I really am very angry. I’ve noticed that it comes out as negativity and a general lack of joy in things: it brings the people down around me.
It is destructive and pervasive, mean and cruel. It basically says “I’m down here and I want you to be here too. And it comes from my uncertainty around my purpose.
It makes me turn on the PlayStation rather than read a bushcraft book or write a blog. It wants me to do things that are distracting – and disconnecting rather than creative and nurturing. When I go off and play video games, I’m not doing any harm, I’m just sleepwalking the rest of my life away.
I feel like a part of a machine that wants me to be – at this point in my life – compliant and just constructive enough to earn a good wage, pay taxes and spend what’s left on the paraphernalia that underpins a ‘successful’ life. All the magazines tell me this stuff will make me happy, and yet here I am: angrily trying to keep-up with a bunch of pre-teens with the reactions of Usain Bolt in this season’s latest first-person-shooter.
There is so much that needs to be done in the world, to repair the damage that decades of carelessness have created and so little time to curtail a catastrophe. I can see it, I feel it in the very air around me, but whenever I wind myself up enough to do something about it, my magician pops up and tells me that things would be much safer if I just go and play war games with a load of spotty kids and disillusioned middle-aged men who are trying to escape their conscience.
And I can sit and reflect on this, on my ability to just not bother, and I look at myself and feel angry.
It comes out in so many subtly destructive ways: I’m hypersensitive to the idea of people being ‘disrespectful’ to me. When I’m driving, I take people’s general carelessness and lack of attention as a personal affront, like they’re actually doing ‘that’ to piss me off. And I react badly accordingly which sets them off, which sets me off, and everyone goes back to what they were doing angry and misunderstood. Anger passed on, everyone down at my level of grumpiness, job done.
I’m hypersensitive to the idea of people being ‘disrespectful’ to me…
Talking about this helps. Simply writing it down helps, this blog is a sort of therapy for me as much as a journal of my progress to a more ‘enlightened’ state.
It feels like part of the process here is ‘recognising my shadow’: actually sitting with the bits of me which are challenging and ‘getting to know them’. In the past I just simply assumed that everyone else on the road was a complete dick. Now I can see that my current way of behaving is actually inflammatory, and some sort of self affirmation: ‘look, see, he was driving like a dick too. They’re all out today.’. The worst part is that I am actually a very good and well trained driver, and I can see problems happening long before most people: I can get out of the way or adjust my driving to easily avoid conflict or confrontation, to absorb the bad driving habits of other road users, bit instead I can feel myself almost doing the opposite to be confrontational. Like I’m actually looking for a fight.
Yes, everyone should drive better, concentrate more, leave a bigger braking distance and definitely never do anything that stops them giving 100% of their attention to the hazards around them. When people don’t, then kids die in car accidents. But for some reason I can lump the same behaviour into the same category as parking in disabled spaces, hogging the middle lane or not knowing when to use the Hazard lights.
It’s not my job to police the roads, or other road-users driving standards, and I really wish I could just let go of it and be solely concerned with my own driving proficiency. But for now I have the really interesting situation of being a witness to this behaviour, and wondering where it comes from.
My practice now is to not just forget about it but to take time out to sit down with myself and really go through what’s behind it. Not just with driving, but disagreements at work, misunderstandings with my beautiful Sophie, or miscommunication with my best mate Terry. Even to go as far as to say to them “okay, so this just happened: what I did was X and what I meant was Y”, even if that feels like the most scary thing in the world.
I’m beginning to see the massive challenge ahead of me.
An old friend of my father trained for 7 years as a psychotherapist back in the 60s. She spent the first 3 years of her training receiving counselling herself, before ever being allowed near a potential patient, sometimes for as much as 6 hours a day. There was no way that she was going to be able to start to help other people with their problems unless she had a good grasp on her own.
If I am to become the man I want to be, then I need to really get to know my shadow, and accept it as being a part of who I am. To understand not how to ‘fix’ it, but to accept it, and to understand what experiences in my life help to shape and feed it.
When I am really honest and clear about these things, then I feel a peace come over me, and I know that my potential for road-rage is at it’s lowest ebb. Like in this moment now, having written this blog, and felt the emotions as I recounted them, I now feel calmer and more content.
Talking, sharing and being open and honest is a very powerful tool, which I recommend trying if you too suffer from such feelings of repressed anger.