I’m not good with feelings. I don’t like my own emotional reactions because I haven’t figured out how to control them very well. I really don’t like other people’s emotional reactions because they leave me flapping my hands in distress and making faces that apparently are not comforting.
The only emotion that I’ve ever felt comfortable with is anger, and that is because I have been perpetually angry for my entire life. About nothing, really, and also about everything. I’m angry that we all have to get haircuts from time to time, I’m angry that people allow their library cards to expire, I’m angry that I’m not constantly hanging out with a cat. I’m not raging over these things, but there is this underlying, low level of anger informing pretty much everything I do.
Once, after a teenage blowup that involved a lot of eye-rolling and yelling, my mom told me I needed to find something productive to do with my rage. “In our state, prisoners make license plates,” she said.
Now I have some concerns about the relationship between those two statements but at the time, this really stuck with me.
Productive Things to Do with Your Anger
- Channel your rage into a fight for the greater good.
- Write a manifesto or two.
- Be Banksy and make a statement with street art.
- Find and reveal Banksy and make a statement about hating fun secrets.
- Become a professional wrestler and take out your anger in the ring.
- Earn a spiteful graduate degree.
- Build an army of robots.
- Learn to play an instrument
There are hundreds of great ways to turn anger into something positive, but 14-year-old Stephanie was hung up on the license plates. I spent a considerable part of my teenage years wondering how many license plates a prisoner as angry as me would have made. Hundreds, probably. So many that she would be making plates for the surrounding states, having already made all the license plates ours would ever need.
I stopped being in high school and then stopped being a teenager, and that helped a lot on the anger front. Now I only have blowups during hypoglycemic episodes or when I’m sitting next to a loud chewer. I’m also getting better at seeing the other benefits of anger, besides license plate creation.
Amazing Things You Can Do with Anger
- Motivate yourself to work harder at anything.
- Get over any inhibitions about speaking up when something really gets to you.
- If you are a college resident assistant, anger will walk you right into the middle of a drunken fistfight and help you announce that you have called the police. And then everyone scatters and you get to go back to bed.
- Develop a sense of humor in an effort not to be a bitter, pissed-off person.
- Care about something enough to want to make a change and steamroll the obstacles.
I’m grateful for my anger for a lot of reasons. Without it, I would be a shy, sad person who never left the house because she was too busy being scared and crying. With it, I am a shy, mean person who sometimes gets in trouble for saying what she thinks but keeps saying it anyway.
About 18 months ago, some stuff in my life changed. I know change is never easy so I tried to roll with it. I tried to use my anger to help the situation — to point out things that were bothering me and to try to be the best possible me that I could be. But no matter what I did, nothing improved and that made me even angrier.
All that anger started building on itself until I was a giant ball of rage. (“Giant” was an exaggeration. I was a slightly-smaller-than-the-average-American-female ball of rage.) I was burning myself up from the inside out. I don’t want to be too dramatic here, but I started to feel like my soul was slowly being ground into dust.
Things Your Anger Will Do if It Gets out of Hand
- Slowly grind your soul into dust.
- Exacerbate your anxieties, culminating in an entire day where the only thing you can think about at work is whether you left the stove on and how that particular burner is way too close to a flammable roll of paper towels.
- Turn all your conversations with the people you love into complaint sessions, during which you say the meanest things you’ve ever said in your life and can’t stop.
- Embitter you towards the entire human race.
I recently found a blog post I wrote a year ago about being angry all the time. I’ve been mad, and stressed out, and someone I don’t really like for an entire year of my life.
What a waste. I don’t want to do that anymore. I can’t do that anymore. So I took some major steps and I’m getting ready to make some big changes in my life. It’s completely terrifying and also a gigantic relief. I’m scared, and excited, and scared, and scared but I’m not angry anymore. Not any angrier than usual, anyway.
I told myself that I need to try out a new emotion this year because anger is old news. I’m open to suggestions, but I’m leaning towards whatever this is:
P.S.: You guys wanna see the first episode of Life and Steph?