Every day I ask myself a question. I ask it several times per day. Sometimes I catch myself asking this question out loud. I contemplate this question's answer over and over again. Occasionally the answer is "I don't know." Often the answer is "No. Not at all." The days when I forget the question to ask are they days when my anger and frustration control me instead of me managing my anger and frustration. When everything starts spinning out of control, and I just get swallowed by my darker side, I ask myself "Does this really change anything in my life? How important is this situation?"
My family recently adopted a four month old puppy and I have found that raising and training a puppy is much like managing anger. Allie (our puppy) is innocent. She will never lie to me, or try to do something to hurt me for personal gain. She does, however, have an incredible tendency to poop on my floor, which can really put a damper on a fun social situation. We have spent a week together now, and today was our first accident free day. It has been a fun filled week of Allie adjusting to us and us adjusting to Allie.
Training a puppy has taken patience and consitency, and we have only scratched the surface. Every hour has been a constant challenge of my patience and understanding. I have found myself paranoid at her every movement. Every time she sniffs the ground I get worried that she is going to drop me a little present in the kitchen. It was like that when I first tried to control my anger. I found myself giving up and giving in every time I had a loud angry outburst. I would go for a week without a worry in the world, and when I finally met my breaking point I would feel defeated. Every single moment was like walking on pins and needles. One wrong step could mean a lost friend, or lost respect.
After a while I realized that in giving my anger so much attention, I was giving it power to control my life. When the world came at me with its ferocious teeth bared, I looked inward first to see what my reaction would be instead of simply asking how important the situation is to my overall growth and development and responding appropriately. This is a very distinct difference that I feel I must reinforce as being greatly important. When I was living my life in a cautionary manner, and I was worried about how I may react in certain situations I found my life experience to be pretty bland. It would be as though you are driving a car and you had a feeling that you may crash. Even if you avoid the crash your heart is still racing long after the near-crash. Many people would be jumpy and may even look in the rear view mirrow to see what wreckage could have been. Now imagine that you know you are going to have that feeling every time you get behind the wheel... That is how I felt about life. It became much easier to hide in my house and play hours upon hours of video games than it was to go out and face the monster that lived in my heart.
Every day situations come about that test me. Sometimes I do well. Sometimes I do not. Sometimes a situation becomes more than I can handle, but often simply asking myself about the importance of the situation is enough to defuse the bomb.
Today was the first time in a long time that I truly lost myself for a few moments. I was at work and some things that I have constantly moved were in the wrong place for the (I don't know how many times... it feels like about 7,000,000 or so) time. Nobody was in my immediate vicinity and I exploded in a sea of anger. For about 15 seconds I said how I felt as i picked up the mess, and immediately felt ashamed. I realized how unimportant the situation was and Instead of remaining angry I trained everyone on the importance of things being in their places.
Asking myself this question has led to many improved days and nights, and even days like today when I do slip have been lessons to learn and remember. It isn't the times that I've slipped that matter but the times that I've succeeded. My own personal goal is not to fend off my anger like some wild tiger, nor do I want to cage the beast and have it suppressed and by all appearances calm and docile. For a novice caging a wild animal can only end with that wild animal exploding out of the cage.
My goal is to, through years of training, tame my anger and manage it so that it may live alongside me. Anger, like all emotions, can be used for good reasons when the situation is right. I can no more remove my anger than can I remove my heart.
Anger is like puppy poop. If you own a puppy, there will always be puppy poop. You can either train her to poop outside, or you can allow her do as she pleases and poop wherever she gets the urge. Either way it is never the puppy's fault if your house stinks... that responsibility falls on the owner.