I used to be prone to vicious outbursts, and metaphorical self-flagellation. I would internalize conflict until I exploded in either violence, hitting walls or a punching bag if it was around, or going over the different viewpoints in my head arguing in increasingly circuitous paths that I would never tolerate in someone arguing with me. These days my anger tends to come from stress. Better from stress then hate I suppose.
I like to think that I’ve gotten better at controlling my anger. Internalizing that kind of anger is unhealthy, but if you can truly let it go then it can’t control you. Whenever I feel that anger building up it feels like I just have to explode or swallow it. If you swallow the anger it will build and fester. Instead I hold it in the my hand in my mind’s eye. Then I just breathe. I let it go. It will dissolve like mist into the world. Remember that no one is the villain in their story and that even malice is just unhappiness manifest. Also remember that you aren’t dropping the anger. That means that you still hold onto it. You’re just letting it go. Just breathe in and breathe out.
I try to remember this when my temper starts to get the better of me. My friends these days think I’m one of the calmest people ever, and don’t really ever get mad. As I mentioned before I used to have a wicked temper. I give credit to my mother who taught me to just count my breaths when I got angry. Soon my stress will switch from distress, unhelpful stress, to the lesser talked about eustress, helpful stress. The stress from making forward progress in life goals and going on an adventure. It makes all of my current stress seem small, and I try to keep that in mind as I center myself.
My father once told me when we were doing yoga that the yogis had a name for our mind, it was Brother Sloth. He was referencing how when we wake up in the morning we don’t want to work out, or do yoga, even though intellectually we know we will feel better for the entire day if we do. I have been thinking of this recently. I have been struggling with a couple of health issues and I know that I just need some meds to alleviate them.
I have been thinking of Brother Sloth; it almost seems like an inertial force keeping me sedentary. When I was younger I used to be more high strung then I am now and much better at making snap changes. I suppose this speaks to my growing maturity, but say what you will adolescents are very good at changing their behavior suddenly. These changes don’t come as readily to me as they used to. I worry that it’s because I check out of my daily life too much. We can accomplish much on auto-pilot, but in the end we are only reducing the visibility of the life we lead to our mind’s eye. If you, like me, can’t handle being mindful in your everyday life then you should look to change your circumstances, and that’s not to say it’s easy. It’s much easier to slip into Brother Sloth’s easy rhythm: Work all day, TV all night, and drink all weekend.
I’ve taken steps to change the way that I live my life in a fairly large way. I know what needs to be done, but Brother Sloth whispers in my ear,
“It’s six whole months away.”
“One more time eating out won’t break the bank.”
“Stargate SG-1 for six hours is totally time well spent.”
“You can get to the doctor and start working out next week, give yourself a break. You’ve been so good lately.”
These are of variable truth, and none are particularly wrong. I include the SG-1 comment as well, because I love that show (free on prime right now). I used to combat this inertia (caused to some extent by the medical issues I mentioned before) with super doses of caffeine (3-4 Amps a day), but apparently “That’s not good for you,” and it’s pretty expensive.
I was just thinking that I should make a pact with myself to slap myself every time I start to slip, but that seems excessive. Actually to be honest I don’t find it excessive, but I’ve been accused on occasion of being an excessive person. The Dali Lama says that all love comes from loving oneself, and that it is easier to forgive others for their weakness than ourselves. I am starting to believe that these self-destructive tendencies we all seem to have, myself definitely included, come from a lack of love for ourselves. I have done a great many things in my life that I am ashamed of. I’m not sure that I’ll even ever forgive myself, but a long time ago I decided that you can’t change the person you were, and can only work on becoming a better person. I think I still see myself as that person though, and that person was hard to love. Instead of self-flagellation (the slapping agreement I mentioned earlier), I commit to myself that whenever I’m slipping that I will tell myself this, “You are one of the Goddess’ children, and worthy of the life you’ve chosen. Choose your path with open eyes to the consequences, both good and bad.”
I think that the secret is mindfulness in our decisions. Driving home on auto-pilot and getting McDonald’s is easy and fast, but would you do that for someone you love? Would you get your sick mother McDonald’s for dinner if she was hungry? You probably wouldn’t and neither would I. If you take the time to ask the questions the answers present themselves. You are worth the few breaths it takes to ask.