I wasn’t feeling jealous of them specifically because they’re men or because of their success as bloggers. I was thinking of the old gripe “behind every successful man there’s a woman” and wishing I had one of those (or at least a personal chef).
True story. I sat down to put some final touches on a blog post I had written a few days before when suddenly, faced with my only breakfast option of hot oatmeal on a hot day and wishing for cold cereal, I just had to write about an entirely different subject: what I was feeling.
I called it jealousy, but you know what? Jealousy isn’t a pure sort of emotion.
Many psychologists and sociologists place emotions into four categories: mad, glad, sad, and scared or nervous. Within each category are many variations, synonyms, and degrees of intensity. Jealousy belongs under “mad” although it can also manifest in fear and sadness.
I was feeling angry. Since it was a certain type of anger that involved other people, it’s called jealousy. Envy is actually more accurate, but “Why I’m envious of men” just didn’t cut the mustard. And that is called poetic license.
Anyway, I wasn’t really angry. Just peeved. Irritated. Irked or piqued.
I felt annoyed with Leo Babauta, for starters. His blog post The Simplest Diet for Lean Fitness got on my nerves.
Why? I like the stuff he writes. I’ve been following him for a couple of years. I live pretty much the same way he does, more or less, and I agree with or understand the reasoning behind most of the stuff he writes about.
So why would I get annoyed with an article he wrote about how he eats?
My feelings had nothing to do with him. My anger—annoyance, irritation, or what-have-you—had nothing to do with his article. It had everything to do with me.
That is the nature of feelings.
When we’re angry or upset with someone, even when we actually know the person—a friend, a relative, a spouse—our feelings have nothing to do with the other person.
Some of you already know that. Others might be thinking Hold on. What if someone does something really mean to me or makes fun of me, calls me names, insults my mother, or steals my car. Isn’t it that person’s fault that I’m angry?
No, it’s not. Our emotions are our own. Our feelings are our own. How we react emotionally to anything is a choice, even if that choice is made in a nanosecond.
It’s not like people hurl a lightening bolt at us or inject us with a drug when they say or do things that piss us off.
What someone does or says or writes might trigger our emotions, but our emotional reactions are just that: reactions. They aren’t part of an inevitable cause-effect situation.
Leo’s blog post triggered my anger (low level though it was). That led me to thinking about Darren Rowse on Problogger and a bunch of other men bloggers as I did some browsing around on the blogosphere.
And that triggered even more annoyance, which resulted in last week’s post.
Here’s something I didn’t mention. That feeling of irritation toward men in general who, as I imagine, have the luxury of a wife to take care of the home and cooking while they work goes way back for me. Many women have felt that way and, even if we aren’t in that situation ourselves, we might think about it on behalf of all women.
As one or two readers mentioned in the comments last week, a well-known essay was written on the subject awhile back: I Want a Wife.
I first read it in a freshman literature class, and it was in the back of my head as I wrote my post.
Traditional gender roles have not been easy for women or men, but fortunately we have many more choices these days. But that wasn’t what I was really thinking about, and I definitely had no idea (nor cared) what kind of set up the guys I referred to have. That was just the trigger for a “poor me” or overwhelmed sort of feeling.
All that aside, here’s what we can learn from anger.
When we’re angry at someone or something, it always points back to ourselves. The trigger is secondary.
In my case, I’ve been frustrated for awhile with the lack of organization in my household (which is just me, my two dogs, and my cat), especially with the lack of a system for grocery shopping and meals. Since I work at home doing freelance writing and editing work, I have to have some sort of system.
There are reasons I haven’t spent time on developing skills in that area—divorce, buying a fixer-upper house, moving, job issues, family issues, quitting a job a year ago, deciding to freelance and setting that up, caring for two beloved but medically-involved cats and a dog and grieving their passing—all sorts of rough stuff in the last four or five of years.
Still, it’s time to take care of some things. Every time I’m in the middle of working and there’s nothing reasonable to eat in the refrigerator, I feel frustrated and promise myself that I’ll somehow get it organized. Soon.
And when I read Leo’s article about his diet—eating right is super important to me—my feelings of frustration with myself and my situation welled up.
When we get angry, it’s not because of someone else. It’s what is in us. Seeds of anger planted long ago. Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, explains:
We can look deeply into [anger] and gain many insights. The first insight may be that the seed of anger in us has grown a little too big, and it is the main cause of our misery. As we begin to see this fact, we realize that the other person is only a secondary cause. The other person is not the main cause of our anger.
If we don’t take care of our anger by looking into the reasons for it and resolving them, then we stay angry.
We all have seeds of anger in us. My choice has been to examine my anger any time I’m feeling it—even if it’s very slight, as was the case with the jealousy I was feeling that turned into last week’s post.
I knew I wasn’t really and truly jealous of anyone—but I was feeling that way. By looking a little deeper, I was able to see very clearly where it was coming from: anger at myself for not getting my act together.
Underneath that is some residual anger toward my ex-husband. Behind that is anger at myself once again. And underneath even that are seeds of anger that were planted a very long time ago, but that’s another story for another day.
When it comes to anger, it always has to do with us primarily—nobody else.
And certainly Leo Babauta, Darren Rowse, and the other guys I mentioned have absolutely nothing to do with all this.
Thinking about and writing what I was feeling and why—and why the hell these bloggers were getting on my nerves—really brought the emotion up into my awareness, into my consciousness. It brought it up enough to feel the full feeling of irritation at myself and the situation—and resolve to do something about it.
If we repress anger or any other emotion—try to ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist—it doesn’t go away.
It gets buried and it pops out in other areas of our lives: dark moods, snapping at people, irritation for reasons we can’t figure out. Bitchiness and backstabbing. Hostility. Power trips. Or it gnaws at us inside and causes other problems like depression, insomnia, anxiety, and physical diseases.
It’s like a dormant seed, always there, waiting to be watered. And as I dig up little seeds of anger like this one—and water seeds of compassion and caring for myself instead—I make my life that much more peaceful.
Anger (and related emotions like jealousy) isn’t anything to be afraid of.
The beauty of embracing it and making friends with it is that we can do something about the roots of it.
Read more on how I handled a really rough situation with anger as it was happening—and never once broke rank.
What about you? How do you handle anger? Do you stuff it? Scream it? Journal it? Or something in between? Tell your story in the comments.
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