, I was able to find bits of references from extensive internet searches to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).  This sounded rather alarmingly like some pseudo-science, but actually turned out to be something legitimate.  It would have been the approach I would have been exposed to if I had applied for one of the courses two years earlier.  What I liked was that looked to treat causes rather than symptoms.  There is a lot on the internet about methods to reduce anger such as meditation but these did not seem feasible when you are driving and experience 'road rage'.  The NLP advocates likened most anger management to fixing a tyre when you had driven over broken glass and their method as being one that took you down a road without broken glass.  Anyway, from various sources I found exercises that I was able to do on my own.  Surprisingly, I found I quickly got into a 'virtuous circle' as being able to break the narcotic pleasure of anger I saw it was only doing harm and as anger became rarer it lost the psychological 'high' and feeling of power it had once given.  I was then able to recover those scraps of life that made me happy and in turn the two people living in my house felt more reassured so a feedback loop developed,

I have not reached a situation in which I am never angry, especially when dealing with computer games.  However, I can identify the symptoms so much faster and change what I am doing.  Probably the largest change has come in driving, knowing that I am giving power to worthless people if I get worked up when they hoot or flash or shout at me.  They are dangerous drivers and I need to get away from them, typically slowing down helps in that situation.  I think I felt I had a 'right' to anger something which was exacerbated because I was told I had other rights, no right to work, no right to enjoy a house without hassle, no right not to be treated as an idiot/inappropriate/to be dismissed, no right to drive my car without being forced off the road and so on.  However, I see now that the anger actually just made the things that I had under-valued, have less value.  Anger contaminates everything it touches and you need to be going in the opposite direction.  If you can derive happiness from lots of small and simple things then you become more robust.  You do not need a god to show you that, you can do it yourself.  Once you do, you then build up a reserve of some sort of energy that allows you to resist the trouble people seem so intent on pressing down on you, much more effectively.  Another trick that I have learnt since from counselling is to keep home and work in different silos, but that is a story for another day.

No comments: