With feelings like anger, there are times when letting go is the better of the available options. Whether we do it is something else. I have been known, on the very odd occasion, to hold onto anger, but letting go is something I have become better at. It’s something I have had to get better at.
There are all manner of things that may need to be let go of. But usually, I find myself having to let go of anger, or as I do more often now, side-stepping it altogether.
Just this morning, I read someone’s denouncement of a particular condition as completely fictitious. The comment itself was inflammatory, but the part that got me, was the reminder that there are people out there who truly believe the psychos just need a lifetime in the local loony bin to sort them out. That was the part that brought about anger for me. I knew I could nurture that feeling for hours, if not days, if I wanted to.
I have though, for all intents and purposes, let go of the anger on reading that comment. But as I write, it’s Sunday. Being angry on a Sunday simply doesn’t feel fair. It’s the weekend, for goodness sake. Even so, I knew that if I clung onto that anger, it would wreck my day and stir up a bad mood that I had no need of or desire for.
There is something of a process to letting go. At least, for me. With the random comments that exist in the world, it’s taken a few years to realise that it’s not worth responding and fuelling the fire. Sure, there are some opportunities where it is worth responding, but for something to be worth getting angry about, it has to be something with significance and a feasible chance of a productive outcome from responding.
The last time I let anger over something I had read go somewhere was when the source of anger was an online article from a national paper. All right, time for context. The article suggested that people with my husband’s mental illness were no different to psychopaths. Pissed off doesn’t quite cover how I felt. But this was something I could respond to. A response could make a difference. I emailed a national mental health charity (MIND) with my concerns, and before long, they had issued a response to the press about the article. The other route, of course, would have been to go to the press ombudsman. Getting angry over a comment on that article would have been quite reasonable, but instead, I did something about the source of that anger because a response would have an impact.
As for the person who wrote the article, I still think they’re a fuckwit. But I don’t let my anger over his stance overwhelm me, because it doesn’t achieve anything. Though it does serve as a reminder to respond in a way that doesn’t indulge my anger, but instead does something to combat the cause. And then, it’s time to let go. There are fuckwits in the world: so be it.
There are, however, the moments when feelings can run a little high when there’s a more personal direction to the originating source of the anger. In short, when someone decides to direct their fuck-wittery right at you. The Blog-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, among others, is infamous for being an environment which nurtures that kind of behaviour. There was though, on here, one instance where someone disagreed with something that I said. It wasn’t that they had disagreed, it was the manner in which they disagreed. That was a moment where I had to put a little work into letting go. To be fair, it was like 2 a.m., so I think I would have been within my rights had I said outright that I thought that the person in question was a fuckwit. But what would it have achieved? Not very much. Perhaps an increase in my blood pressure. Sure, there would have been the satisfaction of having said: “I think you’re a fuckwit.” But as enjoyable as that brief moment would have been, it was more satisfying to the uh, “annoyance” I felt to be able to say, you know what, “I disagree.” And then just step back. They disagreed with me. So be it. And more importantly, it wasn’t just that there was a disagreement in our stances, but I could see that productive discussion wasn’t a possibility. To quote a very wise editor: they were spoiling for a fight. That isn’t an arena to achieve a change of heart. That’s an arena to gain a few wounds and no victory. Not even a courteous acknowledgement of stalemate.
The aforementioned disagreement did, I’ll admit, bug me for a few days because I was happy with my stance, and even more so, it didn’t matter that the person disagreed, it was that the other person saw fit to respond in an unpleasant manner. I don’t mind a good debate. As it happens, I used to love debating at school. What I don’t like, is “taking it outside.” When I see something that lends itself to being taken outside, I know it’s time to let go. Or, as I mentioned before, simply side-stepping it altogether. Side-stepping anger is, for me, about not looking for something that I know I will find inflammatory or to simply pass it by.
It’s also aided by recognising the difference between an opportunity to have a discussion and the opportunity to simply step into an argument that will achieve little other than raised blood pressure. Being angry is exhausting, and I simply have too much else going onto be exhausted by something that doesn’t have an actual impact on my life.
There are then, of course, the inflammatory things that exist in day-to-day life. It can be as simple as having to let go of the annoyance that arises out of not being able to find a pair of socks, to something bigger. Those familiar with the Caregiving series will know there are some big things I’ve had to let go. The likes of the Unexpected article, in particular, may give a sense of those things which I try to let go of. There’s nothing to be gained from hanging onto them, that’s why. Even in the moment, it’s about doing something, rather than nurturing the feeling. And then it passes. If the ordeal is over, what do I have to gain from hanging onto the feelings that it brings about? My family needs me in those moments, and clinging onto negative feelings isn’t going to help me.
As much as anything, home life has taught me that letting go of things like anger is about accepting what’s happened. The process of accepting what’s happened and then letting go isn’t always easy. I find myself breaking down what’s happened. Trying to find the actual reason for that anger. Taking a moment to see what I can do with it. I try to let it become something positive. Because of an Internet comment, I might take a moment extra to share charity information on a social network. Because of something at home, I might take a moment extra to think about what additional stresses we have going on.
In a nutshell, I find that for myself, trying to let go of anger and other negative feelings to be helpful. I still get frustrated. I still have moments of wanting to indulge my feelings of utter annoyance. I have, though, found that stepping back, holding up my hands, and saying, “so be it” to be much easier. As much as anything, I’ve found good things have come from simply taking a moment to think about how I feel. It’s not that I’m an oasis of calm, far from it, it’s just that I’ve found I have better things to do than let negative emotions get the better of me, like getting into my pyjamas, drinking tea, and eating cake.
(For those expecting Caregiving: Parenting (Part 3), rest assured, the Caregiving Parenting Saga hasn’t been forgotten, it’s just having a slight Douglas Adams moment to itself.)