Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
– Unknown (no, it wasn’t Buddha)
There’s a new sheriff in town and he’s mighty pissed. Mexicans, the Chinese, muslims, the CIA, environmentalists, feminists, journalists, economists, musicians, actors, comedians, pollsters… it’s already a long list of bad hombres and he’s just getting started.
I have to admit I admire the stamina. It takes a lot of energy to level that much anger and maintain the rage. An early rise and constant diligence throughout the day are needed to stay 1 step ahead of the enemy collective and keep all barrels loaded.
War is a process of attrition and depletion. The only outcome is an agreement, finally, to stop killing each other. Nothing productive comes from it, nothing net positive or creative that makes this world a better place.
Personal wars are no different. I worked for a man who was in a constant state of war and I saw the consequences firsthand: exhaustion, distraction, corrupted logic and bad decisions, paranoia, burnt bridges. It created an un-virtuous downward cycle that fostered resentment from everyone in his sphere of contact, which only provoked him more, … and on and on. What frustrated me most was the lost potential. He was a brilliant, creative man who wasted his resources scorching the earth instead of nurturing its potential.
Love and friendship, on the other hand, place a warm glow on the world around us, a soft filter that renders everything beautiful and anything possible. The godfather of positive psychology, Martin Seligman from UPENN, claims that happiness derives principally from PERMA. The E stands for positive Relationships (you can Google the rest, its good reading). His findings between human connection and happiness, and the links between happiness and creativity, are echoed by other thought leaders in the field such as Lyubomirsky and Csikszentmihalyi.
I admire their work but don’t need academic research to confirm what I know so well to be true. Love and friendship fill me with happiness, which inspires me to be productive and creative. The stress of deadlines, or even loss and heartbreak, can also inspire creativity, but I much prefer the positive form of incitement!
Anger, on the other hand, drains my energy and distracts my focus. I sit around the house pissed and brooding instead of working, writing emails or letters that don’t get sent, and nothing worthy gets accomplished.
Fortunately I was born with a positive bias and on those rare occasions when someone gets under my collar – hey, I do have 3 kids okay! – I have copying mechanisms: a short run, some yoga, a few minutes of meditation, warm tea, time with the guitar or at the piano, a chilled Provence rosé with a good friend.
Something tells me none of these solutions are likely options for the new king. That’ not a runner’s build he’s sporting, meditation or music require some concentration, and those pouty lips remain famously virginal to anything tarted up with the spirits.
Fortunately, the rest of us are more adaptive. We all get angry sometimes, and we all need a way to dampen the flame before it kills our creativity and limits our productivity. You know some of my strategies now. If you’re looking for more ideas consider Anger. Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, by Thich Nhat Hanh, Nobel prize nominated Buddhist monk. I’m a fan. Got other ideas or reading suggestions? Let us know.
Stay cool, be happy.