The nature of personal anger

images1 The last couple of weeks, I’ve had occasion to feel angry more often than usual. This is not a feeling that I like having, or feel very often, and I was having an especially hard time today shaking it. I thought it might be interesting (to me, at least) to write down the sources of my anger and see if I can learn anything from them.

Most immediately, there was the escrow company. Today, I was to sign the papers to refinance my mortgage. Yesterday, my broker called and said they would see me at 3, and that they would call and confirm the appointment. All I had was an address and a name – no phone number. And no call from them, so I just showed up, checkbook in hand, figuring that if there were some special instructions they would have told me.

They weren’t there. Their office had moved, which they had not bothered to tell my broker. It was all the way across town (back near where I live). Finding a notice to delivery persons on their old door, I managed to obtain the new address and phone number and called them to explain that I would be late. They chose that time to inform me not only that I needed a cashier’s check or I would lose my lock, but that the closing fees were about $2000 higher than I had expected. No information on why. According to her, she had only received my loan forms “20 minutes ago” and had never heard of me until that moment; never mind that it was their office who had asked for the 3 pm appt the day before. She wanted me to come in and sign the forms without knowing what the extra money was for, and without time to get the cashier’s check, which would mean a separate trip to the bank another day, all so she could stay on schedule. I declined.

I went home, called my broker, found out what the extra costs were for (timing of paying taxes, which would get refunded), went to my bank to get a cashier’s check, and informed the escrow company that I was coming over with the check at 4:30 and they would find a way to fit me in that day. They did; but I was angry for hours afterwards. Part of the problem was trying not to be too rude to them, given that I was going to have to sit in a small office with that same person for an hour going over forms, which wouldn’t make it any better for either of us.

Another incident had a similar pattern, now that I think of it. Both myself and my neighbor have had a lot of construction going on, at times quite noisy. It has been hard to work at home; I’ve had to forgo a number of conference calls (torture, I know) because it was too noisy to subject everyone else to them. This was OK, even though I was losing hundreds of dollars in billable hours to it; I’m not that hard up.

Then came a day when I had a conference call with the assistant directors of 5 agencies and three Indian tribes, which I was leading. The neighbor’s contractor chose that day to conduct one of his noisiest tasks. I went over in the morning to ask if we could work around my one-hour call in the afternoon, which I needed some quiet for. He agreed to put off working for that one hour – but then went to lunch and didn’t return until right before the call, and started to work. When I went over and let him know the call was about to start, he didn’t want to stop working, and told me I should pay his men if I didn’t like the noise. A perfect way to gain the calm and peaceful introspection I really needed before that call.

Lastly, there has been this project that just makes me want to flee to Mexico. It’s gotten so political that it’s taking a toll on all of us. Long-standing colleagues that I like and respect are under so much stress that their own handling of the data seems to be stretching its integrity, and people are looking for the easy way out. Numbers are getting fudged, statistics bent, and things left unsaid in public meetings. Partly because management at some of our agencies are not standing up and saying what needs to be said, and staff are having to take the heat. I can’t decide whether I get angrier when someone I like and trust does something squirrelly with the data, or at the situation that is so bad that it could possibly make that seem like a reasonable thing to do.

So what is it that ticks me off? Incompetence is one, paired with an uncaring attitude that leads to substantial inconvenience for others. Making mistakes is one thing – being an ass about it is another. Compromise of integrity is big-time for me, I think, and something that makes me really angry. Dishonesty in any of these situations, even the little white lies people make up to cover their own carelessness and disregard.

I’m not really sure what this blog is for, other than to try to set down and work out some of this anger I’ve been feeling. Interestingly enough, I can’t bring myself to feel angry about the larger state of the world. I think I gave up on that so long ago (even though I still try to work toward making things better) that I don’t really feel either anger or hope about it. And I almost never get angry at someone really close to me – maybe because I know how destructive I can be if I ever let my tongue loose. So either I don’t actually feel it at all, or I don’t allow myself to. It takes years of an ongoing issue before I’ll start to feel some anger toward someone I really care about, and if it gets to that point at all, it’s probably too late. I’ve never been one to fight in a relationship, preferring talking and thinking things through above all else. To me, nothing seems more destructive to love or friendship than anger.

So my anger appears to be reserved for targets that are immediate to my life, but relatively “safe”, in that getting angry at them won’t come at great personal cost. A tad selfish in that respect, perhaps. Hopefully I don’t let it out at people who really don’t deserve it :D You can be the judge, based on what you’ve read. What makes you angry?

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4 thoughts on “The nature of personal anger

  1. Mike says:

    SUVs make me angry. I’d be glad to seem them all crushed and recycled. Ask someone why they own one, and they’ll rationalize it, and probably get angry. Global warming as an inconvenient theory; not a “truth”- everybody in this debate should read Karl Popper, or at least understand what science is, and what it is not. Stupid people with ignorant opinions, and without a clue that they are stupid or ignorant, and who feel free to spout stupid opinions on this topic. Politicians who exploit the stupid and the ignorant, and who are stupid, ignorant and arrogant themselves. Now I’M angry!

    Wow- just typing this gets my heart pounding. So what to do about it?

  2. Mike says:

    So-called “conservatives” who not only condone but still support violations of the Constitution make me angry. The flag they wear on their lapels is nothing but a rag without the Constitution.

    Now you know what trips my trigger.

  3. LOL. Now you know why I felt a bit guilty about having posted this. Anger is one of those emotions that seems like much of the time it has little purpose. I can’t really change the people that annoy me through incompetence or carelessness, or the people that annoy you by spouting ignorant opinions or being hypocritical. So all that anger seems just wasted and mostly hurts us.

    Though I do try to change the work projects I’m in if they seem to be going fundamentally the wrong direction. That’s possibly more valuable. And knowing me, if I start to get angry at someone I actually care about, there’s a major issue there that needs to be addressed (in hopefully a calm and loving way).

    As far as what we can do about it – I don’t know. I thought writing might help. Blogging about serious issues, voting for the right people, trying to change minds that can be changed. Those are the serious things. Then there’s escapism for the times when the anger is just residual and useless. Exercising, reflecting on the good things in life… cooking :) It’s hard to be angry with a mouth full of oatmeal cookies. Getting lost in a book or a movie. Sometimes I go into an online game and do some battle quest… Then I can rid the (virtual) world of annoying goblins or whatever while imagining they’re anything I want them to be :D

  4. Mike says:

    Getting angry can provide energy for change. Anger itself has no purpose except physical preparation for fight or flight, but emotional energy can be harnessed by reason for a purpose. Asking someone what makes them angry can be a way to find out what motivates them. How about “what makes you happy?”

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