I like to think that i'm quite a calm person, and that i rarely get angry. I'm more sanguine than choleric, i'm enthusiastic, i rarely get mad, i never get even. Well, i like to think that.
That's why when i do get angry i surprise myself. I'm not used to being really angry, and on the rare occasions that i do, i'm left with a horrible after taste and a labyrinth of whys to understand what made me get so mad.
More than the fact that i'm not naturally of an angry disposition, I don't believe in getting mad. Anger doesn't help anything.
However, nevertheless, in the back of a taxi a few weeks ago i blew up. Since then, i've been trying to wash out the salty stains it left in my mind like a snail's trail. I don't like it, its icky, and its not me.
But i'd had a really long day, i was exhausted, and i was just pushed a bit too far.
I mention this because not only is it the third time this year that i've got angry - which is a lot for me. But also because i'm currently reading "Further along the road less travelled" by M. Scott Peck.
I've read Buddhist texts on the practise of compassion, i've listened to teachings. But the book that has affected me the most out of any book you find the in "Self help" or "Spiritual / Religious" section of a book store (don't you 'hate' that term Self Help? Ugh) is "The road less travelled". Its understandable and really human in its approach, and i immediately related to the people and situations he described in it, and before my finals at University in England, it really gave me a new perspective. But the last chapter is all about grace. And its in the final pages of the book that M. Scott Peck emerges as an outright Christian. I mean, you understand that that's his background all the way through, but its not until the last chapter that his psychology and spirituality really come together. I loved "The road less travelled" as much for the things i didnt agree with as the things i did agree with. And now, after 6 years, i'm reading the next book where apparently i'm journeying further along this road. Apparently its an unending road. Although M. Scott Peck died Sept. 25 2005 - so in some ways his road has ended.
Anyway, i don't like his Christian approach to things. I don't like the "Hey God, is this what you want me to be doing now?". I don't believe in God. And that makes me feel bad.
But as i say, i like his books (that's M. Scott Peck's not God's) and i like his insight, and alot of the time he hits the nail on the head.
He says: "The anger centre in human beings works in exactly the same way as it does in other creatures. It is basically a territorial mechanism..."
He goes on to talk about our perceptions of territory and this got me thinking.
Perceptions of my territory. Personal, Physical, Professional, Ideological, Psychological and geographical.
" We are no different from a dog fighting another dog that wanders into its territory, except that for human beings , our definitions of territory are much more complex."
So after my little outburst in the back of the taxi, and some guilt about getting angry full-stop - still - weeks later i'm cogitating the ruminations and ripples of what made me get mad.
Contrary to what most Buddhist teachings seem to say, M. Scott Peck says its ok to get angry sometimes. There are situations where "after we think about it for a couple of days, we may discern that someone really did seriously violate our territory."
Apparently the difficulty is learning when to be angry.
Contrary to what M. Scott Peck says i do not find anger fun.
I am not searching for people to blame, i am not searching for people to blame, because i quite agree with the Buddhist thought that essentially all problems stem from my (your) personal perception of reality. The problem is in my mind. My territory, my mind.
Mr Peck continues later on to talk about bones.
In "medieval paintings of hell, in which you see this same kind of figure - a damned person gnawing on his ankle....
Buechner lists anger and compares it to gnawing on a bone. There's always a little more tendon, always a little more marrow, always just a little bit left, and you keep gnawing on it. The only problem Buechner says, is that the bone is gnawing on you."
Having this shock of anger stay with me for 3 weeks i thought it was because i was trying to analyse why.
The truth however, might seem to be that its actually the anger itself that's staying with me. I can remember all three times this year i've got angry. And none of those incidents leave me feeling cold, even if i think about them now.
SO all this thinking, that i thought i was good with anger and a calm person... actually im not. I'm gnawing on bones too. And now i'm blogging about gnawing on bones.
I think the real problem is my pride. My pride, my territory, it takes a while to heal. I gotta get over myself!
Hey wait! I've got a bone to pick with you!!!